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May 6, 2021

Canada must support the temporary waiver of the TRIPS Agreement

COVID-19
vaccination

On May 6, 2021, Linda Silas, CFNU president, wrote to Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Ng and Ambassador de Boer in support of the temporary waiver of the TRIPS agreement.

The Right Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
The Hon. Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade
Stephen de Boer, Canada’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization 

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Ng and Ambassador de Boer:

On behalf of Canada’s nurses, I am writing to urge the Government of Canada to support the temporary waiver of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, which has been brought before the World Trade Organization (WTO). This letter follows previous requests made to Ambassador de Boer on March 9, and to Prime Minister Trudeau as part of a joint letter on March 10.

As you know well, the only way for us to emerge from this global pandemic is to ensure as many people as possible have timely access to a vaccine. By allowing for the temporary waiver, WTO member states would not be required to grant or enforce patents and other intellectual property rights covering COVID-19 drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, medical equipment and other technologies.

We were very pleased to see U.S. President Joe Biden change course on this issue, declaring his country’s support for a temporary waiver of TRIPS, and a willingness to negotiate the terms of this at the WTO. It is now incumbent upon Canada to support this temporary waiver and to use its diplomatic relations to encourage our allies to do the same. Already, this proposal has been officially endorsed by 58 sponsoring governments, with over 100 countries in support.

Nurses from around the world have been on the front lines of this pandemic, having witnessed unfathomable suffering and loss of life. The International Council of Nurses has reported mass trauma among the world’s nurses, and warns of damage to the sustainability of nursing workforce and the nursing profession for generations to come.

As nurses, we know that vaccines save lives, and that we hold a moral and professional responsibility to advocate for patients around the world who will die needlessly without ready access to vaccines and other important medical technology. Canada, being among the wealthiest countries in the world, also holds a moral responsibility to act and save lives.

Pharmaceutical companies received over a hundred billion dollars of taxpayers’ money to develop the vaccines that they hold intellectual property over. Through the TRIPS Agreement, they are able to charge exorbitant prices to lower-income countries, inhibiting the generic competition that would enable affordable access to vaccines for hundreds of millions of people.

Unless all of us are safe, none of us can truly be safe. I am therefore calling on the Government of Canada to support this waiver, and to show leadership on this issue on the global stage.

Sincerely,

Linda Silas, CFNU President