Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for the invitation to appear before you today to discuss certain aspects of Bill , the , and how they relate to the mandate of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
I'm accompanied by Mr. Raoul Awad, director general of the directorate of security and safeguards, and Mr. Jason K. Cameron, director general of the strategic planning directorate.
The CNSC is Canada's sole nuclear regulator and, as such, is responsible for protecting the health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment with regard to the use of nuclear energy.
The CNSC is also tasked with ensuring that Canada meets its international obligations as far as the peaceful use of nuclear energy is concerned. We carry out our mandate under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and related regulations.
The CNSC and its predecessor organization have been regulating nuclear activities for more than 65 years. Activities regulated cover the entire nuclear cycle, from uranium mining and milling through to fuel fabrication, to nuclear facilities such as nuclear power plants, and ultimately to waste management. Regulatory oversight also extends to nuclear substances and to commercial, medical, academic, and research applications.
I will focus my brief comments today on describing how the CNSC ensures the security of nuclear materials and of nuclear facilities.
The prevention of nuclear terrorism relies on several elements, starting with international treaties and conventions. In Canada, the CNSC oversees the application of physical protection, threat assessment, and security measures. While Bill deals with Criminal Code offences if terrorist activity is found, the work of the CNSC is largely meant to be preventive, so that nuclear terrorism efforts will be detected and thwarted as early as possible.
The CNSC was involved in helping to develop the amendments to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. The CNSC's nuclear security regulations were updated in 2006 to reflect those changes. These regulations set out prescriptive and detailed security measures that licensees must adhere to. Physical protection requirements are based on a graded approach commensurate with the risk level and the resulting consequences.
For example, with respect to category I and II nuclear materials, and the facilities in which they are stored, the requirements range from site access controls to an on-site armed response force capable of intervention in the case of intrusion, theft, or sabotage. Employees and supervisors must fulfill mandatory requirements for awareness and education of security protocols. Those workers with access to nuclear materials must undergo rigorous background checks.
Licensees must develop and maintain contingency plans, as well as practise regular emergency drills. In fact, the North American nuclear industry holds an annual competition in which the tactical and physical skills of nuclear security protection officers are demonstrated. Canadian teams are regularly among the winners.
The transport of category I, II, and III nuclear materials is covered by the packaging and transport of nuclear substances regulations, and requires a licence from the CNSC. In order to obtain such an approval, the licensee must submit a transport security plan that provides detailed information, including a threat assessment, the proposed security measures, the route, and other arrangements along the route, all in accordance with the nuclear security regulations. Security plans are required for all shipments, including those in transit through Canada. Transport Canada's transportation of dangerous goods regulations also apply to any transport of nuclear substances.
Consequently, if Bill is enacted and Canada ratifies the CPPNM as well as the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, there is no additional work necessary to implement the physical protection measures among Canada's nuclear facility operators. These measures in fact have already been in place for years.
Similarly, Canada's framework and policy for the import, export, control, and safeguarding of nuclear material is transparent and comprehensive, to the extent that the CNSC is routinely consulted by regulators in other countries seeking to replicate various aspects of the Canadian model.
The Nuclear Safety and Control Act does contain regulatory offence provisions and penalties. Indeed, an individual was successfully prosecuted in 2010 for trying to ship nuclear-related dual-use devices to Iran, which could have been used for uranium enrichment. The proposed provisions of Bill would supplement our Nuclear Safety and Control Act for more serious offences and acts of nuclear terrorism.
In closing, the CNSC has been on the leading edge of implementing safety and security of our nuclear material inventory here in Canada as well as controlling the movement of nuclear materials, both domestically and across our borders. Consequently, the regulatory framework in Canada is already in a position to accommodate the provisions proposed in Bill .
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I look forward to your questions.
I'll answer your questions in sequence, and in a moment I'll turn it over to Mr. Awad to talk perhaps about some of the more detailed aspects of security planning for such shipments.
To start with, yes we do have a formal manner in which we interact with our partners, so we'll regularly work with the RCMP and our CSIS partners in order to arrive at the latest assessment of the threat environment.
