As Trump cuts off the WHO, Trudeau tight-lipped on credibility of Chinese data

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday that Canada's support for the World Health Organization (WHO) was in the "tens of millions of dollars." Asked whether U.S. President Donald Trump has put pressure on Canada to boost or reduce funding, Trudeau said there has been no asks to do so as of that point.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says U.S. President Donald Trump hasn’t tried to get Canada to follow suit in cutting off funding to the World Health Organization as the coronavirus spreads.

Trump’s decision comes amid escalating questions over the organization’s early response to the pandemic and whether it gave in to Chinese efforts to downplay the crisis.

“There was no pressure exerted by the U.S. president on Canada on the World Health Organization,” Trudeau told reporters at his daily briefing on the pandemic outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa.

READ MORE: World Health Organization ‘regrets’ Trump decision to withhold funding

Trudeau has been asked repeatedly over recent weeks about mounting reports south of the border that American intelligence was warning about an out-of-control outbreak in China back in November.

Bloomberg and the New York Times have reported intelligence shared with them from officials shows American intelligence has concluded China faked its coronavirus reporting numbers.

READ MORE: Freeland won’t say if Canada has seen U.S. intel flagging Chinese coronavirus data

Critics say the Chinese government muzzled local officials and scientists from coming forward with early concerns about the virus. China also tried to cover up the SARS outbreak in 2003.

Yet much of the ire has focused on the World Health Organization and whether it should have scrutinized the Chinese data more closely and acted earlier to declare the crisis a pandemic.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu earlier in the month said a journalist’s question of whether China’s data could be trusted was “feeding conspiracy theories.”

COMMENTARY: Health minister’s credulity plays right into China’s hands

Canadian officials have so far refused to say whether they have seen the intelligence prompting American officials to criticize China’s coronavirus reporting or whether they believe China or the World Health Organizations could have made mistakes.

Trudeau reiterated Canadian support for the World Health Organization on Wednesday.

“I think what we need to remember is the path through this pandemic is to base ourselves on science … we will always continue to work with experts both domestically and internationally,” he said.

“Of course in the coming months and years there will be many reflections on various institutions … these are things that will come in the coming times. Right now our focus needs to be on doing the best we can right now to protect Canadians.”

China is currently sending millions of items of personal protective equipment to Canada amid worldwide shortages of the vital supplies.

Canadian officials have not said whether a desire to keep that supply line open is factoring into their unwillingness to give clear answers on the credibility of Chinese data.

Trudeau said though that any questions about the response to the pandemic will be questions for the future, not for right now.

“I think there’s obviously reflections that we have to have going forward,” he said.

“There will be plenty of time as we move forward to reflect on challenges faced in the past.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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