Mr. Speaker, I am happy to stand in support of the bill and to start today's discussion of Bill .
I will be splitting my time with the fantastic member of Parliament from . Notwithstanding the fact that I was instructed to use those precise terms, I happily stand by them.
We are back to amending the Criminal Code but this time for a good cause. Bill , the nuclear terrorism act, would amend the Criminal Code in order to implement the criminal law requirements of two international counterterrorism treaties, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, as amended in 2005, and the 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
The nuclear terrorism act introduces four new indictable offences into part 2 of the Criminal Code, making 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; to 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; to 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 to threaten or commit to do any of the above.
In addition, the bill introduces into the code other amendments that are incidental to these four offences but are nonetheless important. It introduces a new section into the code to ensure individuals who, when outside of Canada, commit or attempt to commit these offences may be prosecuted in Canada. It amends the wiretap provisions found in the code to ensure that they apply to the new offences. It also amends the code to make four new offences primary designated offences for the purposes of DNA warrants and collection orders.
Finally, it amends the double jeopardy rule in Canada such that, notwithstanding the fact that a person may have been previously tried and convicted for these new offences outside Canada, the rule against double jeopardy would not apply when the foreign trial did not meet certain basic Canadian legal standards. In that case, a Canadian court may try the person again for the same offence of which he or she was convicted by a foreign court.
For a long time now, but particularly in the post-cold war era, it has been well understood that with the proliferation of nuclear weaponry and nuclear power generation around the world, a new and heightened regime of nuclear safety and security must be developed. A scenario in which nuclear weapons or materials fall into the hands of terrorists has prompted many to focus on the development of such a regime or framework. It is clearly understood that such a regime must be international in scope and must be grounded in the deep and good faith co-operation of states around the world. That regime needs to be put in place with considerable urgency.
This understanding forms the basis of the two aforementioned conventions that await Canada's ratification. The first of these, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, dates back to 1980. Its importance is signified by the fact that it stands, still, as the only internationally legally binding undertaking in the protection of nuclear material.
In July of 2005, a diplomatic conference was convened to strengthen the provisions of the convention by doing a number of things, including expanding international co-operation between and among states with respect to rapid measures to locate and recover stolen or smuggled nuclear material, mitigate any radiological consequences, such as sabotage, and prevent and combat related offences.
With respect to the other convention, in 1996 an ad hoc committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations was mandated by the General Assembly to develop an international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings, and subsequent to that, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. This later convention was adopted by the General Assembly in April 2005. This convention on nuclear terrorism imposes an obligation on state parties to render the offences set out in the convention as criminal offences under national laws and to establish jurisdiction, both territorial and extraterritorial, over the offences set out in the convention.
Both of these conventions await ratification by Canada, which is first dependent on the codification of the offence provisions of these conventions into Canadian criminal law.
We on this side of the House recognize the need and urgency to put in place a regime to counter nuclear terrorism. Moreover, New Democrats are committed to multilateral diplomacy and international co-operation, especially in areas of great common concern such as nuclear terrorism. Thus, we need to work with other leading countries that are moving forward toward ratifying these conventions.
We also believe that since Canada has agreed to be legally bound by these conventions, it is important to fulfill our international obligations. For these reasons we will vote in favour of the bill at second reading in order to further study it at committee. However, a few concerns need to be set out first.
The first has to do with the origin of the bill. I would urge those who embrace the anachronistic and undemocratic institution of the Senate on the grounds of tradition to employ the Senate in the traditional way, that being as the chamber of sober second thought and not as the place of origin of legislation. It is for those of us in the chamber who, for better or worse, were sent here by Canadians to do that work.
Second, as with so much legislation that the government puts forward through whichever chamber, we must be careful that we do not overreach in the name of anti-terrorism. On this point, our experiences with the Liberals' Anti-terrorism Act and the government's recent Bill are instructive. The provisions of that act and that bill run contrary to the fundamental principles, rights and liberties enshrined in Canadian law.
Moreover, perhaps more importantly, we have found that without such extreme provisions, without changing the legal landscape of Canada, without breaching the rights and civil liberties of Canadian citizens, we have successfully protected the safety and security of Canada and Canadians from terrorist attack and that the offending provisions have proven over the course of time to constitute an unnecessary, ineffective infringement.
I would note that this issue arose in the course of the bill's study in the Senate. No doubt the intention of the drafters at the Department of Justice was to adhere as closely as possible to the terms of the convention. However, it has been suggested that some of the new Criminal Code offences are broader in scope than the offences found in the individual international agreements. We must be sure that the overreach of these new sections will not result in undue criminalization or go against the Canadian Charter of Rights.
I anticipate that the justice committee will play a very valuable role in ensuring that the lessons of previous anti-terrorism legislation are applied to Bill .
Last, I come to what I believe is a very important point in this discussion, that being the matter of delay. The implementation of the bill or some amended version thereof is a prerequisite for the ratification of both international conventions. Both of these conventions set out in their respective preambles the urgency with which the international community must act to implement a regime to control nuclear weapons and materials and to ensure they are not accessible for terrorist purposes.
