Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the second reading debate on Bill , the nuclear terrorism act. I will begin my remarks by drawing attention to the words of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University in its 2011 report entitled, “The U.S.-Russia Joint Threat Assessment of Nuclear Terrorism”. It noted, “Of all varieties of terrorism, nuclear terrorism poses the gravest threat to the world”.
Al-Qaeda, for example, has a long-standing stated desire to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Our government has acknowledged this threat. The March 2010 Speech from the Throne noted the danger to global peace and security posed by the proliferation of nuclear materials and related technology. In light of this threat, the international community and individual countries have taken a number of steps to combat nuclear terrorism. Two key international efforts are the genesis for Bill . It is important to take a moment to discuss these two treaties that are its genesis.
The original Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the CPPNM, was signed by Canada in 1980 and ratified in 1986. It established measures related to the prevention, detection and punishment of offences relating to nuclear material, principally during international transport. In July 2005, state parties to the CPPNM, including Canada, adopted by consensus important amendments calling on states to protect nuclear facilities and material in peaceful domestic use, storage and transport; to provide for expanded co-operation among states; and to criminalize a range of acts involving nuclear material and nuclear facilities. I will refer to this instrument as the CPPNM amendment.
That same year, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, or ICSANT, was negotiated and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It covers a broad range of acts and possible targets, including nuclear facilities, and applies to nuclear material, radioactive material and radioactive devices, and includes provisions relating to interstate co-operation. Given the clear overlap between the criminal law requirements and subject matter of the CPPNM amendment and the ICSANT, Bill is designed in a way that proposes to implement into Canadian law the criminal law elements of both instruments.
For Canada, as with other dualist states, domestic legislation is required to ratify international treaties. Ratification is the formal act by which we signify our consent to be legally bound by the terms of the conventions. Bill proposes four new nuclear terrorism offences in our Criminal Code.
First, it proposes an offence for the making of a nuclear or radioactive device, as well as the possession, use, transfer, export, import, alteration or disposal of nuclear material, radioactive material or device, or the commission of an act against a nuclear facility or its operations with the intent of causing death, serious bodily harm or substantial damage to property or the environment. Those who are found guilty of this offence are liable to a maximum term of life imprisonment. I would note that the prohibition against the making of a device was added through an amendment made while Bill was being studied by the Special Senate Committee on Anti-Terrorism, and I would certainly say that it adds to the strength of this important bill.
Second, the bill proposes an offence for the use or alteration of nuclear material, radioactive material or device, or the commission of an act against a nuclear facility or its operations with the intent of compelling a person, a government or international organization to do or refrain from doing any act. This offence also carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Third, Bill also calls for an offence for the commission of an indictable offence for the purpose of obtaining nuclear or radioactive material or device, or access or control of a nuclear facility. The offence is designed in this way to comply with the requirements of both the CPPNM amendment and the ICSANT to specifically address the commission of various crimes, such as theft and robbery perpetrated to obtain nuclear or radioactive material or a device.
As a result, this offence would require the Crown to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that both the underlying offence was committed, with its requisite elements, and that it was done with the intent to obtain nuclear material, radioactive material or a device, or to obtain access to a nuclear facility.
Again, given the seriousness of such an offence, the proposed penalty is a maximum term of life imprisonment.
The fourth and final offence proposed in Bill addresses threats to commit one of the above nuclear terrorism offences. Both the CPPNM amendment at article 7(9) and the ICSANT at article 2(2) require states to criminalize the threat to commit one of the treaty offences.
The Criminal Code does contain an offence of uttering threats, found at section 264.1. However, this offence has a maximum punishment set at five years, which was not seen as severe enough in the case, for example, of threatening to unleash a radiological dispersal device, or dirty bomb, in public. The maximum penalty proposed for this offence is 14 years' imprisonment.
It is important to state that the offences in Bill and their very specific intent requirements have been set out to be absolutely clear so that lawful activity is not captured. In other words, these proposed four new offences would not capture lawful medical procedures involving radiation, the lawful exchange of material or devices or other lawful activity in the nuclear industry.
These four offences make up the essential elements of Bill , but there are other important areas that require brief comment.
First, the terms “nuclear material”, “radioactive material”, “nuclear facility”, “device” and “environment” are defined in Bill . All of these definitions are based either on existing law or on the CPPNM amendment and the ICSANT.
Second, as is consistently the practice in treaties of this nature, countries are called upon to assume extra-territorial adjudicative jurisdiction, which means ensuring that our Canadian courts have the authority to try offences committed outside of Canada in certain situations. It is for this reason that Bill would provide for jurisdiction to try these new offences in situations, for example, where the offence is committed outside Canada but by a Canadian, or when the person who commits the act or omission outside Canada is later present in Canada.
Third, given that the majority of Criminal Code offences are prosecuted by the provinces and territories, as is the established practice for other terrorism offences, Bill would provide the Attorney General of Canada with concurrent prosecutorial authority along with the provinces and territories over these new nuclear terrorism offences.
In addition, as called for in the treaties and consistent with Canadian law in this area, Bill contains a military exclusion clause. These amendments do not apply to the activities of the Canadian Forces and to persons acting in support of the Canadian Forces who are under the formal command and control of the Canadian Forces while in the performance of their official duties.
The military exclusion language used in both the CPPNM and ICSANT is similar to that used in the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, which is presently in Canadian law at section 431.2 of the Criminal Code.
Moreover, it is significant to note that Bill would add both the CPPNM amendment and the ICSANT to the list of existing terrorism treaties making up the first part of the definition of terrorist activity at section 83.01(1)(a) of the Criminal Code.
The significance of this addition is that by virtue of the operation of the definition of terrorist activity, a number of other provisions would apply to those charged with the nuclear terrorism offences. These provisions include a reverse onus at bail hearings, the availability of one-year wiretap authorizations as well as the dispensation of the requirement to demonstrate investigative necessity.
In addition, for this terrorism offence, the law would provide for the application of the consecutive sentencing regime for multiple terrorism offence convictions and an increased period for parole ineligibility.
All of these powers currently exist in Canadian criminal law and so the only change brought about by Bill is the addition of the nuclear terrorism offences to the pool of offences to which these tools apply.
Outside of the criminal law, the physical protection measures contemplated in the CPPNM amendment are already in place in Canada.
Under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is responsible for setting physical protection standards in Canada and ensuring that those standards are met. The nuclear security regulations set out the physical protection measures that licensees must implement to meet minimum security standards. However, due to the pressing threat posed by the possibility of terrorists acquiring dangerous nuclear or radioactive materials or devices, the securing and disposing of these materials remains a high priority for Canada and its international partners.
In this regard, at the invitation of United States President Obama, 47 world leaders, including the , participated in the inaugural April 2010 Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington. At this summit the leaders agreed that strong nuclear security measures were the most effective means to prevent terrorists, criminals or other unauthorized actors from acquiring nuclear materials, and in this regard the summit work plan called upon participating states to ratify and work toward achieving the universal implementation of the CPPNM amendment and the ICSANT.
