The parliamentary committee on Canada-China relations can now hold virtual meetings as coronavirus cases around the world continue to climb and tensions between Beijing and the West continue to worsen.
In a motion passed on Monday, the House of Commons added the high-profile and newly formed committee to the list of those allowed to hold virtual meetings as regular parliamentary sittings remain largely suspended as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
As well, the public safety committee will also be able to hold its meetings virtually.
Regular House of Commons proceedings have been suspended since March when the federal parties agreed to suspend them in a bid to limit the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.
Since then, members of Parliament have been meeting in hybrid formats including limited formal sittings of the House of Commons and meetings four times per week — prior to the summer — of a special coronavirus committee that saw some members in the building and most participating virtually.
Committee work also stalled initially but has since moved online, with a May 26 motion setting out a limited number of committees that could move to the new and experimental format.
That list of seven committees included the ones responsible for health, finance and government operations, as well as industry.
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The total number of committees working online rises now to nine with the addition of the Canada-China relations committee and the public safety committee to that list.
The move comes as tensions with China continue to grow over its implementation of a national security law in Hong Kong that dismantles that country’s democracy and has led Canada, Australia and the U.S. to suspend extradition and trade treaties that granted special status to the former British colony.
It also comes as the World Health Organization continues work on the early stages of a probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and the handling of the outbreak.
The WHO has faced fierce criticism over concerns it relied too heavily on Chinese data and false information that cost precious time in responding to the early outbreak.
Officials at the WHO have admitted to praising the Chinese handling of the outbreak in the early days in a bid to try to get more information from the regime in Beijing.
The coronavirus pandemic has since infected 14,598,455 people worldwide and killed 608,386, according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
— More to come