For example, the preamble to the convention on nuclear terrorism talks about the deep concern of the parties to this convention of the worldwide escalation of acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and that acts of nuclear terrorism may result in the gravest consequences and may pose a threat to international peace and security. It also notes that existing multilateral legal provisions do not adequately address those attacks and that the “urgent need to enhance international cooperation between States” for these purposes needs to be moved forward.
Therefore, the question sitting out there is this. Why has it taken the legislation so long to get to the House for debate when both conventions have been open for ratification since 2005?
While there are other laggards in the international community, it is our expectation that Canada show leadership on issues such as these.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for , who usually shares his thoughts and comments with me. This time, I will be the one sharing my time with him.
I am pleased to speak to Bill , which would amend the Criminal Code in order to make it consistent with the requirements stipulated in two international conventions that we signed in 2005: the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
I will begin by making a remark that some of my colleagues have already made. This bill was introduced by the Senate. According to Canada's parliamentary process, it should be introduced by elected parliamentarians and not by senators. The NDP would prefer that most bills follow the parliamentary process and be introduced by elected members, in other words by the House of Commons and not by the Senate.
I do not want to repeat what most of my colleagues have already said. I will simply say that everything to do with nuclear weapons and the spread of fissile materials on the planet is cause for great concern not just for Canadians, but for everyone else living on this planet. I may be stating the obvious, but it bears repeating from time to time.
As far as this bill in particular is concerned, it begs a legitimate question. The hon. member for spoke about this a few minutes ago. These conventions emphasize that urgent action is needed when it comes to the protection of fissile materials and nuclear weapons; it is a constant in these conventions. Nonetheless, the global perception of Canada's position is that Canada wants to wait seven years, not five, to take action. Indeed, we signed these conventions in 2005 and it is now 2012. We will not be able to ratify these conventions before 2013. When the word “urgent” is used so many times in these conventions, why wait so long to introduce bills that should be given priority?
One of the consequences is that Canada is losing international credibility and giving the impression that it does not take these issues seriously, which is not the case. Every time we meet our constituents in our ridings or elsewhere, we can see that people are very concerned about global security in general and nuclear security in particular. The public is concerned about the fact that terrorists can get access to nuclear materials to create bombs.
The parliamentary secretary's main argument when she introduced Bill was that the government has a majority. It has been in power since February 2006, but it had a minority. As far as I know, and based on what we have been hearing since the bill has been before the House of Commons, there is a general consensus: we have no choice but to ratify these conventions.
If we do not, it would go against Canada's long-held policy and philosophy.
This argument has not convinced me. We have to wonder why the government waited so long to introduce a bill that is so important at the international level.
If we look at the list of countries that have already ratified, we can see that internationally, globally, we come across as a bad student in terms of promoting nuclear security, when that is not the case and that is not the perception among members of the public.
There is another thing. If Canada had been a good student, if it had been proactive and had ratified these two conventions within a reasonable time frame, and if it had amended the Criminal Code to be able to ratify these conventions, the other countries would have believed that Canada is an international leader and that these concerns are important to it.
Each time Canada has the opportunity to show the world that it wants to be proactive and that it takes these things seriously, I think it is important to speed up the process.
This delay in implementing the legislative changes reminds me that, in October 2010, Canada withdrew its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council. While there may not be a direct link, one cannot help but regret that decision. Once again, this gives the impression that Canada is backing away from its international commitments. In reality, the ratification of these two conventions is not merely a possibility; it is our moral obligation towards our international partners.
I would like to come back to a very interesting speech on this matter given by the hon. member for . This is not meant to denigrate other speeches, but given that the member for Toronto—Danforth knows international treaties so well, his perspective was a little different from that of others.
He talked about a number of issues, particularly the fact that, under the current process, there is a real risk of going further than just taking the measures needed for ratification, for two reasons: this could lead to amending the Criminal Code in a way that is too restrictive; and the government could anticipate future amendments to these conventions to prevent us from ending up in the situation we are in at present, which is having to wait five, six or seven years before ratifying treaties.
Under these circumstances, there is a risk in wanting to do more than the bare minimum. It is important to avoid speculating about what these conventions could become and to avoid adding any provisions that are not strictly necessary to the ratification of these two international conventions. That will be the committee's job.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from for sharing his time with me so that I am able to speak to this bill, which I will have the honour to study with my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, failing unforeseen circumstances. I truly appreciate this privilege because this bill is actually very important for a number of reasons.
I will begin by examining a practical aspect that directly affects us almost daily. We must not forget that we live in a world where nuclear and radioactive materials are very present.
Bill talks a lot about nuclear materials and civilian or military applications. These very specific applications are not under the direct control of mere individuals. The bill also covers radioactive substances that have civilian applications in our day-to-day life, such as medical applications or other civilian applications, where radioactive materials are used in measuring devices. Members will recall that some models of smoke detectors once used substances that emitted radiation, which was banned for obvious safety reasons.