The second Nuclear Security Summit was held in March of this year in South Korea. The summit again brought together world leaders to exchange views on the threat of nuclear terrorism and the pressing need to further develop and implement internationally coordinated efforts to enhance nuclear security worldwide. World leaders, including our , joined together to state:
|| Nuclear terrorism continues to be one of the most challenging threats to international security. Defeating this threat requires strong national measures and international cooperation given its potential global political, economic, social, and psychological consequences.
The summit produced a comprehensive action plan aimed at preventing nuclear terrorism, with emphasis on the management of nuclear materials, protection of nuclear facilities, prevention of trafficking of illegal nuclear materials and the promotion of the universality of key nuclear security instruments.
Therefore, it will come as no surprise that Canada is not alone in pursuing domestic legislation on this front. The United Kingdom became a state party to the CPPNM amendment through amendments made by its Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, 2008, and the ICSANT through the Terrorism Act, 2006. In addition, Australia modified its laws to achieve ratification through the Non-proliferation Legislation Amendment Act, 2007, and more recently, the Nuclear Terrorism Legislation Amendment Act, 2012. I would also note that the United States has a bill before the United States Congress aimed at domestic ratification.
Upon review of these foreign precedents, members will note many similarities in how countries, including Canada, through Bill , have adopted or proposed laws to implement the criminal law requirements of the CPPNM amendment and the ICSANT. These specific efforts are only part of the international community's efforts at universal ratification. Indeed, there are currently 55 states parties to the CPPNM amendment and 79 states parties to the ICSANT.
Without a doubt, Canada strongly supports the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Canada was in fact one of the architects of the CPPNM amendment and the ICSANT, and we are encouraged by the adoption of these two conventions by a significant number of countries and we actively encourage others to follow through on their commitment to become parties as Canada is doing.
Bill , once passed and followed by the ratification of the CPPNM amendment, as well as the ICSANT, would give credence to Canada's commitment to the strengthening of the global national security architecture. It would provide Canada with additional tools to counter this threat as well as enhance our ability to work with partners to mitigate the consequences should this threat ever materialize.
On this last point, it is important to note that both international instruments have specific obligations relating to extradition and mutual legal assistance that would be triggered in the event of a nuclear terrorism investigation or offence. While the global spread of the use of nuclear technology and nuclear materials brings great benefits, the increasing number of users also creates vulnerabilities. Terrorists will seek to exploit any gap in security anywhere in the world and it is our duty to ensure that Canada has the laws in place to ensure that we will not present any such opportunities.
Bill is both targeted and timely. With the adoption of specific nuclear terrorism laws and the eventual ratification of these two important counterterrorism treaties, Canada can build on and demonstrate its continued commitment to secure nuclear materials as well as to punish those who would inflict unimaginable harm.
Bill S-9 sends a strong message to the global community that Canada is a willing partner in the fight against terrorism and is committed to measures that contribute to global security.
Mr. Speaker, the nuclear terrorism act, currently in the form of Bill , would amend the Criminal Code to align our law with obligations under two international agreements, as the parliamentary secretary has so ably outlined. One is ICSANT, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism of 2005, and an amendment to another treaty in 2005, the Convention for the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials.
In broad terms, those two instruments, along with the underlying Convention for the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials, deal with the protection of radioactive material, nuclear material and nuclear facilities, and the protection from nuclear or radioactive devices.
The creation of criminal law offences is one aspect of the protection scheme, alongside ensuring there is a broad, in essence, kind of universal jurisdiction to prosecute for most aspects of these offences.
The present bill, Bill , is overdue if one looks at the dates of the two instruments, both 2005, although this delay is mitigated by the fact that Canada is not yet bound to either instrument because it has not yet ratified. We have signed but that is not the same thing as ratification. The passage of Bill will put us in a position to be in compliance and, thus, to ratify.
However, why we have left this combined ratification and implementation for so long does remain a mystery to me, despite the answer just given by the parliamentary secretary. This is not a controversial bill from any side of the House and I cannot imagine a minority Parliament would have held it up.
As I have already indicated, the NDP very much supports the bill going to committee. We will vote for it at second reading and we expect to do so at third reading. Overall, we are completely behind the bill as a necessary measure as part of Canada's international co-operation against threats related to nuclear terrorism of various forms.
In a world of heightened technological sophistication that increases the ability to steal material, attack installations, make radioactive devices and so on, it is impossible to overstate the importance of such co-operation and, indeed, Canada's role in that co-operation.
We wish to see this bill become law as rapidly as possible. At the same time, we also emphasize that some close technical scrutiny of the bill in committee is still called for to ensure that it has been drafted in the best way to fulfill our obligations under these two treaties so that we can then go on and not be in non-compliance once we ratify.
It may be that some slight amendments will be needed in committee. I say this for three reasons.
The first reason is that there was what seems to have been a major omission in the government's bill that went to the Senate before coming to us. What was that omission? I referred to it in my question just now to the parliamentary secretary. Whereas ICSANT's article 2(1)(a) includes the offence of making a radioactive device, Bill , in its original form before the Senate, did not include this activity despite mentioning every other conceivable form of activity that also was in the two treaties: possession, use, transport, export, import, alteration and disposal.
The Senate caught this omission, assisted, no doubt, by an alert Library of Parliament preliminary summary of the bill, and the mistake has been rectified in what we now have coming from the Senate.
However, and this is my main point, the situation does give one reason to pause and ask a question. If something as significant as making a radioactive device, which appears clearly in the text of the relevant treaty, was missed, has anything else been overlooked, or has there been some other slippage in the tightness or the accuracy of the drafting of this bill? The committee needs to ensure this is not the case.
The second reason there may be a need for amendments following directly on from the just asked question is that the committee may need to consider amendments in that there is some reason to believe that parts of Bill have been drafted in terms that are not just more general in their phraseology than the specific treaty articles they are meant to implement but are broader in the sense of criminalization of more than is required by the treaties.
I will, in a moment, outline where this may be a problem in Bill , but a prior problem may be that the and officials before the Senate committee do not appear to agree that there are any such aspects of over-breadth. The reason this is a problem is that such denial makes it impossible to go to the next stage of analysis, which is to ask whether over-breadth in relation to what is strictly required by the treaties is actually of any real concern.
If the treaties permit state parties to go further in what they criminalize, and the treaties probably do permit this, then it becomes a matter of sound public policy discussion as to whether we do wish to go further. However, if the government denies that Bill does go further, we cannot even have that discussion.
The third reason we may need to entertain a small amendment or two in committee is that there may, and I emphasize the word “may”, be under-breadth in terms of the coverage of one aspect of Bill offences. Now I may have misread the corresponding treaty provisions in relation to the sections of Bill in question, but one reading of them is that Bill may not go as far as required in one respect. If this is the case, then our legislation would put us in non-compliance after ratification. I will identify this possible glitch in a moment.
