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'No institution is perfect': Trudeau promises to support WHO in wake of Trump ultimatum
OTTAWA -- As the World Health Organization (WHO) comes under increasing fire from its critics, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will "continue to support" the organization while seeking answers regarding China's role in the organization.
"Canada believes that multilateral institutions like the WHO are extremely important, particularly at a time of a global health crisis like this one," Trudeau said, speaking from the front steps of Rideau Cottage on Tuesday.
Trudeau went on to say that "no institution is perfect" and there are "obviously things we need to work on" about multilateralism.
"We will continue to do that, we will continue to support the WHO even as we look for improvements to our multilateral systems," he said.
His comments come as U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening to permanently withhold funding from the organization if it doesn't "commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days."
Trump made the threat in an open letter posted to Twitter on Monday, which he addressed to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The letter criticizes the WHO for what Trump claimed is a lack of independence from China, which is a member of the organization.
"It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world. The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China," Trump said in the letter.
Much of the criticism surrounding China’s relationship with the WHO stems from its reliance on Chinese data in the early days of the pandemic. On April 1, Bloomberg News reported that the U.S. intelligence community warned the U.S. administration in a classified report that China had "concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country."
Trudeau addressed the concerns about China's WHO role on Tuesday.
"I think there are always going to be reflections about the relationships between the largest donors to multilateral institutions and the functioning of those multilateral institutions," Trudeau said.
"There will be some real questions around China of course, in the coming months and years that need to be answered, and we will be part of that."
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair echoed the prime minister's remarks during a Tuesday interview on CTV's Power Play.
"I think what needs to be determined in that in that review is whether or not information was shared appropriately and whether or not decisions were influenced, pro or con, with respect to that information," Blair told host Evan Solomon.
"We are concerned that that an organization which is truly global and multilateral in its makeup and its intent might be overly influenced by any particular party or interest, and we want to make sure that that such an organization supports all of its members through the science and through listening to its expert advice."
Meanwhile, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer issued fresh criticism of his own regarding China’s role within the WHO.
"There is ample evidence for Canadians to be concerned about the internal dynamics of the WHO and the accuracy of the information coming out of the WHO and that needs to be addressed," Scheer said.
He also touched on the issue of Taiwan’s participation in WHO proceedings, after it was excluded from key meetings this week.
"Taiwan being excluded from organizations like the WHO does not help anybody, it certainly is not fair to the people of Taiwan and prevents the World Health Organization and member states from having the wisdom, being able to learn from the experiences of government of Taiwan," Scheer said.
"China's foreign policy should not have so much influence on other organizations that people of Taiwan are excluded from the participation in that."
China has taken issue with Taiwan’s participation in the WHO as China sees the island as a breakaway province.
Canada, the United States and six other allies told the WHO that the exclusion of Taiwan has created a public health concern amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but the allies were not successful in their bid to allow Taiwan's participation at the World Health Assembly meetings this week.
With files from The Canadian Press