26 September 2023

CANADA: Support for officer on contempt charge

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The acting head of Canada’s Federal Public Service has praised the work of a Public Servant charged with contempt by Parliament.

Janice Charette lent her support to President of the Public Health Agency, Iain Stewart (pictured), who has become the first Public Servant cited for contempt in Canada since 1891.

It is alleged that Mr Stewart defied four separate orders to disclose records over security clearances given Chinese scientists at the Agency’s biosecurity laboratory in Winnipeg.

He has refused to apologise for his actions.

Ms Charette, the interim Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to Cabinet, called the censure “a difficult situation…a very unusual situation”, and in an email to Federal staff defended Mr Stewart as “one of our colleagues” and an example to all.

“The situation was extremely challenging and I am particularly concerned by the personal nature of the commentary in relation to Iain’s actions,” Ms Charette said.

“He acted in a way that represents Public Service values and ethics and has demonstrated exemplary professionalism,” she said.

Ms Charette said she believed Mr Stewart’s treatment had been unfair and regrettable.

Mr Stewart received some robust treatment from Parliamentarians when he said he was worried about immunity if he were to disclose records.

New Democrat MP, Don Davies challenged this: “So you’re worried about immunity? Is that what this is about, Mr Stewart, your own hide?”

Police had earlier raided the Public Health Agency’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg and seized computer hard drives after security clearances were revoked for several Chinese employees, including one affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army.

Two others, husband and wife, Keding Chang and Xiangguo Qiu were fired in January in what Cabinet now calls a case of national security.

Ottawa, 26 June 2021

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