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COVID-19

Supreme Court will not hear case about government’s violation of rights and freedoms

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6 minute read

News release from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms 

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is disappointed that the Supreme Court of Canada has decided not to hear the appeal of the challenge to Manitoba’s lockdown restrictions. The decision was announced on Thursday, March 14, 2024.

The Leave to Appeal application, under the name Gateway Bible Baptist Church et al. v. Manitoba et al., was filed on September 18, 2023. Five Manitoba churches, a pastor and a deacon asked the Supreme Court of Canada to hear their appeal of the lower courts’ dismissal of their constitutional challenge to closures of churches and restrictions on outdoor gatherings during Covid lockdowns in late 2020 and 2021. Included in the application was protester Ross MacKay, who had been ticketed and who was seeking to appeal the lower courts’ dismissal of his constitutional challenge to the outdoor gathering limits.

Through public health orders, Manitoba had closed churches while permitting businesses to continue to operate. Taxis, in-person university classes, film and tv productions, law offices, and liquor stores were allowed to remain open. The Winnipeg Jets could meet and train indoors with their extended crew, and summer Olympic competitors were allowed to train indoors. Outdoor gatherings were reduced to no more than five people, while at the same time hundreds of people could legally gather indoors at big box stores.

The initial case was heard in May 2021 before the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench. The province did not produce any evidence that Covid spreads outdoors, or that outdoor gatherings were risky activities. That hearing did produce a significant admission from a government expert witness, Chief Microbiologist and Laboratory Specialist Dr. Jared Bullard, who, under questioning from Justice Centre lawyers, admitted that 56 percent of positive Covid cases were not infectious. The hearing was also notable for the Applicants’ expert report and testimony from world-renowned Stanford Professor, epidemiologist Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, co-author of The Great Barrington Declaration. Dr. Bhattacharya has moved on to even greater international fame as one of the litigants in a lawsuit, Missouri v. Biden, against the U.S federal government for medical censorship uncovered in The Twitter Files investigation.

The Manitoba Court of King’s Bench ruled that the government’s public health officials should not be “second guessed” and that the government need not meet a high threshold of providing persuasive evidence to demonstrably justify that violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms were reasonable. The Manitoba Court of King’s Bench did not order the unsuccessful Applicants to pay court costs, finding there to be significant public interest in having this case adjudicated.

In December 2022, the Applicants appealed. The appeal was dismissed by the Manitoba Court of Appeal in June 2023.

In the Application for Leave to Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, lawyers provided by the Justice Centre argued that the case raised issues of national importance. For instance:

  1. How are constitutionally protected activities to be juridically measured against comparable non-constitutionally protected activities? What is the proper approach to the minimal impairment stage of the Oakes analysis with respect to public health orders that fully prohibit Charter-protected activities (e.g. In- person religious worship) while permitting comparable non-Charter-protected activities (e.g. In-person university classes, film and television productions, indoor team-training for the Winnipeg Jets, etc.).
  2. Does reliance on the “precautionary principle” satisfy the state’s onus under Charter section 1 to provide “cogent and persuasive” evidence to justify Charter-infringing measures?

The Applicants’ legal team believed the case was critically important, as it could have served as guidance for governments in crafting public health measures on efforts needed to accommodate Charter-protected rights and freedoms.

Allison Pejovic, lawyer for the Applicants, stated, “Our clients are disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear their appeal. It was past time to have a conversation with Canada’s highest court about whether Charter-protected rights such as rights to worship and assemble ought to be prioritized over economic interests, such as ensuring that the Winnipeg Jets could practice indoors and that movie productions could continue. It was also critical to hear from the Court on the importance of respecting the Charter during a declared ’emergency’. Governments urgently needed the Supreme Court of Canada’s guidance as to the degree to which they should accommodate Charter rights during a future pandemic or other emergency proclaimed by government. Leaving that issue undecided at the highest level is a grave injustice for all Canadians.”

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NIH Quietly Altered Definition For Gain-Of-Function Research On Its Website, Former Fauci Aide Confirms

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By JASON COHEN

 

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Principal Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak confirmed on Thursday that his agency’s communications department altered NIH’s definition for gain-of-function research, with the change being “vetted” by “experts.”

The NIH until Oct. 20, 2021 defined this research as “modif[ying] a biological agent so that it confers new or enhanced activity to that agent,” while “some scientists use the term broadly to refer to any such modification,” according to the House Oversight Committee. Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York questioned Tabak, a former aide to Dr. Anthony Fauci, about the agency changing its definition of the research on its website, asking him who authorized the alteration.

WATCH:

The current website does not define gain-of-function research, but asserts this research is usually uninvolved with enhanced potential pandemic pathogens.

“The change was made by our communications department because of the confusion that people have about the generic term of gain-of-function and the specific term gain-of-function,” Tabak testified.

Malliotakis responded by suggesting the communications department would not be qualified to make a change like this and must have had other input.

“The content was vetted,” Tabak testified. “By individuals who are subject-matter experts.”

Fauci firmly denied that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) funded gain-of-function research on bat-based coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) before the COVID-19 pandemic during a Senate hearing in May 2021.

“The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Fauci said.

Tabak testified on Thursday that the NIH did fund this research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but it “depends on [the] definition.”

The NIAID, which Fauci previously led, funded the nonprofit group EcoHealth Alliance to study bat-based coronaviruses in China that consisted of the transfer of $600,000 to the WIV, the Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported.