This type of substance is much more common than people think. As a result, it is very important to go beyond the existing provisions of the Criminal Code that already impose sanctions for the improper or criminal use of this type of substance and extend them to cover terrorist activities. These activities go well beyond the simple desire to harm an individual or group of people. They are used to pressure and terrorize in order to force a country or group of people to basically change their behaviour and be subject to a regime that is completely unacceptable for a democratic state.
In addition to this first clarification, another concept that the NDP supports and wants to implement if and when we take office is respect for and the implementation of key international agreements governing various activities. I even asked a question in this regard. Long gone are the days when Canada demonstrated leadership, when Canada successfully adopted and implemented a treaty to prohibit landmines.
The example of the landmines treaty is important in that, even if a convention of this type is adopted, it can still be limited in terms of what it can accomplish by the non-compliance of some states in the world that prefer to avoid restricting their potential for action.
And so, beyond the perfectly valid amendments to the Criminal Code, we must ask the government this question and hope that it goes much further and truly demonstrates an ability to act to convince—if not compel—the community of nations to ratify the nuclear terrorism treaty so that it has the force of law not only within each of the different countries, but so that the countries co-operate to prevent things from getting out of control and to prevent the occurrence of any terrorist activity that we are seeking to prohibit through amendments to the Criminal Code.
I repeat that I am very honoured to be able to debate this bill today and to discuss the amendments proposed in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We must ask ourselves a number of questions on the proposed amendments and their scope. When the bill was introduced in the Senate, a serious flaw was pointed out related to the creation of a device using nuclear and radioactive materials, which can be harmful to people. This omission is very serious. Nuclear terrorism experts are concerned that a traditional nuclear bomb could be built, even if it is quite beyond the scope of terrorist organizations. They especially worry that an explosive device or radiological dispersion device could be built, as it is much simpler to build and would be harmful to a number of people.
I am very pleased that this is now included in Bill . It is good to widen the scope, but my colleague from wondered about the multiplier effect of the crimes targeted by this bill. We will have to look into the individual effect and the scope of these actions, and whether the amendments made to the Criminal Code are in line with the constraints imposed by our society to preclude the arbitrary power of the state.
In the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I had to examine some bills that were not charter-proof, in whole or in part. That is very disappointing; aside from the waste of time they represent, it is a serious problem for all Canadians. They could be unwitting victims of harsher laws, which do not fully achieve the desired objective and could potentially invalidate certain sections. There could be some very unfortunate consequences.
During our review in committee, my colleagues and I will ensure that the proposed changes are not invalidated by the Criminal Code because they are too broad in scope, or because they do not provide enough safeguards regarding the charter, which would result in Canada no longer being able to fully implement the requirements of the international treaties to which it is a signatory.
One issue raised in the Senate is the case of a protest taking place at the electrical generating facilities of a nuclear plant. It could be a protest organized by environmentalists to prevent employees from entering the facilities to keep the plant operating at full capacity. Under the proposed sections, could these people be charged with carrying out a terrorist activity? We are talking about a peaceful protest whose objective may be highly questionable, but still legitimate from a freedom of expression and a freedom of mobility point of view.
So, I am going to review the bill with 11 of my colleagues to ensure that we do not find ourselves in the totally unacceptable situation of the law being invalidated because it goes too far.
There is a major concern. The changes to the Criminal Code are perfectly legitimate and they are an important first step. However, once we review them, we will have to ensure that all the preventive and concrete measures taken by Canada in the future, because of its place on the international stage, will restrict the proliferation of nuclear weapons, which is another issue dealt with in these treaties.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill , which would amend the Criminal Code to implement obligations imposed on state parties to two international conventions: the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, which I will refer to as the “suppression convention”; and the amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, which I will refer to simply as “the amendment”.
My remarks this morning will be divided into three parts: first, a discussion of the convention and the amendment; second, a discussion of Bill and how it relates to these international obligations; and third, a discussion of the contemporary context in which this debate occurs, namely, the climate of increasing nuclear proliferation in which we find ourselves.
To begin with, the suppression convention and the amendment contribute to the development and harmonization of national laws aimed at securing nuclear materials and combatting the threat of nuclear terror. In particular, Bill would add four new offences to the Criminal Code thereby prohibiting acts in relation to the possession, use and transfer of radioactive or nuclear devices or related materials as well as the protection of nuclear facilities.
Bill would also classify the commission of these new offences as “terrorist activity” and empower Canadian courts to exercise jurisdiction in cases concerning the commission of these offences extraterritorially such that the particular offence would not need to have occurred inside Canada for Canada to invoke Canadian prosecutorial initiatives.
In particular, the passage of Bill would enable Canada to ratify these conventions, a goal to which the government recently committed at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.
Members of the House may remember the political environment in which the summit occurred, back in March, with the launch by North Korea of a satellite that threatened South Korean airspace. It is in this context that the correctly observed that:
|| What's going on in North Korea, and frankly what could be going on in Iran, causes us all concern but I think that's an inspiration and a motive for us to see that nuclear materials that already exist are secured or even destroyed....