I will now proceed with a bit more detail on these points to illustrate why it is that we may have to pay some close attention in committee.
First, on the issue of potential over-breadth, and I do apologize to everyone listening that this will be as technical as it is starting to sound. In particular, with respect to proposed sections 82.3 and 82.4, article 2 of ICSANT is rather inelegant in expressing the need for specific intent on top of general intent for some of the offences mentioned. It talks about any person intentionally possessing, using, making a device and so on with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury or with the intent to cause substantial property damage or harm to the environment.
The first point to note is that this double use of intentionality does cause a certain degree of inelegance. Bill does not repeat that. It uses simpler language, for the most part going straight to the specific intent formulations. This seems wise.
However, the problem that then appears on one reading of proposed sections 82.3 and 82.4 is that the specific intent formulations of the ICSANT treaty regarding use or damage to a nuclear facility are not reproduced in Bill . Instead, proposed sections 82.3 and 82.4 of the bill merely assume a general intent standard. This is because, and again this is a very technical point, in proposed sections 82.3 and 82.4 the acts listed after the words “or who commits” are cut off from the specific intent references earlier in the provision.
In a similar vein, the amendment to the CPPNM treaty on acts directed against nuclear facilities also has a specific intent requirement that Bill does appear to omit.
Here is another point about over-breadth that I will simply state as a very clear problem, as there is no doubt or debate about this one. The references to crimes of threat in Bill go further than necessary under the treaties. This is very helpfully laid out in the very well put together legislative summary provided by the Library of Parliament.
Finally, there is a provision in Bill that talks about committing an indictable offence with intent to obtain material or a device versus the treaty provisions, which actually list the specific other forms of offence that are attached to this search for intent to obtain material or a radioactive device.
We have created a much broader tacking-on of this notion of committing any indictable offence as opposed to the offences specifically listed in the treaties: theft, robbery, embezzlement, fraudulent obtaining and so on.
All of this is as dry as the hon. member for promised it would be. However, I did want to get this on the record so that it helps us at the committee stage to ask whether this is a correct reading, and if so, what needs to be done about it.
There is something quite significant however about the fact that if there is over-breadth in any respect, there is a multiplier effect that occurs throughout Bill . That is because a number of other provisions tack themselves onto the offences. Four of them in particular are worth mentioning. One is the extraterritorial scope of the offences. The second is that they enter into the definition of terrorist activity, which is thereby broadened. The third is that the electronic surveillance provisions of the Criminal Code would be kicked in by the offence definitions, as are fourthly, the DNA sample provision of the Criminal Code.
The issue is not that these offences are simply more broadly worded in and of themselves, which may strike people as a slightly semantic issue. It is how one multiplies the potential significance of that across all of the other provisions I have just listed. It is what I call an amplification effect.
I mentioned that there is possibly an odd twist here. There may be one instance of narrowing our treaty obligations in Bill in such a way that might mean that Bill S-9 does not go far enough and, thus, may put us in breach of the treaty.
The new CPPNM amendment in article 7(1)(d) criminalizes “the intentional commission of...an act which constitutes the carrying, sending, or moving of nuclear material into or out of a State without lawful authority”. Yet proposed section 82.3 of Bill would make the import and export offence subject to the specific intent portions of that section, which are not in Article 7(1)(d) of the treaty amendment. This could possibly be a misreading of the treaty amendment on my part or of what is intended by Bill S-9, but there does appear to be the possibility that we have under-inclusion in that respect.
All of this adds up to the fact that the committee will need to pay some attention to whether or not this legislation has been drafted as well and as tightly as needed, particularly in light of the fact that in asking questions of the parliamentary secretary just now, the responses that came back were fairly general. It is not at all clear that the government has its head around these problems, despite the warning of some of these questions being asked in the Senate.
I would like to say a few words about parliamentary democracy as it relates to this legislation. One might assume that I am referring to the fact that the bill started in the Senate, the unelected, second chamber of our Parliament. In fact, that is not my immediate concern. A much more real concern and affront to this chamber is that Bill , on which debate started earlier today, first went to the Senate.
Having listened to myself for the last 10 minutes, Bill is very technical in nature. It may well be the kind of bill that can fruitfully be started in the Senate so that the House benefits from some preliminary cleaning up and does not have to allocate undue time to studying the bill. The fact that the Senate caught the omission of the making a device offence may actually prove my point, in part.
My immediate democracy concern does not relate to the Senate. Rather, it relates to the methods we use in Parliament to implement treaties and statutes. Again, I am not referring here to the mess that many in this room know exists with respect to the lack of consistency in the way that statutes are drafted to accomplish implementation of a treaty.
By one count in a law journal article I read some time ago, there are well over a dozen methods employed, ranging from verbatim reproduction of treaty text to very general language that does not even hint at there being an underlying treaty motivating the legislative change. While this is an important issue and while it does bear directly on how Bill may be over-broad in parts, I will leave that for another day.
Therefore, I turn to what my concern actually is.
What I want to discuss is much more procedural in nature. The way in which bills are introduced, presented and reported from stage to stage is close to a travesty when it comes to the twin goals of transparency and accountability. Parliament, and thereby the Canadian public, must be given every opportunity and tool to be able to understand precisely what is in a bill and how that content relates, in this context, to an underlying treaty or another international instrument such as a Security Council resolution.
However, that is not what happens here in Canada. Treaty-implementing bills almost always get plunked onto Parliament's desk with nothing resembling an overview, let alone a road map, from the government of how a statute's provisions line up with related treaty provisions. Parliamentarians end up reading a bill as if they have a jigsaw puzzle to solve. They track down the related treaty and then try to connect the dots between the treaty and the statute with absolutely no help from the government by way of a commentary that could easily provide explanatory charts showing side-by-side text so that Parliament's role of scrutinizing critically and effectively can be facilitated.
Instead, valuable energy is wasted at the preliminary stage of understanding what is going on in the relationship between the statute and the treaty text. As some members will be aware, I am speaking as someone who was not only a law professor in a previous life but has been an international law scholar for over 20 years. Therefore, if there is anyone in a position to put the jigsaw puzzle together it would be someone with my background. However, even I find it very frustrating.
More importantly, I find it undemocratic. Why? Anything that makes legislative details needlessly inaccessible gets in the way of clear and focused analysis and debate, both by and among parliamentarians, and in terms of how journalists and the public in general will have difficulty grasping analysis and debate if there are no well-presented documents that make the subject of analysis and debate reasonably easy to follow. At multiple levels, democratic scrutiny is undermined and the distance between Parliament and society is exacerbated.
Without dwelling further on the details of an ideal system of clear and transparent presentation of treaty-implementing bills, which this bill lacks, at minimum the government must be required to include alongside a bill a document that does at least the following three things.
