Iain Stewart resigns as head of the Public Health Agency in Canada

Iain Stewart is out as president of the Public Health Agency in Canada, after leading the agency through much of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stewart was also the focus of an extraordinary moment in parliamentary history earlier this year when he was publicly admonished by lawmakers in the House of Commons for failing to disclose documents regarding the dismissal of two researchers from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

Stewart becomes president of the National Research Council of Canada, a role he previously held. Dr. Harpreet S. Kochhar, currently associate deputy secretary of health, will replace Stewart as of next week.

Kochhar, a veterinarian by training, has served in a number of senior roles in public service, including as Canada’s Chief Veterinary Officer and as Associate Vice President of Operations at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

In a press release Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked Stewart and “acknowledged his leadership in the successful implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Stewart joined PHAC from his previous role as chair of the Research Council after his predecessor, Tina Namiesniowski, resigned as president of PHAC in September 2020.

Stewart, on the right, approaches the bar in the House of Commons to be admonished by the House of Commons, Anthony Rota, in Ottawa on June 21, 2021. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press)

In June 2021, he was called to appear before the bar in the House of Commons, a procedure that had not been used against a civilian for nearly a century and was intended to publicly shame a person who has committed “an offense against the dignity or authority of Parliament. “

Stewart, referring to confidentiality and security concerns also expressed by Health Minister Patty Hajdu, declined to provide unregulated documents regarding the firing of researchers Xiangguo Qiu and her biologist husband, Keding Cheng, who was escorted from the premises in 2019 and officially fired in January. this year.

This question eventually ended in court, but the case was adjourned shortly after the election call in August.

Stewart was also head of the PHAC during a continuing controversy over the role of Major General Dany Fortin as head of Canada’s vaccine task force. Fortin recently argued in court that he should be reinstated in a job that reflects his rank. He was removed from the task force after being charged with sexual assault linked to an alleged incident decades ago and subsequently charged. Fortin denies the allegations.

The shift to replace Stewart as head of PHAC was part of a larger mix of senior public servants announced Friday.

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