What the minister observed then is no less true now.
Bill is of critical importance. Indeed, the need for the legislation has long been known. In fact, the 2005 government of Prime Minister Paul Martin, under which I served, signed the suppression convention at the time. While the subsequent election precluded our legislative efforts to fully ratify and implement its obligations, I am pleased that the current government has taken up this task.
However, it is regrettable that seven years have passed in the interim. Certainly, the minister's current support for the promotion of an international framework to govern the prevention of nuclear terrorism is to be applauded. Yet, it remains as inexplicable as it is somewhat irresponsible for the government to have delayed this long, particularly on such a compelling international commitment of the first order.
Before us today is not the convention but rather Bill , legislation introduced in the other place to implement principles embodied in these two international conventions agreed to, as I mentioned, by the Liberal government in 2005. Just as the Liberal government supported the promotion of a global framework for the protection of nuclear material and the prevention of nuclear terrorism then, we continue our support of this effort now. I would urge all colleagues to send the bill to committee for appropriate study and review.
I will support Bill at second reading as it implements Canada's international policy commitments in this regard. To echo the words of Senator Roméo Dallaire, nuclear weapons constitute, as he put it, “the most extreme massive violation of human rights imaginable” and serve as a violation of our human right to peace and security in the world.
The consequences of fissionable material falling into the hands of a rogue state or non-state terrorist organization are as dangerous as they are prospectively unimaginable. Bill reflects this imperative to ensure the security of nuclear materials and facilities in this regard. By amending the Criminal Code, and particularly by implementing extraterritorial jurisdiction, the bill would provide the Attorney General with the necessary enforcement tools. These tools find expression in four new criminal offences created by Bill S-9.
First, Bill S-9 would make it an indictable offence to make a device or possess, use, transfer, export, import, alter or dispose of nuclear or radioactive material or a device with the intent to cause death, serious bodily harm or substantial damage to property or the environment. It would also criminalize the commission of an act against a nuclear facility or an act that causes serious interference or disruption of a nuclear facility's operation.
A second offence makes it an indictable offence to do any of these same acts with the specific intent to compel a person, government or international organization to do or refrain from doing something. In other words, where the first offence speaks of intent to cause death, this offence speaks to coercion and threats with a nuclear connection.
Third, Bill would make it a separate indictable offence to commit any indictable offence with the intent to obtain nuclear or radioactive material, or to obtain access to a nuclear facility.
Fourth, the legislation makes it an indictable offence to threaten to commit any of the aforementioned new offences.
Moreover, Bill would include these four new offences within the definition of “terrorist activity” in section 83.01 of the Criminal Code. As such, the commission of these offences would trigger other provisions of the code in respect of related offences, such as electronic surveillance and DNA collection.
Bill has benefited from an extensive debate in the Senate and I trust that members of the House will agree to send it for further study by the committee in our House, where more of the technical details would be scrutinized.
I will now turn my attention to the context in which the debate occurs, namely the question of nuclear proliferation and disarmament and Canada's role in this regard.
Indeed, as important as it is, Bill simply standing alone would not be enough. Despite our best efforts, nuclear materials and facilities will always be vulnerable. Indeed the protection of these stockpiles is only necessary as long as they actually do exist. As long as nuclear weapons and highly enriched uranium are developed by states and pursued by terrorist organizations, they will pose a threat to human security. It is in this regard that the government's leadership has been lacking.
Indeed, as members of this place may recall, the Canadian delegation in Seoul was subject to heavy criticism by both the U.S. and the EU for having not lived up to earlier undertakings to begin the phasing out of the use of highly enriched uranium in the production of medical isotopes. Simply put, Canada should be at the forefront of the move toward arms control and international nuclear disarmament. Measures such as those in Bill must be viewed as preliminary measures, as part of a larger and developing framework of non-proliferation.
Indeed, I am concerned that perhaps the government's modus operandi when it comes to domestic criminal justice is slightly orienting its approach to foreign policy and that it may be presuming that the mere criminalization of a behaviour is enough to combat it. We know that complex and multifaceted problems such as proliferation require so much more than this.
Certainly, Bill would contribute to the prevention of nuclear terrorism by enabling law enforcement to prosecute terrorists before they achieve their intended death and destruction. Given that a single nuclear attack under any circumstance is simply not acceptable and that the risk of nuclear terrorism will never reach zero as long as weapons and devices exist and can be accessed by such terrorists and non-state actors, the bill would be inherently limited as an instrument of prevention and must be viewed as just the first step.
Let me be clear. I unequivocally support the creation of these new offences and recognize the important role of domestic criminal law enforcement in combatting the problem of nuclear weapons. Also, as I have stated elsewhere, I support sending the legislation to committee. My purpose here is only to emphasize the importance of international collaboration and international legal regimes in pursuit of non-proliferation and the ultimate goal of disarmament, which must be the end objective here.
As Senator Dallaire put it during debate in the other place, “we [should] discuss how this legislation fits into the broader stance Canada has taken and needs to take against nuclear weapons”. Simply put, we must be steadfast in our insistence that dangerous and genocidal regimes can never be trusted with nuclear weapons under any circumstances.