In terms of why we need Bill , currently Canada has signed for the amendment to the CPPNM and also has signalled intent for ICSANT. Of course, we can't ratify them without modifying our legislative framework to make acts of nuclear terrorism a Criminal Code offence. That in fact is the driver for Bill .
With regard to your remarks concerning the HEU shipments, such shipments of nuclear material, certainly of nuclear medical isotopes, occur routinely, hundreds of times a day in Canada.
For the proposed HEU shipments, from a number of viewpoints this is the right thing to do, to return that material, which was originally of U.S. origin, to the U.S. Of course, this is consistent with the Nuclear Security Summit commitments made by our directly to President Obama.
The proposed shipments will be entirely safe and secure. There will be a detailed security plan that will be filed before any shipments take place. The actual physical packaging for the material, which is in a liquid form, which is the only difference between the routine shipments that we have now, those transfer containers will be certified, and the safety and security of them will be demonstrated.
Also, as I mentioned, we will work specifically with our partners, our security partners, in order to review the threat assessment along the proposed transportation route.
First, let me thank our witnesses for their presence and their expertise in helping us study this important legislation.
It's my understanding that the Nuclear Security Summit process brings together 47 countries with a view to strengthening international cooperative efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism by enhancing global nuclear safety. At the inaugural 2010 summit in Washington, D.C., Prime Minister Stephen Harper and 46 other leaders agreed to a joint communiqué and work plan, which among other commitments welcomed a four-year international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide.
It also highlighted the importance of achieving the universal ratification and implementation of the amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. The March 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul provided countries with an opportunity to identify areas for cooperation to enhance nuclear security.
Mr. Chair, I'm going to direct my questions to Mr. Jamieson or his colleagues as they feel they can answer.
Mr. Jamieson, when you testified before the Special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism back in June, you noted that “the regulatory framework in Canada is already in a position to accommodate the provisions proposed in Bill ”. Do you think it's important for Canada to become a state party to international counterterrorism instruments?
You've probably all had a chance to look over the motion, which reads as follows:
That the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights conduct a thorough study of the practice under section 4.1(1) of the Department of Justice Act since its enactment:
4.1(1) Subject to subsection (2), the Minister shall, in accordance with such regulations as may be prescribed by the Governor in Council, examine every regulation transmitted to the Clerk of the Privy Council for registration pursuant to the Statutory Instruments Act and every bill introduced in or presented to the House of Commons by a minister of the Crown, in order to ascertain whether any of the provisions thereof are inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Minister shall report any such inconsistency to the House of Commons at the first convenient opportunity;
and report its findings and recommendations to the House.
I will make no secret of what led me to put forward such a motion. It was a situation that gave me serious cause for concern, whether founded or not. I am not making any value judgment on the proceedings that were initiated, nor do I have any intention to put anyone on trial here. However, when a government employee says that he was asked to do something illegal and that the test set out in subsection 4.1(1) of the Department of Justice Act was not applied, it weakens my confidence in the system.
Ours is a system where the rule of law must reign supreme. I always assumed that, as far as studies of government or Senate bills went, the necessary legal opinions had been sought and the appropriate tests passed. I was under the reasonable impression that that was the case, whether I was for or against the political content of the bill.
After asking the minister some questions and considering the answers I got, I had the sense I was being told that information was private or confidential, that it involved the type of relationship the lawyers around this table are used to. In short, we were told that this was a matter of lawyer-client privilege. The problem there is that the client is the Canadian public. It's not me or you, it's not the minister or department employees. It is, in fact, Canadians.
So that is the backdrop for my motion, which I would like the committee to study when it has time and not for the purposes of a witch hunt, of course. You can see the motion was not written in such a way as to impose a new agenda, as the one we have is already quite full. We have to study the issue swiftly and seriously at some point to, at the very least, assure ourselves that the tests described in subsection 4.1(1) are followed, that the necessary approvals are obtained and that genuine efforts are made to ensure the content of bills is consistent with the Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It seems to me that should go without saying.
