MPs want two House committees recalled early

While Parliament is not expected to resume regular sittings until the end of the month, opposition parties are pushing for early recalls of two committees to delve into the federal government’s current COVID-19 response efforts and the use of Canadians’ cellular data to inform public health action.

The Conservatives’ call for an emergency meeting of the House of Commons Health Committee received support from the Bloc Québécois and the NDP, with MPs from the three opposition parties teaming up to write a letter to the President of the House of Commons. this committee, Liberal MP Sean Casey.

MEPs call on Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, as well as a list of senior health and procurement officials, to discuss the status of the offer of increased support to the provinces facing shortages, guidelines on the length of the quarantine, the availability of boosters, rapid tests and therapeutic COVID -19, as well as access to N95 masks and potentially variant-specific vaccines.

The House of Commons is not expected to resume until Jan. 31, however, if at least four committee members from two or more different political parties call an emergency meeting, one may be called.

The letter– signed by the four Conservative MPs on the committee as well as Bloc Québécois MP Luc Thériault and NDP MP Don Davies — asks that the meeting be held before the end of the week, and last at least three hours.

In addition, the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois have co-signed a request that the House Committee on Access to Information, Protection of Privacy and Ethics call an emergency meeting to examine the use by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) anonymized mobility data during COVID -19 pandemic.

The letter, sent to committee chair and Conservative MP Pat Kelly, does not specify the timeline or parameters for who would be called to testify in the study.

As reported by The Canadian Press, PHAC said its analysis of mobile location data is being used to inform policy decisions and the effectiveness of public health messages and restrictions.

Cell phone mobility data has been used by various levels of government throughout the pandemic for similar purposes. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Google said it would share Canadian user location data with governments through regular movement reports.

Explaining why the federal Conservatives are now calling for a deeper examination of the practice, Conservative MP and committee member John Brassard told reporters on Monday he believes Canadians expect elected officials to provide “proper oversight.” of these types of programs.

“It is essential that we do not allow the COVID response to create a permanent setback to the rights and freedoms of Canadians, including their fundamental right to privacy,” Brassard said. He also recently written to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, ask Daniel Therrien to investigate whether the agency’s use of this data constitutes a violation of privacy.

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