First, the document should show the text of the treaty and statute in a side-by-side comparison that makes clear what the statute is intended to implement.
Second, the document should explain and justify the method of implementation that has been chosen. For example, if general language is used or if a treaty text is reproduced nearly but not entirely in verbatim form from the treaty, we need to know why that decision was made.
Finally, the document should provide a clear account of what is not in the implementing bill by reason of the fact that either Canadian law may already cover off the area, the treaty provisions in question may only operate on the international plain or the matter must be dealt with by a provincial legislature.
In order to appreciate that this is not simply a cranky protest, all we have to do is to consider what everyone knows about how inaccessible even basic bills are when presented to Parliament in terms of how well we can understand the underlying statute that is being amended. We also can refer to budget bills that do not come anywhere close to meeting OECD transparency guidelines.
In this immediate context, my main point is to draw attention to one problem we have with a very procedural dimension of accountability in this Parliament, which is not alone in the way we deal with legislation.
Mr. Speaker, the previous member seemed to imply that he might have been delivering a cranky protest, However, if that is the case, I would urge him to protest crankily more often because it was a very erudite speech. It informed the House on so many aspects of what is an important bill, despite its dry nature.
I knew this, but I was quite interested to hear it repeated in the House by the hon. member who spoke before me, that something so fundamental as an offence against making a nuclear device was left out of the bill. It really shakes our confidence when something so fundamental that should almost be central to a piece of legislation like this is actually left out of the bill. I commend the Senate on catching that omission. I assume that if the bill had been brought to the House before the Senate, we would have caught it as well and if we had not, that the Senate would have been as good at catching it later on instead of at the very start.
I also take the point of my hon. colleague that it would help if legislation as complex and technical as this were accompanied by some notes that would allow us to clearly link its provisions to important international treaties that attempted to bring the world together in common action on such an important issue as nuclear terrorism.
In regard to that point, this is a general problem that we have in the House. We have heard how it is very hard for parliamentarians to truly understand the spending plans of the government because the documentation is not available. In fact when the Parliamentary Budget Officer attempts to add clarity to the government's spending plans, he meets a brick wall that is put up by the government. I do not think in this case the intent was to somehow make the issue opaque, it just was not something the people preparing the communications materials or the bill itself thought of doing. This is something we have to do in the future.
The reason it is important to link the bill clearly with our international instruments designed to prevent the threat of nuclear terrorism is that it is very important for Canadians to understand there are legal solutions to some of these fierce international problems that face the world and that we hear discussed on the news every night. For example, many Canadians are probably not aware that the United Nations is active on these kinds of issues, creating a legal framework for co-operation within which international legal action can be taken to dissuade, say, rogue states from pursuing very threatening and destructive agendas.
As an aside, I would like to draw attention to an article that my colleague, the member for , published in the Montreal Gazette not long ago on the subject of Iran's behaviour on the international stage. The headline was, “We have juridical remedies to halt Iran's genocidal threat”. He talks about Iran's nuclear program. What he is saying is that certain actions like recalling our diplomats are important symbolic actions, but at the end of the day all we have to hang our hat on really is law, not only domestic law but international law. He suggests a number of ways whereby Iran could be coaxed into better behaviour. These ways involve going to the Security Council and asking it to make complaints to the International Criminal Court and so on.
I would draw attention to the point raised by the previous speaker, which is that we have had seven years, to ratify the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and the amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. However, the law and order government is a government that acts tough on the international stage and takes all kinds of symbolic actions but seems to be leaving behind the maybe less interesting, less headline making actions that need to be undertaken by any country that really wants to call itself a citizen of the world and call itself an important player at the United Nations.
Maybe the government does not really want to be as active at the United Nations as it could be. Maybe it does not necessarily want Canada to take the multilateral route as often we used to. Nevertheless, it is an important route to take.
As I say, Canadians are sitting at home, we are sitting here in this Parliament and we are not aware of the options that are available to combat nuclear terrorism because we are unaware of the fact that these treaties exist. In fact, there are four UN resolutions and international treaties relating to nuclear terrorism that I believe deserve some mentioning here.
First, we have the United Nations Security Council resolution 1373, which, I believe, was adopted in 2001. That requires member states to adopt certain anti-terrorism legislation and policies, including those to prevent and repress the financing of terrorist acts; freeze the financial resources available to terrorist organizations; suppress the supply of weapons to terrorist organizations; as well as deny safe haven to the those who finance, plan, support or commit terrorist acts. It also calls on member states to become party to and fully implement the relevant international conventions and protocols related to terrorism as soon as possible.
That resolution was passed in 2001. I am pleased to say that the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001 was essentially a response to that United Nations Security Council resolution. The government of the day did take that resolution seriously and started to move in the direction of what that resolution called upon national governments to do.
A second resolution adopted in 2004 is another one worth mentioning. It is the United Nations Security Council resolution 1540, which focused specifically on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It asked member states to take steps to prohibit non-state actors from acquiring nuclear weapons and to put in place additional controls on nuclear materials.
Resolution 1540 also asked member states to: (a) adopt and enforce effective domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of nuclear chemical and biological weapons; (b) adopt legislation to prevent the acquisition, use, or threat of use of nuclear weapons by state or non-state actors; (c) to extend such criminal legislation to apply to citizens extraterritorially, which is one of the features of Bill ; and (d) include internal waters, territorial waters and airspace in the territory from which nuclear weapons are prohibited.
This is very important because we know that we are vulnerable. Our ports are vulnerable to the threat of nuclear terrorism. I know that since 9/11 the government has worked with port authorities, local police forces and other authorities to make it, hopefully, impossible for a nuclear terrorist attack to occur in a port, and Canadians should feel somewhat reassured by that.
That is another important issue that we obviously need to be vigilant about.
A third instrument and one that was mentioned before is the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, ICSANT, adopted in 2005. This was the first international convention related to terrorism open for signature after 9/11. It builds on both the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombing.
ICSANT is comprehensive and contains detailed language on what particular aspects of nuclear terrorism should be criminalized. ICSANT is the inspiration for the bulk of this bill, Bill . Several ICSANT articles are codified in Bill , such as article 2 which outlines new offences created in section 82 of the bill, article 4 which exempts the acts of armed forces during conflicts, article 5 which provides that the offences in the treaty be appropriately punished given the grave nature of these offences, and article 9 which allows states to establish extraterritorial jurisdiction in order to prosecute nuclear terrorism.
Finally, we have the amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material which was also adopted in 2005 and came out of a diplomatic conference convened in July 2005, three months after ICSANT opened for signature. The convention was signed in Vienna, Austria in March 1980. It is the only legally binding undertaking in the area of the physical protection of nuclear material and establishes measures related to the prevention, detection and punishment of offences relating to nuclear material.
The meeting in 2005 was meant to update and strengthen the convention's provisions. Obviously Bill is helping to bring Canada into line with the convention so that we can ratify it.