No such study has been done in a long time, and I think it would be worthwhile to do. I often talk about perceived justice. Justice is one thing, but perceived justice is another. When the entire system is called into question, whether rightly so or not—and I don't want to get into the details of the case—the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has a duty to report to Parliament on whether the tests are being applied correctly and whether the process can carry on as usual. But one thing is crucial: the importance of the rule of law in Canada cannot be overstated. That is the crux of my motion.
Mr. Chairman, I want to express my appreciation to my NDP colleague for bringing this motion forward.
Members of the committee will note that I have had an interest in this whole question of section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act not only in terms of my responsibilities as a former minister of justice and attorney general—it falls on any minister to have that concern—but prior to that even, during my years as a law professor and being particularly involved in constitutional law and charter concerns.
Accordingly, on November 6 of last year, when the current was before this committee, I put questions to him on the standard being applied to prospective legislation with regard to section 4.1 review. The minister responded:
...the standard is that we comply with all the constitutional documents, be it the charter or the Canadian Bill of Rights. We satisfy ourselves that all legislation is in compliance.
As members may recall, I found the answer at that point to be insufficient and therefore asked more questions about the particular standard of review. Regrettably, the minister did not further enunciate the particular standard that he and the department applied to legislation.
I believe it's important for both parliamentarians and the public to know the scope and the nature of the review that is conducted on bills put forward by the minister and department before they are tabled in Parliament, for a number of reasons.
I'll try to be brief in this regard, Mr. Chairman.
First, there are serious cost implications when the government enacts a statutory scheme that may be challenged before the courts. While there are certainly costs to defending any government legislation, we ought not to be inviting complex and protracted constitutional litigation at great cost to the taxpayers, particularly since as parliamentarians we have not only an important role to play but I would say an important constitutional responsibility in the oversight of the public purse, let alone in the oversight as well of the constitutionality of legislation.
Second, and in a related fashion, we need to be concerned with the existing strain on our already, at times, overtaxed legal and judicial resources. While the government, as I've said before, should be assisting those who have legitimate claims to bring before tribunals—and I would be remiss if I did not parenthetically note my regret about the cancellation of the court challenges program—we don't want to be inviting litigation simply because we adopted legislation that has not been properly constitutionally vetted.
The third consideration relates to the aphorism that not only must justice be done, but it must be seen to be done. It's an oft-abused cliché, but one that still has relevance. The government has, if you will, somewhat of an attendance problem when it comes to the charter.
For example, when it came to the 30th anniversary of the charter, for the most part—and I can say this as somebody who participated in a good number of the commemorative initiatives with respect to the 30th anniversary of the charter—regrettably the government that should have been at the forefront of that commemoration, that should have been celebrating the 30th anniversary of the charter, was very often simply missing in action.
It's not clear, when one looks at these things, whether the government, in looking at the charter, sees it as something that deserves the compelling respect and responsibility that we owe to adhere to it, or whether it sometimes sees it as something of an impediment to pursuing its agenda, or worse, as something unnecessary or unimportant.
I say that, Mr. Chairman, because if one looks at the record, one will see that not only has there been a series of legislative initiatives that have invited constitutional challenges that could have been in my view avoided with a proper due diligence and vetting, but that in fact courts have, in a series of judgments, whether of the Federal Court or the superior courts or even the Supreme Court of Canada, such as in the Insite case, found to be unconstitutional.
The last concern, and I'll touch on this briefly, is how a department allocates its resources in these matters.
In other words, if a charter analysis is at an extreme end an automatic process, a kind of rubber-stamp process, then how many civil servants are involved in that process, and how many are in fact needed, and at what cost to taxpayers?
Conversely, if it is, as I believe it to be, a more complex and protracted process, we might ask ourselves whether we have enough people assigned to the task, a task which, as I say, goes to the whole question of public oversight.
