Prominent Canadian and international figures urge PM Trudeau to back the global call for a patent waiver

Health and justice advocates say Canada has been “out of step with the rest of the world.”


OTTAWA – In the lead-up to the upcoming WTO ministerial meetings, key figures in the global movement for vaccine justice are calling on the Canadian government to change its position on lifting intellectual property rules for COVID-19 vaccines and other tools.

For more than 18 months, Canadian trade officials have refused to back the call for making vaccines, tests, and treatments available globally as public goods.

The open letter is signed by prominent Canadians Stephen Lewis and Naomi Klein, as well as renowned international advocates Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel Prize winning economist), Fatima Hassan (Health Justice Initiative) and Achal Prabhala (AccessIBSA project).

Other Canadian signatories include Dr. Joanne Liu (former International President, MSF), Dr. Madhukar Pai (Canada Research Chair in Epidemiology & Global Health), Ketty Nivyabandi (Amnesty Canada), and Christina Warner (The Council of Canadians).

The letter is addressed to Prime Minister Trudeau and was initiated by the Council of Canadians.

“Over the last two years, monopolies on life-saving vaccines held by a handful of pharmaceutical companies, and the shameful vaccine nationalism and hoarding of wealthy countries, have caused immeasurable suffering and millions of avoidable deaths,” the signatories write. “It is time Canada broke with pharmaceutical monopolies and the failed charity-based model that have hobbled the global fight against the pandemic.”

More than 100 other countries have joined the call for a comprehensive waiver of intellectual property rights. But WTO negotiations have been stalled for the last year and a half “by the intransigence of a handful of wealthy countries – including Canada,” the letter points out.

“There is disturbing evidence that the pharmaceutical industry has been behind Canada’s quiet obstructionism at the WTO,” the signatories further write. “Your government has long committed to the principles of fairness and equity. But in practice, a few pharmaceutical companies have been given free rein to use their monopolies to deny access to their life-saving products around the world, to the detriment of our collective well-being.”

The letter also urges the Trudeau government to reject the flawed “compromise” proposal that the EU has placed at the centre of upcoming WTO negotiations.

Read the full letter here.