Conservative leadership candidate Peter MacKay says a full inquiry, perhaps an international one, into how the novel coronavirus turned into a pandemic is required, in a May8, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Conservative leadership candidate Peter MacKay says a full inquiry, perhaps an international one, into how the novel coronavirus turned into a pandemic is required, in a May8, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Peter MacKay suggests Magnitsky Act should be used against China for COVID-19

Full inquiry needed

OTTAWA — Conservative leadership hopeful Peter MacKay is calling for use of the Magnitsky Act if specific individuals in China can be identified as having suppressed information related to COVID-19

A full inquiry, perhaps an international one, into how the novel coronavirus turned into a pandemic is required, MacKay told supporters.

“We need to invoke existing laws like the Magnitsky Act to hold individuals personally accountable for misdeeds if that evidence exists,” he said.

The act allows for sanctions against foreign nationals “responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

The legislation is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Moscow lawyer who was tortured and died in a Moscow prison after uncovering fraud in Russia.

“If there was evidence that was suppressed, or falsified, or if there is information brought to the front that proves that the outbreak in Wuhan (city) either could have been prevented or we could have contained it much earlier, than I think we have to have a much, much greater degree of accountability,” MacKay said on a call with supporters this week.

There has been a running debate over how much Chinese government officials knew and potentially didn’t tell global health officials about the emergence of COVID-19 in that country late last year, leading to questions about whether the damage could have been averted.

Both China and the WHO have denied any cover-up.

MacKay is not the first to suggest using the act. Human rights advocate and former Liberal MP Irwin Cotler advanced the idea in April.

MacKay, as well as two other leadership candidates, Erin O’Toole and Derek Sloan, also joined Cotler and hundreds of other politicians, academics and human rights advocates in signing a letter condemning China’s actions.

A fourth candidate, Leslyn Lewis, does not appear to have signed the letter, though like her competitors she has called for a change in Canada-China relations.

Conservatives have long taken a harder line on China than their Liberal counterparts. Late last year, O’Toole successfully led a push to create a special House of Commons committee devoted to probing the relationship. His position on China is the first thing visitors to his Twitter page will see.

Still, the need to formulate policy and ideas on the specific issues posed by the COVID-19 pandemic — the role of China being one — has become an ever-growing part of the Conservative leadership campaign.

With billions of dollars in federal spending moving out the door, and provinces beginning to reopen their economies, the candidates are increasingly fielding questions about how they’d handle bringing Canada back to some measure of normal.

When the Conservative leadership race resumed late last week — it had been put on pause because of the pandemic — MacKay refreshed his entire website, adding a document about his “vision” for rebuilding Canada in the post-COVID-19 era.

Among other things, he called for a plan similar to what was used in post-war Europe to rebuild there, and one that ensures Canada has all the supplies it needs should the outbreak return or a new one emerge.

He does not lay out how, exactly, that can be achieved.

Lewis framed some of her own response this week also in terms of vision, making the case that a new “normal” is required based on the lessons learned from the pandemic.

“Amidst the fear of COVID-19, we’re learning humility and realizing what we’ve left behind: a country where we cared about our elderly neighbour and bought them groceries, shovelled their snow and cut their grass,” she wrote.

Sloan’s COVID-19 ideas have generated some controversy. He appeared to attack the loyalty of Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer who was born in Hong Kong, by asking whether the fact she relied on the WHO meant she was actually working for China. He later said he wasn’t going after her personally.

O’Toole, seen as running neck-and-neck with MacKay in the race, is shortly expected to lay out a refreshed slate of ideas to tackle COVID-19 recovery, contained in the full policy platform his campaign intended to roll out earlier this year, but delayed.

He’s already put out forward one bold proposition — that with him, the Conservatives would win a majority.

The man he is seeking to replace, Andrew Scheer, was pilloried by some in his party during the federal election last fall for suggesting the party could at that point win a majority.

The prevailing wisdom was that Canadians were still too wary of Scheer to turf the Liberals altogether and hand the government over to the Opposition, so suggesting a majority was possible was a political turn-off.

Conservative party members will elect a new leader later this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2020.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta reported its highest number of daily COVID-19 cases since December 16 on Friday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Alberta reports 1,521 additional COVID-19 cases, 674 new variant cases

Daily case total the highest since mid-December

Tyler Campbell, 28, pleaded guilty last November to manslaughter for shooting Ponoka’s Jeffery Kraft, 20, on Dec. 15, 2019 on a rural road just outside Lacombe. Kraft’s supporters were outside the Red Deer provincial court on Tuesday. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff
Man who pleaded guilty to killing Ponoka man in 2019 seeks new lawyer

Tyler John Campbell expected to apply to change guilty plea after judge rejected suggested sentence

(Black Press file photo)
Wolf Creek Public Schools will not pilot new curriculum

Says it will participate ‘when appropriate’

File Photo
Fire restrictions in place for Red Deer and Lacombe Counties

Fire restrictions may be elevated to a fire ban at anytime, Lacombe County says

A cross made out of hockey sticks at a makeshift memorial is silhouetted against the setting sun at the intersection of a fatal bus crash near Tisdale, Sask., on Monday, April, 9, 2018. A virtual tribute is planned to mark the third anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
VIDEO: Humboldt Broncos team to be honoured on third anniversary of fatal bus crash

16 people died and 13 were injured when a semi-trailer ran a stop sign into the path of the hockey team’s bus

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Stettler’s own Renegade Station is kicking off the spring season with a brand new single - to be released April 9th. (Photo submitted)
A brand new single is on the way from Stettler-based band Renegade Station

Free Free Free hits all streaming platforms on April 9th

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau waits for a virtual meeting to begin with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ottawa, Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ottawa mulls exempting more workers from Canada-U.S. border shutdown: Garneau

Canada-U.S. border has been closed to people travelling for vacations and other non-essential visits since March 2020

A worker smooths concrete at a construction site in Toronto on January 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Economy adds 303,000 jobs in March, unemployment rate falls: Statistics Canada

Figure released this morning outpaced the 259,000 gain seen in February

FILE - This file photo dated July 10, 1947 shows the official photograph of Britain’s Princess Elizabeth and her fiance, Lieut. Philip Mountbatten in London. Buckingham Palace says Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died aged 99. (AP Photo/File)
Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 99

Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on March 16

Campbell River city council will continue its 2020 policy of waiving late fees and NSFs. (Mirror File photo)
53% of Canadians teetering the brink of insolvency: survey

A majority of Canadians admit they’re just $200 away from not being able to pay their monthly bills

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney listens as the 2021 budget is delivered in Edmonton Alta, on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Kenney faces criticism from doctors, his own caucus, over new COVID-19 health rules

Alberta now has more than 10,000 active cases, about 43 per cent are variants

Josee Cabral is seen in her office in Chateauguay, Que. on Thursday, March 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Watch the details to help avoid financial headaches when filing your tax return

Small, easily avoidable mistakes could end up costing you if you’re not careful

Most Read