In returning to the matter before us, you can properly put the question to me, and it would be deservedly put to me, whether or not, when I was Minister of Justice, we in fact engaged in that kind of approach. I think, Mr. Chair, if you will look at the record, I said as I wrote before becoming minister, but even at the time of being a minister, that I regarded that as an ongoing superintending responsibility and priority for the Minister of Justice, and that, before we tabled any legislation, we had to be sure that it had what I called the good housekeeping seal of constitutional approval.
The question then becomes, what is the standard to be used? The thing that concerns me at this point is there is now a statement of claim before the court that has made some reference—and I'm not going into any of the matters regarding the merits of the claim or anything of that regard—but the question is that the standard of legislative review being applied by the department is whether “some argument can reasonably be made in favour of its consistency, even if all arguments in favour of consistency have a combined likelihood of success of 5% or less...”.
Mr. Chairman, I regard that as a very low standard and, indeed, a standard that would be inappropriate for Parliament and the public to adhere to.
Let me just close by saying that a question can be put to me, “Did you ever table any legal opinions when you were the minister?” I have questioned the present minister as to why he has not tabled any legal opinions, and that properly could have been put to me as well.
My answer would be twofold in that regard. Number one, we operated at such a high level of superintending review that, in fact, the whole objective was to ensure that we would not be tabling any legislation that might be suspect from a constitutional point of view, for all the reasons I mentioned. And when an issue did arise where I thought there might be a constitutional concern and where the standard of review would thereby be engaged that had to do with the prospective same-sex legislation, we referred the matter to the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion so we would not have to get into protracted litigation of a constitutional character at multiple levels in different provinces in that regard.
It would seem to me that this question is something that we ought to address and review in terms of should we perhaps have more by way of a reference to the courts with regard to that issue. What in particular should be the standard for review? How do we ensure there will be appropriate compliance with the directive authority in section 4 of the Department of Justice Act?
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
With respect to this motion, I oppose it, both for practical reasons and reasons of principle.
Subsection 4.1(1) requires the minister to examine government bills presented to the House of Commons and “ascertain” whether they are inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the charter. If so, this must be reported to the House. It was very clear legislation.
The process of reviewing legislation for charter risks, which underlies it, has been in place since the inception of subsection 4.1(1)—that's since the mid-1980s—and has served all governments well.
With respect to Mr. Cotler's comments on whether we celebrated the charter at 30 years, we don't tend to celebrate legislation; we highlight it. The Prime Minister made statements about it. But I don't believe the former Liberal government had a big party at the 20th anniversary either. It's part of a series—
Mr. Irwin Cotler: We actually did.
Ms. Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay: —of constitutional legislative initiatives, including our British North America Act, and our Bill of Rights which came in under Prime Minister Diefenbaker. No study is necessary, in our view, into a process that is clearly working and ensures effective charter review.
I have had the benefit of looking back on transcripts of testimony in the House and Senate committees, as well as the House itself, from Minister Nicholson, and before him, Minister Toews, and before him, Minister Cotler, and even Minister Blais in 1993. Their responses are basically identical as to how the process works. The proposals are reviewed for charter and other legal risks throughout the policy development process, up to and including the introduction of legislation. Relevant risks are brought to the attention of senior officials and ministers, and every effort is made to mitigate them. Once the government bill is introduced, the chief legislative counsel certifies—there is a certification process—on behalf of the deputy minister of justice that the necessary review has been carried out. If a Minister of Justice were to conclude that a given government bill was at the time of introduction inconsistent with the charter, a report under subsection 4.1(1) would be issued. In other words, that is the triggering event.
In practice, the review process ensures that concerns potentially rising to such a level will have already been addressed. The process I have outlined works. It has been respected by government. It is our view that this study is unnecessary. I would urge the members of this committee to defeat this motion.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I appreciate the opportunity.
I'm a product of the 2006 election, when the government took office primarily on talking about transparency and accountability. I respected that. That's one of the reasons I ran. I was running against Conservatives, but I wasn't against them on that particular point.
The thing that's concerning when you're new to the justice committee, as I am, is this threshold of 5%. Yes, there's minister after minister who has come before Parliament and its various committees and has said that they were satisfied with how it had been done before.