Diplomatic and legal institutions exist that must underpin Canadian policy in this regard. For instance, Canada should take a leading role in the push for a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention that would require countries with nuclear weapons to gradually destroy them and remove all fissile material to UN control. We should be supporting the United Nations Secretary-General's comprehensive set of proposals with respect to nuclear disarmament.
Moreover, we must pursue international legal remedies against regimes that engage in genocidal threats, particularly those that underpin those threats with nuclear weaponization.
We must view nuclear weapons for the use to which they could perhaps be dangerously put in support of these regimes' genocidal intent. We must insist that they be kept out of the hands of those states that flagrantly disregard international law, threaten the peace and security of the international community, and threaten the rights of their citizens. Indeed, as has been observed, states that violate, and massively violate, the rights of their own citizens are most likely to violate the rights of others.
The prime example of this threat in the modern context is that of Khameini's Iran. I use that term to distinguish it from the people and public of Iran who are otherwise the targets of mass domestic repression. In Khameini's Iran the steady progression toward nuclear capabilities demonstrates the importance both of domestic criminal law enforcement, as we have been discussing, as well as multilateralism and international legal regimes.
Bill deals with the domestic problem. With regard to the Iranian nuclear threat, however, we must continue to engage internationally as well.
I have described the Iranian threat in terms of a fourfold threat: the nuclear threat, the incitement threat, the terrorism threat, and massive domestic repression. Let there be no mistake about it that Iran is in standing violation of international legal prohibitions respecting its nuclear weaponization program. Iran has already committed, as an all-party committee of the foreign affairs committee in this House determined, the crime of incitement to genocide prohibited under the genocide convention itself.
Iran has been characterized as a leading state sponsor of international terrorism, and indeed its terrorism in 2012 alone, spanning five continents and some 22 terrorist acts with Iranian footprints, has served to further affirm that proposition. Finally, as I mentioned, Iran is engaged in such massive domestic repression that the latter effectively constitute crimes against humanity against its own people.
This brings me to the particular issue of the manner in which Canada must address the whole question of nuclear proliferation with regard to Iran. Here the international context and our role in that context becomes particularly important.
I would like to suggest that Canada support the prospective P5-plus-1 negotiations with Iran, with whatever diplomatic strategy may develop in the context of those negotiations, and put forward the following requirements with respect to combatting nuclear proliferation in general, but in particular with regard to Iran's nuclear weaponization program.
First, Iran must as a threshold requirement verifiably suspend its uranium enrichment program, allowing the international community to counter the Iranian strategy, the three Ds of delay, denial and deception, used by Iran to accelerate it nuclear weaponization program rather than, in fact, move toward disarmament.
Second, Iran must ship its supply of enriched uranium out of the country, where it can be reprocessed and then made available to Iran under appropriate inspection and monitoring for use in civil nuclear programs.
Third, Iran must verifiably close and dismantle its nuclear enrichment plant at Fordow, embedded in a mountain near Qom, which Iranians initially denied even existed but where a zone of impenetrability will soon develop unless that facility is in fact dismantled.
Fourth, Iran must suspend its heavy water production facilities at Arak. It is sometimes forgotten that an essential component for producing plutonium could also be water, which is a nuclear component that North Korea uses for its own nuclear weapons. Simply put, the path to nuclear weaponization need not be travelled by uranium enrichment alone. The suspension of uranium enrichment, however necessary, will not alone ensure that Iran is verifiably abandoning its nuclear weaponization program.
Fifth, Iran must allow the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors immediate and unfettered access to any suspected nuclear site, as Iran is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Iran is thereby bound by its obligations not to pursue nuclear weapons but also to open its nuclear sites and installations.
Sixth, Iranian authorities need to grant the IAEA access to the parts and military complex near Tehran, where it has been reported that Iran has conducted high explosives testing, possibly in conjunction with the development of a nuclear weapon.
Finally, Iran needs to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to install devices on centrifuges to monitor Iran's uranium enrichment levels.
These are the kinds of threshold approaches that Canada can assist in framing and thereby assist in combating proliferation. As I said, a foreign affairs committee of the House has determined that Iran engages in state sanctioned incitement to genocide. The convergence of the two makes the threat even more dangerous than it might otherwise be.
There are a number of remedies that Canada could engage in that it has not yet done, both to combat the nuclear proliferation dimension and genocidal incitement. In other words, there are juridical remedies that we have not sufficiently explored.
First, we could simply ask the United Nations Secretary General to refer this to the UN Security Council for deliberation and accountability as a matter that “threatens international peace and security”, which is under the jurisdiction of the UN Secretary General.
Second, any state party to the genocide convention, including Canada, could initiate tomorrow an interstate complaint against Iran, a state party to that genocide convention, before the International Court of Justice.
