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NEW POLL: Strong majority of Canadians oppose Trudeau’s stance on patent waiver at WTO

More than 2 out of 3 support waiving intellectual property rules for COVID-19 vaccines and other tools, as called for by the U.S. and 100+ countries

OTTAWA – As delegates from around the globe gather at the upcoming ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) starting on June 12th, a strong majority of Canadians want the government to support a comprehensive waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 tools like vaccines. 

According to national polling commissioned by the Council of Canadians and conducted by Abacus Data in late May 2022, more than 2 out of 3 Canadians support “waiving intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines and medicines so that poorer countries can manufacture and export them”:

  • 67% of respondents said they support or strongly support the measure, including 71% in Quebec and 70% in Alberta
  • There is strong cross-party support, including among more than 3 in 4 (76%) Liberal voters

“On this issue, Trudeau is out of step with his own party’s supporters, he’s out of step with Canadians, and he’s out of step with the rest of the world,” said Nikolas Barry-ShawTrade and Privatization campaigner at the Council of Canadians.

“More than 100 countries, and world leaders like U.S. President Joe Biden and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, have rallied behind this call. Why is Canada still stubbornly refusing to do the right thing and support treating these life-saving vaccines as global public goods?”

Since the pandemic began, a handful of pharmaceutical companies have held a monopoly over COVID-19 vaccines and kept them out of reach for much of the world population. First proposed by South Africa and India in October 2020, a waiver on intellectual property rules would ensure that vaccines and treatments are shared, produced, and distributed according to need rather than profit.

Prime Minister Trudeau has insisted his government is “ready to discuss” a waiver and is not opposed, but Canadian trade officials at the WTO have repeatedly questioned the necessity of a waiver and stalled attempts to move the waiver proposal forward.

While federal ministers proclaim that Canada has been a “world leader” in assuring access to vaccines for low-income countries, few Canadians agree, the poll showed:

  • Only a small minority (9%) believe Canada has excelled in its global pandemic response, in light of the government’s refusal to support the call for a waiver and focus on donations of surplus doses of COVID-19 vaccines instead
  • More than 4 in 10 Canadians (44%) said the government’s approach has been “inadequate” or “grossly inadequate”

“There’s a simple reason behind Canada’s evasive stance on this life-or-death issue: ongoing pressure from the pharmaceutical industry not to back this global call,” Barry-Shaw added. “Internal emails from Canada’s own Foreign Affairs Committee recently showed that our trade officials have been coordinating their messaging with industry lobbyists.”

“But our lives are more important than their profits. The upcoming WTO meetings could be Canada’s last chance to show leadership in advancing global equity and solidarity – and to help end this pandemic once and for all.”

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