However, as an example, there is the Insite case, the challenge that followed, and the turnaround that took place. Nobody is sitting here saying that the legislation put in before is completely wrong. What's being asked is for this committee to take a look at it to ensure that it meets the goals. Some doubt has been raised about it, and I think it's worthwhile for the committee, not necessarily immediately, but over a period of time, to take the time to look it over. I would encourage people to reconsider this.
That's an excellent question.
The first time I wondered about this was over the holidays. It may not have been news in your neck of the woods, but I'm from the national capital region, so it caught my attention when the media here reported on the case, even though I was out of town at the time. As the justice critic, anytime anyone casts doubt on the justice system, I take notice, regardless of the party it's coming from.
Department of Justice employee Edgar Schmidt filed a claim against the Attorney General of Canada, and the case is now before the Federal Court. I won't read you his entire claim, because I don't think that's what matters. I don't want to get into a debate over who is right and who is wrong. The fact of the matter is that the Attorney General of Canada has been taken to court over a claim that the government is not properly honouring its legal obligation under section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act. The Conservatives are not the source of the problem. I understand what Mr. Cotler was saying earlier, but the claim of the individual in question indicates that this situation dates as far back as 1993. The department's position has always been that even a 5% likelihood of success is sufficient to discharge the government of its obligation.
People may not be very familiar with that obligation. I included it in my motion because I felt it was important. We all know the situation. The opposition has often criticized the government for using private member's bills to get around the obligation. That has always been my sense, to a certain extent, but now, it's worse. In our democracy, the cornerstone of our system has to be the rule of law; otherwise total chaos and anarchy will take hold, and I don't think anyone wants that.
There is no problem if we assume that the exercise is being done correctly when government bills are passed by the House and referred to committees for study. And I am talking not only about justice-related bills, but about all bills. This test is mandatory in every single case.
Mr. Cotler pointed out, and rightly so, that the system was designed that way to benefit Canadians, at the end of the day. They are told that a test was done and that the legislation is deemed to be reasonable and to comply with the charter and constitutional powers. Then bills move along in their usual fashion and receive more in-depth consideration.
The current case, however, suggests something quite different. As a lawmaker, I find that very troubling. Anytime I speak with the minister, regardless of the committee, I'll think that the people at the department might not have done their job on this or that. It's troubling because it suggests a disregard for compliance with the charter. Our job is to question witnesses about the substance of bills. As part of our detailed study, we will have to question whether a provision we wish to amend in Bill S-9 was analysed for charter compliance.
I will just finish by saying I don't think this motion is dangerous for the government. It is in everyone's interest to make sure the rules are being followed properly. That was the idea in all this.
The story came out over the holidays, in December or January. I thought I would put the question to the minister and, depending on his answer, determine whether I needed to take things further. I would figure out if I needed to ask the committee to study the issue, hear from department officials, basically look into the problem identified in the Schmidt case. The courts will deal with that specific case, but perhaps the committee could examine the intellectual process followed to assure the minister that everything complies with subsection 4.1(1) of the Department of Justice Act and that when—
he signs off on a law that it is all right. And if it's not, they can also say “notwithstanding the charter” because we want this implemented, and there's nothing wrong with that.
My name is John Davies. I'm the director general, national security policy, at Public Safety Canada. I'm joined today by my colleague Emmanuelle Deault-Bonin, who is the senior analyst and manager in my group, and an expert in counter-proliferation policy.
I am pleased to be here today to speak with you about Bill and to explain how the bill, if passed, will complement the Government of Canada's counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation efforts.
Nuclear terrorism is a significant threat to Canada and to global security, and it is one that continues to evolve. The Government of Canada takes seriously its responsibility to mitigate this threat. Two of my minister's key responsibilities are to exercise national leadership on matters of public safety and to coordinate activities of Canada's federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
With regard to counter-proliferation, this means that Public Safety Canada works with more than a dozen federal departments and agencies to identify proliferation-related threats, to uphold Canadian laws and regulations related to proliferation, including sanctions against countries we know have nuclear aspirations, and to ensure that our policy and legal frameworks for counter-proliferation remain current and effective.