Third, Canada, or any other country, could ask the UN Security Council to refer the matter of Iran's state sanctioned incitement to genocide, underpinned by its nuclear weaponization program, to the UN Security Council for purposes of inquiring into individual criminal liability. There are other remedies, but I will limit it in this regard.
Finally, before I conclude my remarks, I would like to return to one specific technicality relating to Bill and to link it to the problem of Iranian nuclear weaponization. As members of this place may know, despite making reference to the matter, the government has failed to take any action to list the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization under the Criminal Code. Simply put, the IRGC has emerged as the epicentre of the Iranian four-fold threat to which I referred, and has played a central role in Iran's domestic repression, international terrorism, incitement to genocide and nuclear proliferation.
The United States has already labelled it a terrorist group, while the UN and the European Union have imposed various sanctions against the IRGC and its leaders. It is regrettable that Canada has yet to take the step of listing it as a terrorist entity here in the Criminal Code, a step that would combat the nuclear proliferation, genocidal incitement, as well as the international terrorism. Indeed, the IRGC, acting through Hezbollah and the terrorist proxies of Iran, was implicated in the attempted assassination of the Saudi ambassador in Washington, and in July's terrorist attack targeting Israeli tourists in Bulgaria that resulted in seven deaths, as well as a series of international terrorist attacks during 2012.
Of course, the international juridical remedies I outlined must be pursued against the IRGC and its individual members and leaders. Indeed, I have long called for the listing of the IRGC as a terrorist organization, and I mention it now in relation to Bill to highlight one particular aspect of the bill that needs to be more closely studied at committee with related amendments as may be moved in this regard.
Another important feature of the bill is its military exclusionary clause, which would ensure that none of the newly created offences would apply to “activities undertaken by military forces of a state in the exercise of their official duties, to the extent that those activities are governed by other rules of international law”.
My concern is that activities by or in relation to the IRGC could be argued to fall into this category insofar as the IRGC could be characterized as a military force of a state and not as a terrorist organization. Clearly, the actions of the IRGC can be demonstrated to be in violation of international law, thus precluding protection under this clause. Still, so long as they are not expressly designated as a terrorist organization under the Criminal Code, this legal loophole will still loom over our discussions.
Again, we must situate Bill within the larger context of nuclear proliferation and the Iranian nuclear threat in particular, and thereby scrutinize the bill to ensure that it could have the intended effect of preventing nuclear terror. Accordingly, I reaffirm my request for the government to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization. I further suggest that the effect of the military exclusionary clause be more closely considered in committee to ensure that Bill S-9 would not be precluded from achieving effective prevention.
Canada has a tradition and reputation for taking the lead in multilateral efforts of this kind. Our nation is rich in effective soft power resources, and under previous governments we have demonstrated that multilateral leadership can achieve solutions to the seemingly most intractable problems of international co-operation and the pursuit of human security. I remind the House of our nation's leading role in the negotiation of the 1997 Ottawa treaty banning the use of anti-personnel landmines, where Canada mobilized governments and non-governmental organizations to achieve the signing of that landmark global treaty. We should also recall that Canadian leadership was effective then in changing the behaviour of governments and militaries, ultimately proving that disarmament is an achievable goal. Canada should be pursuing that goal today with respect to the overall context of proliferation, particularly as it relates to Iran.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
The bill fulfills Canada's treaty obligations to the UN under the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, including extending international measures and beyond protecting against proliferation to now include the protection of nuclear facilities. Also, it reinforces Canada's obligation under the UN Security Council Resolution 1540 taken in 2004, to take and enforce effective measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear materials as well as chemical and biological weapons.
At the outset, let me say that we generally support the bill. We think it is about time that the government actually lived up to its obligations under the UN, but we have some reservations about the scope of the bill.
I also want to point out that the government with its law and order agenda has an overarching propensity to deal with law and order as its prime focus. This is just one of 14 bills, I believe, that have reached the House dealing with crime or crime and punishment, or defining crime. There are many of them. There were bills about megatrials, human smugglers, mandatory minimums, military justice, the gun registry, citizens' arrest, criminal and electronic communications, human smugglers, elder abuse, accountability of offenders, RCMP accountability, the faster removal of foreign criminals, terrorism and nuclear terrorism, which would lead one to believe that perhaps Canada is going through a spate of crime that is out of proportion to everything, because these bills are out of proportion to what we are doing here in the House of Commons.
However, that is not true. The facts suggest otherwise, that crime is on the decline in Canada and has been on the decline since before the government took office. Focusing on laws to scare Canadians into thinking that crime is on the rise and making the criminal justice system harsher and less flexible is not the way to go. On this side of the House, we believe that a flexible and more systematic approach to crime is a better of dealing with it.
The bill is necessary and we agree it is necessary to adopt these laws, to abide by our agreements with the United Nations, to deal with the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, et cetera. However, let us talk about what things are still missing from the government's agenda while this bill is front and centre.
The government is making illegal certain acts of terrorism involving nuclear materials. Bravo. Canadians generally are glad that, if people try to use nuclear or radioactive material for terrorism, they will be doing something against the law and if they are caught and convicted they will face serious penalties. However, we note there are no mandatory minimums here.