It is a very technical bill and I know there will be many important technical points raised at committee. We hope that the government understands that it is complicated and that parliamentarians are grappling with it, including Senator Dallaire, an eminent Canadian who has written many books, who knows a few things about international law and who has trouble in many ways wrapping his great mind around this bill.
We hope that the officials in the department who drafted the bill will see to it that committee members are well briefed and that officials appear for a lengthy period of time to explain the bill and answer questions that we might have.
Mr. Speaker, I feel fortunate because it is now my turn. I am tempted to pick up where the previous speakers left, namely the members for and for . The latter told the former that he should resort to political rants. I almost feel like doing just that because I see a problem. It is not the first time, because several justice bills are brought forward. You are aware of that because at one point you were our justice critic. Now, we are faced with the same scenario. A parliamentary secretary introduces a bill and then we hear nothing more from the government side.
We lack information regarding bills. Indeed, the bill is all we have. Again, all hon. members should read it, because it is fascinating. For some, this may be a relaxing exercise that will help them get to sleep, given how dry the document is. This legislation is not easy reading stuff. It is not what the member for called a bill that is introduced following a big news story. It is not always easy to understand.
If these stages are followed in the House—and you know that Mr. Speaker, because you have been here a long time, probably longer than many of us—it is because they are all important. There is the first reading stage, when the minister introduces his bill. That is usually done quickly. This is followed by the second reading, which begins with a speech in which the government must explain its intentions. We ask some questions, but we do not always get answers. Then it is over, because there is nothing but silence from the other side, when we could already have an idea of where the government is headed with its legislation, what it is contemplating and whether it has considered all the issues. As the member for pointed out, when listening to the parliamentary secretary, we got the impression that, maybe, something had been omitted. I am not imputing motives to her, but it is as though the government does not realize that it has been amended in the Senate. A rather important substantive amendment was made, but the government has not said much about it.
When we asked why it took the Conservative government so long to introduce Bill , which does not present any problem—and we asked that question a number of times—we were told that it was part of our international commitments. And to quote the member for , it may not even go far enough. We will see at committee stage. I am not sure I share this opinion. In any case we will see in committee, “but why five years”? Is it because, as the member for suggested, the government thinks this legislation is not sexy enough—if I may use that expression—because it does not make headlines, because it will not be mentioned on the 11 p.m. news bulletin? I agree, but these are extremely important measures which seriously affect people's safety, and that is again the case here.
What is Bill ? This legislation was introduced in the Senate on March 27, 2012. If hon. members listened to my speech this morning on Bill —at the beginning of the debate at second reading—they know that I am absolutely, and always will be, opposed to the introduction of a bill in the Senate first. In this House, we have elected members who represent the population. If a government wants to propose measures, it should introduce them in the House first. I realize that, sometimes, it may be practical because it seems that the other place has time to conduct studies. However, since we will have to do those studies in any case, I have a serious problem with that. Is that problem serious enough to prevent me from supporting the bill? It has to do more with the form. I am making a substantive criticism of the form, but Bill must fundamentally be approved by this House so that it can at least be referred to a committee.
We have various concerns regarding Bill . The member for presented a number of those concerns but I want to go back to some of them.
Bill amends the Criminal Code to implement the criminal law requirements contained in two international treaties to combat terrorism, namely the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the CPPNM, which was amended in 2005, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the ICSANT, signed in 2005.
As one can see, that is not necessarily an easy process. That is basically what the bill does. It simply allows us to join these treaties.
The bill on nuclear terrorism includes 10 clauses that create four new offences under part II of the Criminal Code.
It will make it illegal to: possess, use or dispose of nuclear or radioactive material or a nuclear or radioactive device, or commit an act against a nuclear facility or its operations, with the intent to cause death, serious bodily harm or substantial damage to property or the environment; use or alter nuclear or radioactive material or a nuclear or radioactive device, or commit an act against a nuclear facility or its operation, with the intent to compel a person, government or international organization to do or refrain from doing anything; commit an indictable offence under federal law for the purpose of obtaining nuclear or radioactive material, a nuclear or radioactive device, or access or control of a nuclear facility; and threaten to commit any of the other three offences.
The bill seeks to introduce into the Criminal Code other amendments that are incidental to these four offences, but are nonetheless significant.
The bill also introduces definitions of certain terms used in the description of the new offences including, as the parliamentary secretary indicated, a definition of “environment,” “nuclear facility,” “nuclear material,” “radioactive material and device,” and the amendment to the definition of “terrorist activity.”
It will not be easy. The committee that will examine this bill will have to carry out several studies in order for everybody to properly understand the scope of the amendments being introduced.
The bill would also introduce a new section in the Criminal Code in order to ensure that individuals who commit or attempt to commit one of these offences while abroad can be prosecuted in Canada.
I am sure that members of the House have already heard about the concept of double jeopardy, which means being accused a second time for a crime for which the individual has already been found guilty or innocent.
A clause has been added under which it would be impossible to prevent the Canadian government from filing an indictment against a person found guilty abroad when that person is on Canadian soil.
The bill has a number of implications that will certainly need to be reviewed in committee.
The bill also amends the provisions in the Criminal Code—and this too is extremely important—concerning wiretapping so that it applies to the new offences. The bill will also amend the Criminal Code in order that the four new offences be considered primary designated offences for the purposes of DNA warrants and collection orders. It would also modify the Canadian rule concerning double jeopardy, as I stated earlier.
I should add, as background, so that people understand—because it is not always clear—that the bill meets Canada's international obligations under the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. In my opinion, this is the cornerstone of the bill.
Concerns have been raised, but before speaking about this, it is important to remind members that Canada has not ratified either the CPPNM or the amended version of the ICSANT. This is explained by the fact that no legislation is in place criminalizing the offences contained in the CPPNM or those presented in the amended version of the ICSANT.
Canada will not be a party to the international treaties until Bill has been adopted. I think that this is extremely important. This is probably why all the parties in the House will support Bill S-9 so that it can be sent to committee as quickly as possible.
Here are some concerns raised during the review of the bill by the Senate committee. First, there was the issue of excessive scope. The intention of the Department of Justice was to adhere as closely as possible to the convention's provisions. The member for made the point very well. Some of the new Criminal Code offences are even broader in scope than the offences included in the international agreements. Therefore, we will have to ensure that the excessive scope of these new clauses is not going to trigger undue criminalization and does not violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
There is also the issue of sentences. I was very pleased to see, at last, the Conservatives introduce a bill that does not include minimum sentences. This means we can take a serious look at their legislation without having a problem from the outset, even when we agree with all the rest. However, the maximum sentences that may be imposed for one of the four new offences are heavy. Three of the four offences may result in a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. This meets the requirements of the ICSANT and of the CPPNM, which provide that member countries must impose sentences in line with the serious nature of these offences.
