Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis is sounding the alarm about “concerning” amendments to the World Health Organization’s international health regulations as the global health body works towards a pandemic treaty.

In an open letter to Health Minister Mark Holland, Lewis expressed worries on behalf of tens of thousands of Canadians who signed a petition about the International Health Regulations, warning that the treaty would threaten Canada’s sovereignty.

Petition e-4401, signed by nearly 19,000 Canadians, expresses apprehension about Canada’s acceptance of amendments to the agreement during the 75th World Health Assembly in May 2022. 

Lewis contends that these amendments, which reduce the time frames for responding to future treaty changes, pose a serious threat to Canada’s ability to handle pandemics on its own terms.

In her letter, Lewis outlines three key issues including the limitation of response time, procedural violations during the treaty process and insufficient review. 

“While your department’s response to the online petition was meant to reassure Canadians that their healthcare sovereignty would not be compromised, several concerning amendments are now in force as a result of Canada’s failure to reject the May 28, 2022 amendments,” wrote Lewis.

“Firstly, these amendments substantially limit the time for Canada to sufficiently respond and they alter the terms of the original treaty. The petitioners are concerned that these treaty amendments, and now future amendments under the shortened timeline, are not valid and effective unless they have been reviewed and ratified by the House and the Senate.” 

Lewis demands a more satisfactory response from Holland, emphasizing the need for transparency and scrutiny, especially in the context of global negotiations on a pandemic instrument.

“This period will also be far too short to have these amendments go through the parliamentary process and to conduct the necessary public consultations on changes that constitute binding rules on Canada’s response to health emergencies,” wrote Lewis. 

Last year, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus emphasized the need for a global treaty to handle the threat of another global pandemic. 

During the last assembly, the World Health Organization’s budget saw a substantial increase to $6.83 billion for the 2024-2025 year, with Canada contributing $175.3 million in the current year, maintaining its historical support as a significant contributor to the organization.