What is the government doing about other things that are terrifying Canadians? In my riding of there was a recent spate of killings and maimings using handguns. Last week one person was killed and two others injured in handgun violence. Over the summer, there were six funerals of Somali youth who were gunned down in acts of violence all over the city of Toronto. Of course there were the horrific shootings at a block party on Danzig Street in Scarborough, which left two dead and 23 injured. What action has the government taken to stop the flow of illegal guns at our border?
It is all well and good to pass laws making terrorism and nuclear terrorism illegal, but if our citizenry is being terrorized by other things, what are we doing about that? What actions are being taken to get the guns that are already there off the street? There is no bill before us on that topic.
The government passed Bill , which cancels and will destroy the long gun registry, so less will be known about what guns are out there, and people are fearful. People in my city are fearful about what that will mean for their personal safety. They are more fearful than they were before the Conservative government took power.
In my riding of the bill does nothing to prevent another thing that is the single biggest crime in my riding right now, the theft of cellphones and other electronic mobile devices. Kids are being mugged and people are being injured, and yet nothing is happening from the government. The solution is simple. Make it illegal to activate phones reported as stolen, and I brought forward such a motion in the House of Commons.
So far the government is silent on things that are terrifying people, that are making people feel they are less safe than they were yesterday. Yet, we are here discussing nuclear terrorism.
It also takes aim at the risk of the environment being threatened by nuclear terrorists. Again, bravo. Canadians are worried about the environment. They are worried about the climate changes that have been felt most recently from Hurricane Sandy doing damage to both the U.S. and Canada.
What else is the government doing about the environment? The definition of the environment in Bill , this bill, is almost identical to that found in the new environmental assessment act. Essentially,
||“environment” means the components of the Earth, and includes (a) land, water and air, including all layers of the atmosphere; (b) all organic and inorganic matter and living organisms; and (c) the interacting natural systems that include components referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b).
If a nuclear terrorist threatens any of these elements of the environment, they can be charged with an offence, and if convicted, they can face serious time. However, if they do something, the environmental effects of these actions cannot hurt any living organism, including humans. That is not so for the way that the government treats its own projects.
The definition of environmental effect in the new environmental assessment act is only about those impacts on fish, migratory species and birds. If a federal project harms the environment in such a way that human health is threatened, apparently the government does not care. Human health is no longer protected by the Environmental Assessment Act.
Bill protects human health. It therefore protects the environment better against harm than the environmental assessment act. Nuclear terrorists are treated more harshly than government projects or other projects that are of large scale and large effect and that can in fact harm the environment. Most of those projects are not nuclear terrorism, so nothing is wrong with harming human health, says this Conservative government.
Bill is a necessary part of living up to our obligations to the UN. We like the UN. We wish we were part of the Security Council. We wish we lived up to all of our obligations. One of those obligations is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the government signed on March 11, 2010. On that date the government promised, as a result of signing that convention, to report back to the UN within two years. It still has not done it.
There has been no report on what it has done so far to help persons with disabilities. So far, the government has done things to harm persons with disabilities. One of the things that treaty with the UN says very clearly we are supposed to be doing is making it possible for persons with disabilities to have equal access to information, equal access to the Internet. Yet, the government, in its last bill, removed community access funding. It therefore cut off thousands upon thousands of disabled individuals from having access to the Internet, which they had grown used to under that plan, and it is no longer available to them.
The government has apparently failed the disabled, and failed, again, one of the very important things we have signed with the UN. We agreed with the UN. We thought we would make life better for the disabled, with every measure we took and with everything we did. Yet, we have the government acting in opposition of that promise to the UN.
In addition, the bill does nothing to deal with one of the most pressing needs in my riding, and that is affordable housing. The bill is all about safety and security, but safety and security is one of the things that is most missing in my riding with regard to persons living in supported housing in the city of Toronto.
Fifteen years ago, the Liberal government got itself out of supported housing, and the federal government has done nothing to move back into that role. The City of Toronto is facing a $750 million deficit in terms of repairing these buildings, and thousands upon thousands of people are on waiting lists. Yet, we can do nothing about it. This is part of the safety and security of individuals in my riding in the city of Toronto, and in Canada as a whole.
However, the most important thing facing us is nuclear terrorism, according to the government. We have done absolutely nothing to assist those people in this country to feel more secure in where they live.
Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great honour to rise in the House of Commons, the house of the common people of Canada, and to represent the people who elected me in the region of Timmins—James Bay, whom I have great respect for. I take my role in this debate very seriously. We are discussing something of great importance that cuts across all party lines. It is an international concern about dealing with the proliferation of nuclear materials that could be used in terrorist attacks and in illegal ways.
Bill is an attempt by Canada to ratify commitments that were made at the United Nations, eight years ago, on the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. That was amended at the 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. It is unfortunate that we did not move to ratify this earlier, but we are dealing with it now, so let us get down to business.
