Nuclear Terrorism Act
An Act to amend the Criminal Code
Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill S-9.
- May 21, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Nuclear Terrorism Act
May 21st, 2013 / 7:05 p.m.
The House resumed from May 10 consideration of the motion that Bill S-9, an act to amend the Criminal Code, be read the third time and passed.
Extension of Sitting Hours
May 21st, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will pick up where I left off. Obviously my hon. friend did not hear this and has not read the motion. I will respond to his macho riposte at the end of his comments by pointing out that the motion would do three things: first, it would provide for us to sit until midnight; second, it would provide a manageable way in which to hold votes in a fashion that works for members of the House; and third, it would provide for concurrence debates to happen and motions to be voted on in a fashion that would not disrupt the work of all the committees of the House and force them to come back here for votes and shut down the work of committees.
Those are the three things the motion would do. In all other respects the Standing Orders remain in place, including the Standing Orders for how long the House sits. Had my friend actually read the motion, he would recognize that the only way in which that Standing Order could then be changed would be by unanimous consent of the House.
The member needs no commitment from me as to how long we will sit. Any member of the House can determine that question, if he or she wishes to adjourn other than the rules contemplate, but the rules are quite clear in what they do contemplate.
As I was saying, the reason for the motion is that Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard and get things done on their behalf.
Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard and get things done on their behalf.
We agree and that is exactly what has happened here in the House of Commons.
However, do not take my word for it; look at the facts. In this Parliament the government has introduced 76 pieces of legislation. Of those 76, 44 of them are law in one form or another. That makes for a total of 58% of the bills introduced into Parliament. Another 15 of these bills have been passed by either the House or the Senate, bringing the total to 77% of the bills that have been passed by one of the two Houses of Parliament. That is the record of a hard-working, orderly and productive Parliament.
More than just passing bills, the work we are doing here is delivering real results for Canadians. However, there is still yet more work to be done before we return to our constituencies for the summer.
During this time our government's top priority has been jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. Through two years and three budgets, we have passed initiatives that have helped to create more than 900,000 net new jobs since the global economic recession. We have achieved this record while also ensuring that Canada's debt burden is the lowest in the G7. We are taking real action to make sure the budget will be balanced by 2015. We have also followed through on numerous longstanding commitments to keep our streets and communities safe, to improve democratic representation in the House of Commons, to provide marketing freedom for western Canadian grain farmers and to eliminate once and for all the wasteful and inefficient long gun registry.
Let me make clear what the motion would and would not do. There has been speculation recently, including from my friend opposite, about the government's objectives and motivations with respect to motion no. 17. As the joke goes: Mr. Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. So it is with today's motion. There is only one intention motivating the government in proposing the motion: to work hard and deliver real results for Canadians.
The motion would extend the hours the House sits from Monday through Thursday. Instead of finishing the day around 6:30 or 7 p.m., the House would sit instead until midnight.
This would amount to an additional 20 hours each week. Extended sitting hours is something that happens most years in June. Our government just wants to roll up our sleeves and work a little harder, earlier this year. The motion would allow certain votes to be deferred automatically until the end of question period, to allow for all honourable members' schedules to be a little more orderly.
As I said, all other rules would remain. For example, concurrence motions could be moved, debated and voted upon. Today's motion would simply allow committees to continue doing their work instead of returning to the House for motions to return to government business and the like. This process we are putting forward would ensure those committees could do their good work and be productive, while at the same time the House could proceed with its business. Concurrence motions could ultimately be dealt with, debated and voted upon.
We are interested in working hard and being productive and doing so in an orderly fashion, and that is the extent of what the motion would do. I hope that the opposition parties would be willing to support this reasonable plan and let it come forward to a vote. I am sure members opposite would not be interested in going back to their constituents to say they voted against working a little overtime before the House rises for the summer, but the first indication from my friend opposite is that perhaps he is reluctant to do that. Members on this side of the House are willing to work extra hours to deliver real results for Canadians.