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COVID Lab Leak: Over four later, EcoHealth Alliance funding is finally suspended

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From Heartland Daily News

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Federal Funding Stripped From Nonprofit at Center of COVID Lab Leak Controversy

Today, the Biden administration suspended federal funding to the scientific nonprofit whose research is at the center of credible theories that the COVID-19 pandemic was started via a lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

This morning, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it was immediately suspending three grants provided to the New York-based nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) as it starts the process of debarring the organization from receiving any federal funds.

“The immediate suspension of [EcoHealth Alliance] is necessary to protect the public interest and due to a cause of so serious or compelling a nature that it affects EHA’s present responsibility,” wrote HHS Deputy Secretary for Acquisitions Henrietta Brisbon in a memorandum signed this morning.

For years now, EcoHealth has generated immense controversy for its use of federal grant money to support gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan lab.

In a memo justifying its funding suspension, HHS said that EcoHealth had failed to properly monitor the work it was supporting at Wuhan. It also failed to properly report on the results of experiments showing that the hybrid viruses it was creating there had an improved ability to infect human cells.

Congressional Republicans leading an investigation into EcoHealth’s research in Wuhan, and the role it may have played in starting the pandemic via a lab leak, cheered HHS’s decision.

“EcoHealth facilitated gain-of-function research in Wuhan, China without proper oversight, willingly violated multiple requirements of its multimillion-dollar National Institutes of Health [NIH] grant, and apparently made false statements to the NIH,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R–Ohio), chair of the House’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic in a statement. “These actions are wholly abhorrent, indefensible, and must be addressed with swift action.”

Beginning in 2014, EcoHealth received a grant from NIH’s National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to study bat coronavirus in China. Its initial scope of work involved collecting and cataloging viruses in the wild and studying them in the lab to spot which ones might be primed to “spillover” into humans and cause a pandemic.

Soon enough, EcoHealth used some of the viruses they’d collected to create “chimeric” or hybrid viruses that might be better able to infect human lung cells in genetically engineered (humanized) mice.

This so-called “gain-of-function” research has long been controversial for its potential to create deadly pandemic pathogens. In 2014, the Obama administration paused federal funding of gain-of-function research that might turn SARS, MERS, or flu viruses into more transmissible respiratory diseases in mammals.

In 2016, NIH flagged EcoHealth’s work as likely violating the 2014 pause.

EcoHealth President Peter Daszak argued to NIH at the time that the viruses his outfit was creating had not been proven to infect human cells and were genetically different enough from past pandemic viruses that they didn’t fall under the Obama administration pause.

Wuhan Institute of Virology and Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance

NIH accepted this argument under the condition that EcoHealth immediately stop its work and notify the agency if any of its hybrid viruses did show increased viral growth in humanized mice.

But when these hybrid viruses did show increased viral growth in mice, EcoHealth did not immediately stop work or notify NIH. It instead waited until it submitted an annual progress report in 2018 to disclose the results of its experiments.

A second progress report that EcoHealth submitted in 2021, two years after its due date, also showed its hybrid viruses were demonstrating increased viral growth and enhanced lethality in humanized mice.

In testimony to the House’s coronavirus subcommittee earlier this month, Daszak claimed that EcoHealth attempted to report the results of its gain-of-function experiments on time in 2019, but was frozen out of NIH’s reporting system.

The HHS memo released today says a forensic investigation found no evidence that EcoHealth was locked out of NIH’s reporting system. The department also said that EcoHealth had failed to produce requested lab notes and other materials from the Wuhan lab detailing the work being done there and the lab’s biosafety conditions.

These all amount to violations of EcoHealth’s grant agreement and NIH grant policy, thus warranting debarment from future federal funds, reads the HHS memo.

That EcoHealth would be stripped of its federal funding shouldn’t come as too great a shock to anyone who watched Daszak’s congressional testimony from earlier this month. Even Democrats on the committee openly accused Daszak of being misleading about EcoHealth’s work and manipulating facts.

Rep. Raul Ruiz (D–Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House’s coronavirus subcommittee, welcomed EcoHealth’s suspension, saying in a press release that the nonprofit failed its “obligation to meet the utmost standards of transparency and accountability to the American public.”

An HHS Office of the Inspector General report from last year had already found that EcoHealth had failed to submit progress reports on time or effectively monitor its subgrantee, the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

When grilling Daszak, Democrats on the Coronavirus Subcommittee went to great lengths to not criticize NIH’s oversight of EcoHealth’s work. The HHS debarment memo likewise focuses only on EcoHealth’s failures to abide by NIH policy and its grant conditions.

Nevertheless, it seems pretty obvious that NIH was failing to abide by the 2014 pause on gain-of-function funding when it allowed EcoHealth to go ahead with creating hybrid coronaviruses under the condition that they stop if the viruses did prove more virulent.

NIH compounded that oversight failure by not stopping EcoHealth’s funding when the nonprofit did, in fact, create more virulent viruses, and not following up on a never-submitted progress report detailing more gain-of-function research until two years later.

The House Subcommittee’s investigation into NIH’s role in gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab is ongoing. Tomorrow it will interview NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawerence Tabak. In June, it will interview former NIAID Director Anthony Fauci.

Originally published by Reason Foundation. Republished with permission.

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