You've heard today from officials from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. With me at the table are representatives from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. These two agencies are examples of the breadth of expertise brought to bear in Canada's counter-proliferation efforts. Activities range from intelligence gathering to controlling the export of dual-use goods to raising awareness of proliferation risks in the private sector and academic world to enforcing sanctions against foreign states.
Bill will strengthen Canada's counter-proliferation framework by creating four new Criminal Code offences related to nuclear terrorism, such as the possession or export of nuclear or radioactive materials and devices.
Internationally, Canada is also a committed partner. For example, the announced at the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit a funding commitment of $365 million over five years for the global partnership program. Among other things, this program aims to help secure nuclear facilities to prevent nuclear materials from being used for illicit purposes around the world.
Further, the government promotes cooperation among its international partners through its diplomacy and advocacy work to implement and strengthen multilateral initiatives and international legal instruments such as the two treaties that Bill would allow Canada to ratify. This bill is an indication of Canada's commitment to engaging in international efforts to combat proliferation.
I would like to conclude by saying that should Bill be adopted, it will further improve our domestic framework to counter nuclear terrorism and signal to our international partners the importance Canada places on having a robust regime to address threats to global security.
Thank you to the committee. I would be happy to answer any questions.
Good afternoon, and thank you for inviting us here today to provide some law enforcement context about Bill .
l have with me today Chief Superintendent Larry Tremblay, director general of federal policing, criminal operations.
Canada's counterterrorism strategy asserts, as one of its six fundamental principles, that terrorism is a crime that will be prosecuted. The deny-and-detect elements of the strategy aim to deny terrorists the means and opportunities to carry out their activities. A key objective in this strategy is to disrupt the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction.
Bill , would strengthen law enforcement's ability to meet this important objective by specifying that actions associated with making, possessing, using, transferring, exporting, importing, altering, or disposing of nuclear and radioactive material with intent to cause death, serious bodily harm, or substantial damage to property or the environment will be deemed a serious crime with severe penalties.
Bill classifies criminal actions, for example, committing an indictable offence under federal law for the purpose of obtaining radioactive material, as terrorist acts. Bill S-9 raises the public consciousness about the seriousness of nuclear-related terrorist activities, and highlights the risks posed by people, organizations, and state actors engaging in these actions.
Another key aspect of this bill for law enforcement is that clause 3 criminalizes these activities if they occur outside Canada. Bill is thereby consistent with all other terrorist-related offences listed in the Criminal Code.
Nuclear terrorism is a threat to international security with the potential to cause significant loss of life, as well as substantial environmental and property damage.
Based on reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency, in the past two decades there have been approximately 20 cases of weapons-grade material on the black market. It is reported that illicit procurement networks are trafficking highly radioactive material across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
The investigative techniques that come into play when pursuing cases involving acts of nuclear terrorism are not significantly different from other complex terrorist investigations. Countering nuclear terrorism requires coordinated government action, including diplomacy and international cooperation, border controls, physical and information security, and law enforcement.
A primary objective of law enforcement would be to prevent nuclear radiological material from falling into the hands of terrorists. It would be critical to disrupt a terrorist plot at the earliest opportunity.
Law enforcement, the intelligence community, and border officials often work hand in hand to uncover plots. These actors are vital in uncovering the illicit movement of controlled goods and detecting and tracking illegal shipments. Intelligence and forensics also play a critical role in helping to prevent nuclear terrorism.
Law enforcement is critical to the government's response in countering nuclear terrorism, and therefore requires the appropriate authorities to execute its mission effectively. Bill will assist us when we investigate activities associated with nuclear and radioactive material.
The RCMP has developed close partnerships with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, as well as with the owners and operators of Canada's nuclear power plants. The key to denying terrorists the capabilities to engage in nuclear terrorism is effective cooperation among the full range of security and intelligence partners, both domestic and international.
