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June 10th, 2022

NDP urges Canada to support lifting patents on vaccines

OTTAWA – On the eve of important discussions at the World Trade Organization, New Democrats are urging the Government of Canada to change its position and support lifting patents on vaccines and other tools to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. For over a year, experts and New Democrats have been calling for the government to support a desperately needed comprehensive waiver at the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council to make vaccines, diagnostics and treatments for COVID-19 more accessible to people in developing countries.

“Experts have been abundantly clear – not only has Canada refused to support the TRIPS waiver, which would help people around the world access COVID-19 vaccines, it has been acting as a spoiler behind the scenes,” said NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Heather McPherson (Edmonton Strathcona). “Canada’s actions over the past 18 months have shown the government cares far more about the profits of big pharma than it does for folks in low- and middle- income countries desperate for vaccines.”

New polling released by Abacus Data and the Council of Canadians shows that more than two-thirds of Canadians support lifting patents on vaccines and other tools to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts including Stephen Lewis, Dr. Joanne Liu, Joseph Stiglitz, Madhukar Pai, and Naomi Klein released a letter yesterday urging Canada to reject a deeply flawed “compromise” proposal, which the EU has placed at the centre of upcoming negotiations, and instead support a comprehensive waiver.

“The current ‘compromise’ solution at the WTO which still won't help people around the world access COVID-19 tools isn’t a solution at all,” said NDP Health Critic Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway). “We need a solution that lifts patents on vaccines, diagnostics and treatments – that’s the only way we’ll end this COVID pandemic once and for all.”

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee heard extensive testimony over the past two months from experts indicating Canada should support a full TRIPS waiver.

“Human lives are worth more than the pharmaceutical industry’s profits,” said Heather McPherson. “Canada must do what's right for people around the world and support a comprehensive TRIPS waiver next week.”