The U.S. and Canada have launched formal inquiries on the actual origins of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). Alongside these investigations, lawmakers in both countries are now scrutinizing how the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) used federal funds from both countries. The WIV is believed to have been the facility where the pathogen responsible for COVID-19 originated.

American and Canadian legislators have zoomed in on the WIV and its connections to different groups. In the U.S., Congress has investigated the US$3.7 million grant given by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the EcoHealth Alliance. Of the amount mentioned above, $600,000 was channeled to the WIV over a five-year period. The research grant given to the EcoHealth Alliance sought to understand “the risk of bat coronavirus emergence.”

The NIH and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) denied approving any gain-of-function research grants for coronaviruses. EcoHealth Alliance equally denied channeling grant money to the WIV for such purposes. Gain-of-function research involves the study of viruses and other pathogens to make them more transmissible.

However, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) insisted that NIH grant money was used for gain-of-function research performed in the WIV. The lawmaker said in a May 25 statement: “We don’t know whether the pandemic started in a lab in Wuhan or evolved naturally. While many still deny funding gain-of-function research in Wuhan, experts believe otherwise.”

Also on May 25, Paul and other GOP senators sponsored an amendment to a bill permanently banning the funding of any gain-of-function research in China. The U.S. Senate passed the bill on the same day. The Kentucky senator said: “No taxpayer money should have ever been used to fund gain-of-function research in Wuhan, and now we permanently have put it to a stop.”

NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci defended U.S. funding of gain-of-function research. He said that the endeavor “generates important knowledge as to what happened” with the earlier Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome to prevent future pandemics. The infectious disease expert’s recent comments contradicted his earlier remarks that the NIH “has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research” in the WIV.

A day after Paul made his remarks, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) asked Fauci during a May 26 Senate hearing: “How do you know [the WIV] didn’t lie to you and use the money for gain-of-function research anyway?” The NIAID head answered: “There’s no way of guaranteeing that, but in our experience with … Chinese grantees, they are very competent, trustworthy scientists.”

Canada also launched an investigation on the origins of COVID-19 – involving its own lab

The Parliament of Canada has also launched a similar investigation. However, its scrutiny centered on the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg, Manitoba province. Canada’s NML and the WIV in Wuhan are both level four laboratories – which meant both facilities are ready to handle serious infections.

The Canadian parliament’s probe also focused on scientist Xiangguo Qiu and her husband Keding Cheng, who were both fired from the NML in January 2021. Furthermore, it looked at Qiu’s several trips to the WIV and the transfer of deadly pathogens from Winnipeg to Wuhan.

On May 10, Canadian Conservative Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Michael Chong pointed out Qiu’s travels to China to train WIV personnel and how it connected to the pandemic. “Dr. Qiu trained people at the [WIV] so that it could be registered as … the only level four lab in China. Why is that relevant? It’s because the [U.S.] State Department … said earlier this year that the standards at the lab were not upheld. [They] weren’t operating to level four criteria … and often [operated] with very dangerous viruses at level two or three,” he said.

Chong later told The Epoch Times that members of parliament (MPs) ought to know the connection between the Winnipeg and Wuhan facilities. “If the intelligence community concludes that the virus did emerge from the lab in Wuhan, then the role … [of the NML] in helping build that lab becomes a critical question,” he added.

The Canadian parliament also touched on gain-of-function research during a March 2021 session. MPs asked NML Acting Scientific Director General Guillaume Poliquin about possible research done by the WIV on deadly virus samples from Canada. The head of the Canadian laboratory said it would not approve sending samples for such studies in the first place.

Conservative MP John Williamson pressed on if NML does any investigation to ensure the Chinese laboratory is not conducting illegal gain-of-function research. Poliquin responded that there was no way to found out as further scrutiny into the WIV is not possible. “Neither Canada nor the [NML] has the standing to investigate or audit laboratories,” he said.

Williamson called Poliquin’s response “an astonishing admission.” He added: “You’re taking a request from a nations that has a history of theft and lies, and accepting that because it’s what the law in this country says … at a time when our national security institutes are warning academia in general to be careful.”

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