Conservative leadership candidate under fire for asking whether top pandemic doctor ‘works for China’

A Conservative leadership candidate is facing an angry backlash after he suggested Canada’s chief public health officer is working for China and should be fired for giving bad advice to the government on the COVID-19 crisis. 

Derek Sloan, an MP from eastern Ontario who is running to lead his party under the slogan “Conservative – Without Apology,” posted a message and video on Facebook and Twitter this week claiming that Dr. Theresa Tam had “failed Canadians.”

“Dr. Tam must go! Canada must remain sovereign over decisions. The UN, the WHO, and Chinese Communist propaganda must never again have a say over Canada’s public health!” he wrote.

“Does [Tam] work for Canada or for China?” Sloane asks in a tweeted video. He also accused the country’s top doctor of parroting lines from the World Health Organization (WHO) after it repeated “misinformation” disseminated by the communist Chinese government.

His remarks drew swift condemnation on social media, with some calling his words “repugnant,” “vile” and “xenophobic.”

Tam, who was born in British Hong Kong and grew up in the U.K., has denounced the rise in anti-Asian racist incidents in Canada since the novel coronavirus erupted in Wuhan, China.

Today, she brushed off Sloan’s comments as “noise.”

“I’m a pretty focused person and I work really, really hard,” Tam said, adding that she has been working more than 20 hours a day.

“My singular focus is to work with all my colleagues to get this epidemic wave under control. I don’t let noise sort of detract me from doing that.”

Dr Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer spoke to reporters on Parliament Hill on Thursday. 0:57

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer repeatedly refused to denounce or comment on Sloan’s remarks.

“I won’t be commenting on individual statements or positions that leadership candidates take. That’s up for them to explain, and ultimately the members of our party will decide when they vote in a leadership race,” he said.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is pressed by reporters on comments made by Conservative MP Derek Sloan criticizing Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam. 4:22

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked today about the rise in anti-Asian racist incidents across Canada generally and Sloan’s statement specifically.

“Intolerance and racism have no place in our country,” he said.

“Canada has succeeded because of our diversity. It is one of our greatest strengths, and the millions of Canadians of all different backgrounds who are working together … to help their fellow Canadians deserve better than this from all of us.

“We need to continue in our resolve to be an open, welcoming, respectful country and I think all Canadians expect that of every politician.”

Sloan’s leadership campaign website says “the damage to free speech, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience happening in Canada can not be understated. It’s time for everyone concerned about these issues to stand up and support a candidate who will not just pay lip service but get in the line of fire to defend these freedoms.”

Sloan’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CBC News.

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