The Senate brought an amendment regarding the development of a nuclear or radioactive device, which is prohibited by the ICSANT, but which was not in the original proposed amendments to the Criminal Code. I am very pleased that the Senate amended this part of the bill and that the amendment was unanimously adopted. It was an oversight. However, because of this kind of oversight, when I see that a bill—which has gone through so many stages at the justice department, through so many supposedly experts and which was approved by the minister before being introduced—contains such a glaring error, I worry about other oversights in this legislation. It is the lawyer in me that always makes me worry about that.
It goes without saying that we will take a close look at this bill in committee. We are not going to give the Conservatives a blank cheque because if they made such a serious mistake, they may have made other ones. We will see about that during the committee stage of Bill .
It is important to understand some facts and numbers. The term “nuclear” usually sounds scary to people. Between 1993 and 2011, the International Atomic Energy Agency identified close to 2,000 incidents related to the use, transportation and unauthorized possession of nuclear and radioactive material. That information was provided by the director general, Non-Proliferation and Security Threat Reduction, at Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
Canada ratified the CPPNM in 1980. That convention promotes the development of measures related to prevention, detection and the imposition of penalties for crimes related to nuclear material. The CPPNM was adopted under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA. There are many acronyms here.
The message I want to share with the House is this: we believe that we need to take a serious look at nuclear safety and that we need to meet our international obligations in order to co-operate better with other countries as regards strategies used to fight nuclear terrorism. There is no question about that.
I used to ask, again and again, why we were talking about five years. But I get the impression the really felt some pressure during his recent trips abroad: action was needed because relatively few countries have ratified the treaties.
In that context, since Canada usually enjoys a rather enviable reputation worldwide, if we can finally meet our international treaty obligations and pass a bill that makes sense, it may encourage other countries to do the same. At least, I hope it will.
Finally, we fully intend to foster multilateral diplomacy and international co-operation, obviously, especially in areas where we share common concerns, including nuclear terrorism. We must work with the leading countries that are in the process of ratifying these treaties. Since we have agreed to be legally bound by the treaties, it is important that we fulfill our international obligations. We cannot officially ratify the treaties until we have implemented national legislation. As we believe in co-operation and in the importance of this bill, we will support it at second reading so the committee can review it more thoroughly.
When it comes to nuclear issues, we have to be careful. Using less uranium would probably reduce risks. At committee, we will have a chance to bring forward some points about new technologies used to create isotopes. Members of the House will remember the isotope crisis. We have to be careful when we talk about burying nuclear waste. Will transporting nuclear waste be considered an act of terrorism? We also need to be careful when it comes to the methods used to bury nuclear waste.
As I said, we still have a good reputation. When we speak to people, when we travel, we find that people from other countries still hold Canadians in high regard. Is the same true of governments? That is something else entirely. I was speaking more about how the citizens, not the governments, of the countries in question see Canada. I am sure foreign governments must be somewhat surprised to see how Canada has changed its style.
Allow me to make an aside. On the weekend, people in my region were asking questions. It seems that the government is getting ready to change the name of a museum in Canada. They want to change the name of the Canadian Museum of Civilization and call it the Canadian History Museum.
Mr. Royal Galipeau: That is rubbish.
Ms. Françoise Boivin: I hope that it is rubbish, Mr. Speaker. However, it was a respected journalist who wrote an article on this, which caused a lot of concern among people.
I would like to comment on something, if I may. It is easy to see how panic can quickly set in. Why does this happen? I am not panicking, because I am waiting to see the facts. Panic sets in quickly because this government has set the tone through its previous actions.
At home, when we were young, my mother always said that she knew her daughter might have done such and such, because she knew us very well. For example, if a glass was broken, it might have been me because I was clumsy, but if it was something else, it was more likely someone else. We see the same thing happening with this government. In other words, we often wonder what there is underneath it all. The same is true on the international scene. When I was a child, before coming to the House, we talked about the blue berets and the great tradition of protecting people, of peacekeeping. Now, more often than not, the talk is about terrorism and they say we have to get tough on crime and change this or change that, and I could go on.
When we look at it all, we get the impression that things are changing at the government level. At least it has not yet reached the level of the public, but it will perhaps not take long for that to happen.
We must wonder, however, why it took so long to introduce this bill when we are being told how fundamental and necessary it is, and the reason why it was not introduced for so long while they had a minority government is not related in any way, shape or form to that fact.
That is hogwash, and those answers do not stand up. It always disturbs me, and that is why we are always suspicious when we consider bills like this. The government is never transparent with us and never gives us the straight goods. We have to keep scratching away until we uncover the facts.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be able to speak about Bill , the Nuclear Terrorism Act, which amends the Criminal Code. I would like to point out that this bill comes from the Senate.
The bill was introduced with a view to implementing the requirements of two international treaties signed by Canada, but not yet ratified. For a treaty to be ratified, the laws that apply to it must have come into force.
The purpose of these two international treaties is to combat nuclear terrorism. They are the amended 2005 version of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, or the CPPNM, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, or ICSANT. Canada signed both of these treaties in 2005.
In Canada, there are several steps involved in signing an international treaty. To begin with, there are negotiations and the signing. Then comes ratification, which is the implementation stage, after which the treaty comes into force. For both treaties, we are still only at the signing stage.
Signing an international treaty is only the first step in the process. Signing means that a country is in principle in agreement with the terms of the treaty and that it intends to comply with them. After signing the treaty, Canada must avoid actions that are contrary to the purpose and intent of the treaty, but it is not officially bound by the treaty until it has been ratified. There is still a long way to go before these treaties come into force in Canada.
To be able to ratify these two treaties, Canada needs to amend some of its statutes. In practice, this means that we need to introduce legislation to criminalize the offences described in both treaties. That, moreover, is the purpose of this bill: to make the required amendments to the Criminal Code in order to be able to ratify the two treaties and move one step closer to having them come into force.
It is therefore important at the outset to ask what these two treaties would like to introduce.
The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, which was ratified by Canada in 1980, was at the time intended to develop measures designed to prevent, detect and punish crimes related to nuclear material. However, the field of application of the CPPNM was limited to “nuclear material used for peaceful purposes while in international nuclear transport”. In 2005, amendments were made to cover nuclear material used for peaceful purposes while in domestic use, storage and transport as well as domestic nuclear facilities. The amendments also introduced changes to foster co-operation between states with respect to the development of measures to recover stolen or smuggled nuclear material, mitigation of the radiological impacts of sabotage and measures to fight crime related to nuclear material.
This amendment clearly affirms that the objective of the convention is to prevent and combat offences involving nuclear material and facilities throughout the world and to facilitate co-operation between states. Canada ratified the 1980 version, but has not yet done so for the 2005 version, which introduced the amendments I have just mentioned.
The purpose of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism was to provide for new criminal offences for acts of nuclear terrorism and to impose the obligation to “extradite or prosecute” in the event of acts of nuclear terrorism.