The Yadegari investigation and prosecution, while not a nuclear terrorism case, exemplifies how government agencies can and should work together to counter proliferation. Mahmoud Yadegari was charged for attempting to export pressure transducers from the United States to the United Arab Emirates through Canada. The investigation determined that the pressure transducers, which are crucial components used in uranium enrichment, were ultimately destined for Iran.
Yadegari was charged with 10 offences under various statutes, including the Customs Act, the United Nations Act, the Export and Import Permits Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, and the Criminal Code for false documents.
Bill would criminalize proliferation in situations where an indictable offence is committed with intent to obtain nuclear and/or radioactive material, or to obtain access to a nuclear facility.
Global and domestic cooperation, sharing of intelligence and industrial security measures are critically important in achieving the goal of denying, detecting and deterring the trafficking of nuclear and radiological material.
Bill would contribute to law enforcement's counterterrorism efforts by specifying certain activities associated with nuclear and radiological material as serious crimes and enhancing the authorities available to police.
Thank you. I welcome your questions.
No, that's fair. I didn't think anybody was a physicist here, but the reality is that it will probably be top of mind for people.
In terms of developing nuclear weapons, deliverable weapons, for a terrorist group or for somebody who wants to do some serious damage, the fissile material requires highly specialized knowledge, physicist-level knowledge, to do this. Many times we hear where different countries are suspected of being close to getting yellowcake, and they're getting close to getting other aspects of the processing to get to this point. How do you transfer that to the level where somebody could actually do it from a physical standpoint? Again, I'm not asking for the science. I'm talking from the policing perspective.
I presume it would mean that it would have to be small enough to be transportable to get it to Canada, that it wouldn't be something we would anticipate developing in Canada. What would be your outlook on the potentials for that?
We had the U.S.-Russian joint threat assessment on nuclear terrorism. In that assessment, they would be talking about the risk factors. How do you see that relative to Canada? We're somewhat different target-wise, hopefully, from the United States, but still we have concerns.
Thank you all for being here today to enhance our understanding of this legislation.
Mr. Davies, when you testified before the Special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism on June 4, 2012, you said this:
...Bill S-9 represents a concrete step in strengthening Canada's criminal laws relating to nuclear terrorism. It will further allow Canada to ratify and implement two important international treaties, thus signalling our commitment to nuclear security.
I note today in your remarks you talked about the bill being “an indication of Canada's commitment to engaging in international efforts to combat proliferation” and “signal to our international partners the importance Canada places on having a robust regime to address threats to global security”. Clearly, you're putting this within the international context of us working with our partners.
Public Safety Canada's role, as I understand it, with regard to proliferation and terrorism is to coordinate and support interdepartmental efforts at the federal level, as well as to leverage expert knowledge to better examine the threat, identify the risks that Canada faces, and develop sound policy and advice to help guide the government.
In that context, do you feel that Bill would complement existing national security policy and operational frameworks that are currently in place?
There is a lot of concern now with respect to Iran in the whole matter of a breakthrough, because of the highly enriched uranium threshold, which facilitates the breakthrough capacity for a nuclear weaponization program.
That brings me to the question of Canada. To what extent are we being a good international citizen in that regard? I noted that in 2010 the Canadian government's decision to permit Ottawa-based Nordion to sign a 10-year deal with Russia to import highly enriched uranium for use in our medical isotopes production process was criticized by a coalition of arms control advocates. Similarly, we don't appear to be involved in moving ourselves from high enriched uranium to low enriched uranium approaches.
I have two specific questions.
We now have two nuclear research reactors, one at McMaster University in Hamilton, and the other at École Polytechnique in Montreal that rely on highly enriched uranium as their base fuel. Where do we stand at this point with regard to the conversion of these two nuclear research reactors to a low enriched, an LEU, alternative?
Can you explain why Canada has chosen not to participate in the joint effort among France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United States, to convert their medical isotopes production facilities to use low enriched uranium rather than highly enriched uranium?
Thank you for your question.
There's a lot of different layers again, I think, to how you would look at threats in this area. The first is as I mentioned before, the aspiration of terrorist groups to obtain these weapons and then to use them. That's one angle, a lot of known, publicly available intelligence and facts of certain groups that want to obtain them and use them against Canada and Canadian interests.