Ensuring that all countries are in compliance with the legal codes necessary to deal with those who would attempt to misuse or get access to nuclear materials is, of course, a major issue domestically. However, there is no such thing as being reactive when it comes to nuclear materials. It only takes one case, which could have catastrophic implications. There is the need to be proactive and multilateral, for Canada to take a place on the world stage, where we once were recognized for trying to get rid of weapons. It is the ease of access to materials that is like playing the dangerous game of Russian roulette.
I will talk a bit about the bill, but I want to talk about two issues that have recently come to light with regard to how nuclear materials are being used. One is on how they are clearly being used in an illegal manner, and the other is how they are being used perfectly legally. I will talk about the illegal manner.
There was the recent assassination of the Russian Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with polonium-210. Mr. Litvinenko was a critic of Vladimir Putin, and a major investigation was undertaken. It was interesting that at the time British authorities were quoted in the media saying, “we are 100% certain who administered the poison, where and how”, yet nobody was ever extradited for this, and life went on. The British doctors who dealt with Mr. Litvinenko when he was dying said that his murder represents an ominous landmark, the beginning of the age of nuclear terrorism.
After the fall of the communist regime that had become very much a corrupt oligarch, there have been attempts and hope throughout the last 20 years for Russia to move forward. However, there are real concerns about what is happening there right now. Three young women were recently convicted of the crime of embarrassing the Russian ruler with a piece of theatre. Yekaterina Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were all arrested, convicted and sent to penal colonies. Yekaterina Samutsevich was finally released, but the other two young mothers, in their early 20s, are now serving hard labour in penal colonies for the crime of having embarrassed the oligarch Putin. This happened in 2012.
What is also very sad and shameful is that, along with Mr. Putin attacking these young women artists, he was actually backed by the patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church who felt they had also been embarrassed. For a church that has been persecuted by the Soviet Union, we would have hoped the leadership of the church would have called on Mr. Putin not to use the power of the state to try to crush artists. It is the role of the artist to perhaps say what the media and other people are unwilling to say. Yet, two young dissident women are suffering right now in a penal colony in Russia, in 2012. Very little has been said internationally, and Mr. Putin carries on. The murder of Mr. Litvinenko, the lack of action to find out who did it and the fact that it involved nuclear material is very concerning.
For the young women of Pussy Riot, we do need parliaments and political leaders to stand up and say that the right of dissent, the right of art must be protected around the world, even in the world of Vladimir Putin.
I will now turn to another issue in terms of nuclear proliferation, something that is perfectly legal right now but certainly does not meet the tests of international law, and that is the use of depleted uranium by NATO and U.S. military forces.
Obviously, depleted uranium is being used as tank busters and were used to a great extent in the first Gulf war, in Afghanistan and in the invasion of Iraq. It makes it very easy to blow up a tank with a large depleted uranium shell but uranium is extremely toxic and poisonous to the atmosphere. It destroys the landscape because it poisons it forever. We are now seeing, in areas like Afghanistan and Iraq, the effects of this, particularly in Fallujah . There are real concerns about catastrophic levels of birth defects and abnormalities being reported by media following the U.S. attack on Fallujah in 2006. Dr. Samira Alani, the pediatric specialist in Fallujah, said that she personally has logged over 700 birth defects in children who were born with severe abnormalities and children who died as a result of exposure to some form of radiation. The only radiation we can think of is the use of these depleted uranium shells. That is unconscionable.
What is also unconscionable is that as we are talking about trying to limit access to these materials because they could be used in terrorism, we see that the U.S. nuclear regulatory commission has established a general licence for the use of depleted uranium. Everyone can get a general licence as long as they promise they will not lose any of the stuff.
Nationally and internationally, we need to get our heads around this and say that we must get uranium away from being used in nuclear forces because all over the world we are seeing countries, which have access to weapons-grade uranium and nuclear materials, that are unstable. Some former regimes have collapsed and some of the new people should not have access to this material. The potential is catastrophic. It has been one of the great fortunes of the world that over the last 50 years these weapons have not been used, even accidentally, and we should all be grateful. It has to go back to the fact that there still is a lack of action at the international level to insist that we move toward removing these weapons and materials so that they cannot be used incorrectly.
The New Democratic Party supports moving the bill to committee and feels that it is important to do so. Obviously, people who are attempting to trade in nuclear materials need to be punished to the full extent of the law. However, it is the role of multilateral engagement that Canada has traditionally played the role of honest broker in the world in order to bring the various parties to the tables to say that we need to start, not only lowering the level of intercontinental ballistic missiles but we need to deal with issues like depleted uranium shells. We need to start taking the materials out of circulation in order to protect the common good.
As we have been waiting eight years for this legislation to come forward, we accept it and will move forward with it, but we are calling upon the government to understand that reactive does not work when it comes to nuclear issues. The only real response of any credible nation in the world today in 2012 is to be proactive. We are calling upon the government to take the proactive lead to move toward multilateral disarmament on nuclear issues, including the depleted uranium shells that are still being used.
I look forward to carrying on this debate. This is the kind of discussion that belongs in our House and what we should be spending our time on as members of Parliament.