The bill that was introduced creates various clauses to implement the provisions contained in these two conventions. It is important to take a few moments to understand why I support this bill as a member of the NDP and why the NDP in general has chosen to support it.
We all agree that nuclear terrorism is a major threat to international security. It is one of the most significant threats in the world because the consequences—as we have already seen, unfortunately—can be devastating. Currently, we know that it does not take much to cause significant damage. People here in Canada and around the world are quite concerned about nuclear terrorism and are very concerned when they hear there is a possibility that some countries have nuclear programs. This is something that is very important to people not only on a national level—to Canadians—but also on an international level.
I also want to note that we are committed to diplomacy and international co-operation. Ratifying treaties to ensure the co-operation of countries when it comes to terrorism and nuclear terrorism seems like common sense to me. When it comes to such worrisome situations as this for security, we cannot bury our heads in the sand. We have no choice but to co-operate with every democratic body in order to obtain results and ensure the security of every citizen not only of our country, but of all countries.
There is one reason, among others, that I want to support this bill. In the NDP, we are proud of our international reputation, even though it has been tarnished a bit by the Conservative government many times over the past few years. Taking one step closer to ratifying these treaties shows that we have not forgotten our international commitments and would allow us to get back on the right track with regard to the image Canada wants to project on the world stage.
As several witnesses testified during consideration of the bill in the Senate, one of the main ways to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on radioactive material is to beef up nuclear security and, whenever possible, to limit military applications of radioactive materials. It is simple logic. By limiting the use of nuclear materials as much as possible, such materials will become more scarce and terrorists will have a much harder time stealing them and using them to harm our society. It is a first step. The military is increasingly moving away from nuclear weapons. This should spare us quite a few problems in the future.
I would like to highlight something that Matthew Bunn, Associate Professor of Public Policy at Harvard, told the Senate committee:
|| At scores of sites around the world, dramatically improved nuclear security has been put in place, and, at scores of other sites, the weapons-usable nuclear material has been removed entirely, reducing the threat of nuclear theft at those sites to zero. More than 20 countries have eliminated all of the weapons-usable nuclear material on their soil. These successes represent, in a real sense, bombs that will never go off.
The five last words of that quote are worth repeating: “...bombs that will never go off.” This goes to show that if we can limit or eliminate the use of such material, there will be fewer bombs hanging over our heads, and more bombs that will never go off.
To that end, Canada must take concrete steps to support nuclear safety throughout the world, and I think that this bill is a step in the right direction. Although it applies to Canada's laws, it is based on a worldwide effort.
Canada is only one of the countries that signed these treaties, and since this is an international effort to reach a common goal, it is important to ensure that every country does its part to reduce the risk to our fellow Canadians. This bill involves international co-operation among various entities.
In the past, Canada was known on the world stage as a country that values co-operation. We must continue to do our fair share and follow through on our international commitments. If Canada wants to once again play a leading role in diplomacy and international co-operation and if it wants to convince other countries to adopt a responsible approach to reducing the risk of terrorism and the theft of nuclear material and weapons, then we have to set an example and take responsible measures immediately.
Canada's ratification of these treaties will also encourage other countries to take measures to ratify the treaties and thereby help us to take one more step in improving global security.
I would like to digress for a moment. Although I am emphasizing the importance of adopting these measures, the fact remains that nuclear safety is a fairly complex issue. Everyone agrees on that. However, the desire to ratify and implement measures fairly quickly does not mean that we should avoid doing the work in committee. What is important here is taking the time to carefully examine the issues so that we only have to do the work once and so that we do not have to make changes later. Although there is a somewhat urgent need to act, we must take the time to do things right because the safety of our fellow Canadians is at stake. I would like to point out that the Conservatives have been in power for a long time and that they could have introduced this type of bill a long time ago.
As soon as it is ratified by Canada, the treaty will become the legal basis for Canada's collaboration with the other parties to the treaty in areas such as criminal investigations, mutual legal assistance and extradition. This will quite clearly strengthen international co-operation and contribute to the fight against the nuclear threat.
The bill must be seen as a way to give effect to the treaty provisions on an international scale. To that end, however, the committee will have to undertake an in-depth study of the bill and review its technical aspects.
The bill seeks to enact provisions related to those found in the two international treaties. The committee will have the opportunity to go through every clause to make sure the bill achieves its goal, which is to ratify these two treaties signed in 2005.
As I mentioned earlier, we have to understand that several aspects of the issue of nuclear security are highly technical. The committee will need to take the time to study the issue in depth to make sure the bill includes all the necessary provisions and that it goes far enough without going too far. We have to act in a non-partisan fashion to protect the security of our fellow Canadians as well as international security.
Considering the number of Canadian travellers who like to gallivant around the world, even if a nuclear bomb were used by terrorists outside of our borders, this could have a serious impact on Canadians abroad. It is therefore important to create a bill that we can be proud of and can serve as an example to other countries that have not yet ratified the two separate conventions, in terms of what they can do to move forward on nuclear safety.
Quite apart from the technical details of the bill that will be thoroughly examined in committee, I would remind the House that it is extremely important to go ahead with the ratification of these treaties in order to support efforts to ensure global nuclear safety.
Between 2010 and 2012, Canada and several other nations taking part in the nuclear summit agreed to ratify these two conventions. Furthermore, at the 2012 summit in Seoul, participating states agreed to enforce the CPPNM amendments made in 2005 in time for the 2014 summit.
However, for that to happen, two-thirds of the 145 participating states must ratify the treaty. So far, only 56 have done so, when at least 97 ratifications are needed. If Canada were to ratify the treaty, this would be another positive step towards international implementation of this amendment to the convention.
This represents another step forward for the entire population towards enhanced nuclear safety in our country, as well as around the globe.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today. We are dealing with a fairly difficult issue that concerns all Canadians and people throughout the entire world. As my colleague mentioned, this issue concerns everyone and is a worry for everyone. The NDP supports this bill. It is important that I start my speech by saying that we will work with the government.
However, I am wondering why it took the government five years to decide to talk about terrorism and nuclear weapons. And, why did this bill originate in the Senate? I do not wish to belittle the work of the senators who worked hard on this bill, but I do not understand why the government did not take the initiative to introduce it. Why, after years of discussion, did the Senate introduce this bill, when the government had numerous opportunities to do so?
Of course, the Conservative members will say that they were a minority government at the time, but that is no excuse since everyone was in favour of drafting and passing a bill to ratify two conventions—the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
I would like to ask the government the following questions. Why did it wait five years before debating this subject in the House? Why did it wait for the Senate to introduce such a bill? Why did the government not take the initiative? The government used nuclear issues and terrorism to its advantage whenever it pleased but, when it came to taking action, we had to wait five years for this topic to be discussed in the House.