The second one is the issue of the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Obviously, a number of known countries aspire to obtain nuclear capability. The most obvious now is Iran. There's North Korea...political instability perhaps in Pakistan. The more countries that try to obtain nuclear capability to begin with, the greater the potential for proliferation and for access of terrorist groups. That's another angle.
On the third angle in terms of the threat and looking at the threat, I would talk about perhaps the Canadian context, Canada being an obvious advanced economy. A lot of technology, a lot of advanced knowledge and expertise of components or dual use equipment could find its way away from civilian uses. We're an attractive target for that point of view, but also it's our proximity to the U.S. and trading relations and so on.
The fourth way to look at the threat of counter-proliferation is just on the process of globalization, in general. This is not just beyond those that have weapons of mass destruction or even energy, like nuclear power and so on, that could be converted over to nuclear for nefarious reasons. There's just the issue of greater trade flows, greater movement of people. Finance is globalized, and knowledge. I think knowledge is the bigger thing that's come up. When you think of knowledge, it's the ability, the expertise to actually put one of these things together.
I would look at it probably from those four angles. That might help people understand the threat.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to discuss this important legislation with our panel.
To the panel, I want to thank you for your expertise and experience. It's most welcome.
As the said in his testimony in the last meeting, terrorism, nuclear or otherwise, is a “borderless” issue, and we must work cooperatively with our international partners.
Assistant Commissioner Malizia, in points that you raised in your briefing, you said that one of the keys to denying terrorists the capability to engage in nuclear terrorism is the effective cooperation among the full range of security and intelligence partners, both domestic and international.
For an example of this, I note that the briefing note points to a recent case to illustrate the importance of cooperation. It's the arrest of Mahmoud Yadegari, an Iranian Canadian citizen, in April 2009.
In the Yadegari case, a U.S. company tipped off U.S. export officials about Mr. Yadegari's attempts to purchase and hide the specifications of pressure transducers, which can be used in gas centrifuge plants to measure the pressure of uranium hexafluoride. Such dual-use technology has been linked to Iran's efforts to produce weapons-grade nuclear material. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement alerted both the CBSA and the RCMP about Mr. Yadegari's efforts. Thanks to the cooperative efforts, Mr. Yadegari was prosecuted and received jail time.
You touched on some of the measures that we are taking internationally to build further cooperation against these kinds of cases. In your opinion, has the RCMP developed close partnerships with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, as well as the owners and operators of Canada's nuclear plants?
Yes, in fact, our critical intelligence infrastructure team is one of the areas. There are others as well, through our federal policing program, but we've developed good relationships with these agencies through our outreach program.
As you mentioned, the key, of course, is a good exchange of information, not only among law enforcement intelligence agencies but also among corporate entities and others. We've continued to work with them. We also provide them access to a suspicious incident reporting system, which is an online system whereby they can report suspicious incidents. All these reports come in, are collated centrally at the RCMP, and then analyzed to see if there are trends that we should be concerned with.
As well, we also take part in proliferation workshops, not only with the industry but with other agencies, such as, for instance, the U.S. ICE, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We'll actually do some joint training with them.
There are several different initiatives that allow us to extend our reach, if I can say it that way, and allow us to share that information and ensure that all the pieces are connected.
That's it. Thank you very much.
Thank you to our panel for coming this afternoon.
I want to thank the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness for coming.
I want to thank the RCMP for being here. My grandfather was an RCMP officer and, in fact, in the Musical Ride. We're very proud of the work he did, and I want to thank you for your service.
Just as a reminder to committee members, it would be preferable that amendments come in advance. We will be doing this bill clause by clause in the second hour of our Wednesday meeting, so amendments to Bill would be greatly appreciated 24 hours in advance.
Also, to all parties here, if you have witnesses you're interested in seeing for the two studies we'll do after we get back from our break week, on Bill and Bill , the two private member's bills, if you would provide those to the clerk in the near future, that would be greatly appreciated.
With that, we'll adjourn and call it a day.