To add insult to injury, today while we are examining this bill in the House, the Conservative members are not asking any questions and are not trying to debate this issue. They are letting the Senate do all the work and, when it is time to debate and to ask the government what it wants, the government just lets things happen and lets the opposition debate the issue alone. Who is going to answer my questions? I wonder. The government is once again refusing to debate bills designed to ensure the safety of Canadians.
We have seen this not only with regard to nuclear issues but also with regard to food safety. As we have seen over the past two weeks, food safety is not really a priority for the government.
I would now like to talk about Bill and give a little background information. In order for a convention to be ratified and apply in Canada, an implementation act must be passed. That is what Bill S-9 does. The NDP would never oppose the fact that Canada must respect its international obligations. The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material has already been ratified, but no bill has been passed to implement it. The Conservatives have finally decided to implement the convention. It would great if the government would do the same for all of the conventions it has ratified, particularly the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which, I seem to recall, Canada did sign.
I would like to take this opportunity to reach out to the government and tell it that we in the NDP are determined to use multilateral diplomacy, to promote multilateralism and international co-operation, especially in areas that concern not only Canadians, but everyone on the planet.
Everyone, all nation states, are concerned about terrorism, which affects everyone around the globe. We all know how important this is. The NDP fully supports the criminal offences created by Bill .
We need to work with other major countries that have begun a similar ratification process. For instance, in front of the UN General Assembly, the criticized the very organization that had invited him to speak, one that merely acts on the recommendations of its member states. Criticizing the UN is tantamount to criticizing the 191 member states, and our own allies. Why not use diplomacy and our influence instead?
I have a feeling that this government has forgotten that Canada has a great deal of influence on the international stage. Unfortunately, this influence has diminished considerably since the Conservatives came to power in 2006. As an extra little dig at my colleagues opposite, I would remind the House that Canada lost its seat on the UN Security Council for the first time.
This bill is a good opportunity for this government to realize the influence and the importance of the role it can play in the fight against terrorism and nuclear threats.
It is important to understand what the UN is. The minister does not seem to understand what it is for. The UN is a forum for discussion among states, to ensure that problems are resolved through dialogue whenever possible. The NDP does not think we should wait for a problem to arise before taking action, whether we are talking about terrorism, nuclear threat, criminal justice or food safety. We must prevent a problem, conflict, food safety crisis or crime. We must not take action after the fact.
That is why we have such an important role in diplomacy and at the UN. We must use our influence to ensure all the states ratify these two conventions, apply them and adopt them, as we will do in the coming weeks, when Bill is passed. These conventions must be implemented immediately and not after five years, as the Conservative government is doing. There is a problem now and we are talking about it now.
We can use the UN forum to ensure that all states benefit from Canada's policies. Instead of withdrawing from talks, why not step forward and offer our assistance? Why not use our influence to help other countries adopt the same kind of bill? Why not?
Canada has always supported multilateralism. It should make more of an effort in this regard. Even the United States, which had abandoned multilateralism under George Bush, has understood the mistake it made.
We cannot criticize the UN if member states refuse to take action on a given situation or are divided on how to respond to a crisis. The UN never had a mandate to make decisions on its own. The member states, including Canada, give it the mandate to take action in response to a given situation.
When the Minister of Foreign Affairs decides to criticize the UN and withdraw Canada from work that he called fruitless, he is giving up on improving any situation and preventing conflict, on improving how the UN works. This also jeopardizes the resolution of future conflicts, for example, in Syria.
The government must work together with the opposition today to create multilateral institutions and to create a strong Canada that can use its influence in the interest not only of every Canadian, but of every human being. We have to improve the current situation to resolve problems, to be proactive and not reactive.
To have a foreign policy that is worthy of Canada is to do things that show the entire world the values that we are defending today in the House. Through the policies we adopt and the speeches we make here, like the ones we are making this evening, we can show that Canada is a leader that defends the values of democracy, human rights, peace and justice.
That is why the NDP will vote in favour of this bill. Mostly, the NDP will be voting in favour of multilateral diplomacy and international co-operation, which might benefit everyone. We know that terrorism is of concern to everyone. For example, as my colleague was saying, we all know where we were on September 11. I remember where I was. It was my first week of high school. It was a defining moment for someone entering adolescence. I remember very clearly that all my classes were cancelled because something significant was happening.
Why has it taken so long to talk about this? I was 12 when that happened. Today, I sit in the House of Commons and I am asking the government: why did it take so long? Why did it wait for the Senate to introduce such a bill instead of taking the lead internationally, as it so often forgets to do? The government could have taken concrete action on a problem that all Canadians and all human beings on Earth are dealing with today.
The bill reinforces Canada's obligations under resolution 1540 of the UN Security Council that was adopted in 2004. Today, as far as I know, it is 2012. That is a big time span. The government can blame others; it can point fingers at the other side of the House, but it was the government's responsibility. It had a choice and it chose to wait for the Senate to introduce the bill.
What would have happened if the Senate had decided not to introduce Bill ? Would the government have acted? I would like to know. Would the government have waited another 10 or 20 years, or would it have waited for a major conflict before passing Bill C-9 and not Bill S-9? None of this diminishes the Senators' excellent work on the bill. I know they work very hard.
As I said, what we want is for Canada to abide by its international obligations. That is a principle that Canada has always advocated. However, since the Conservatives have been in power, we have veered more toward unilateralism and bilateralism and away from multilateralism. Why? Here again, the government could clarify the matter for us. But what does it decide to do? It rejects all debate and leaves the opposition to try to improve bills and work with the government to adopt good laws that protect the safety of Canadians.
It has to be said that, try as they might to generate political capital over the safety of Canadians, when the time comes to act, I really wonder where the Conservatives stand.
We have to take a serious look at the issue of nuclear security. We must use not just the UN, but also every other international institution and organization, to dialogue with other governments in order to prevent these kinds of acts from occurring. Terrorism is clearly a terrible thing. I did not mention it at the start of my speech, but our hearts go out to all the victims and families who have suffered the loss of a loved one. It is truly terrible to lose someone.
Every measure taken to protect people's lives is worth debating and presenting before this House. I would like to see some active participation on the government's part. As I said, I was 12 years old when it happened; now I am 23. We have been talking about combating terrorism for 11 years. Why have we waited all this time to implement treaties whose purpose is precisely to criminalize and eradicate terrorist acts?
It would be good for the government to lead the debate and to explain to us what it wants today. Unfortunately, it has not yet managed to pursue that course. We know the government is an ardent advocate of democracy around the world, except in Canada, of course. Everything is done very quickly; bills are passed very quickly. The New Democratic Party is asking that this bill be carefully studied in committee, that we take the necessary time and hear from witnesses so that we can pass a good bill that will criminalize acts of nuclear terrorism and obtain justice for the victims.
The New Democratic Party supports the victims of nuclear terrorism and asks the government to take the necessary time to properly discuss this bill, to study it so that we can say at last that we are taking measures to eradicate nuclear terrorism.