Some of those accomplishments we intend to pass are: reforming the temporary foreign workers program to put the interests of Canadians first; implementing tax credits for Canadians who donate to charity; enhancing the tax credit for parents who adopt; and extending the tax credit for Canadians who take care of loved ones in their home.
We also want to support veterans and their families by improving the determination of veterans' benefits.
Of course, these are some of the important measures from this year's budget and are included in Bill C-60, economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1. We are also working toward results for aboriginals by moving closer to equality for Canadians living on reserves through better standards for drinking water and finally giving women on reserves the same rights and protections other Canadian women have had for decades. Bill S-2, family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act, and Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act would deliver on those very important objectives.
We will also work to keep our streets and communities safe by making real improvements to the witness protection program through Bill C-51, the safer witnesses act. I think that delivering these results for Canadians is worth working a few extra hours each week.
We will work to bring the Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012, into law. Bill C-48 would provide certainty to the tax code. It has been over a decade since a bill like this has passed, so it is about time this bill passed. In fact, after question period today, I hope to start third reading of this bill, so perhaps we can get it passed today.
We will also work to bring Bill C-52, the fair rail freight service act, into law. The bill would support economic growth by ensuring that all shippers, including farmers, are treated fairly. Over the next few weeks we will also work, hopefully with the co-operation of the opposition parties, to make progress on other important initiatives.
Bill C-54 will ensure that public safety is the paramount consideration in the decision-making process involving high-risk accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. This is an issue that unfortunately has affected every region of this country. The very least we can do is let the bill come to a vote and send it to committee where witnesses can testify about the importance of these changes.
Bill C-49 would create the Canadian museum of history, a museum for Canadians that would tell our stories and present our country's treasures to the world.
Bill S-14, the Fighting Foreign Corruption Act, will do just that by further deterring and preventing Canadian companies from bribing foreign public officials. These amendments will help ensure that Canadian companies continue to act in good faith in the pursuit of freer markets and expanded global trade.
Bill S-13, the port state measures agreement implementation act, would implement that 2009 treaty by amending the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act to add prohibitions on importing illegally acquired fish.
Tonight we will be voting on Bill S-9, the Nuclear Terrorism Act, which will allow Canada to honour its commitments under international agreements to tackle nuclear terrorism. Another important treaty—the Convention on Cluster Munitions—can be given effect if we adopt Bill S-10, the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act.
We will seek to update and modernize Canada’s network of income tax treaties through Bill S-17, the Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2013, by giving the force of law to recently signed agreements between Canada and Namibia, Serbia, Poland, Hong Kong, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
Among other economic bills is Bill C-56, the combating counterfeit products act. The bill would protect Canadians from becoming victims of trademark counterfeiting and goods made using inferior or dangerous materials that lead to injury or even death. Proceeds from the sale of counterfeit goods may be used to support organized crime groups. Clearly, this bill is another important one to enact.
Important agreements with the provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador would be satisfied through Bill S-15, the expansion and conservation of Canada’s national parks act, which would, among other things, create the Sable Island national park reserve, and Bill C-61, the offshore health and safety act, which would provide clear rules for occupational health and safety of offshore oil and gas installations.
Earlier I referred to the important work of committees. The Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations inspired Bill S-12, the incorporation by reference in regulations act. We should see that committee's ideas through by passing this bill. Of course, a quick reading of today's order paper would show that there are yet still more bills before the House of Commons for consideration and passage. All of these measures are important and will improve the lives of Canadians. Each merits consideration and hard work on our part.
In my weekly business statement prior to the constituency week, I extended an offer to the House leaders opposite to work with me to schedule and pass some of the other pieces of legislation currently before the House. I hope that they will respond to my request and put forward at our next weekly meeting productive suggestions for getting things done. Passing today's motion would be a major step toward accomplishing that. As I said in my opening comments, Canadians expect each one of us to come to Ottawa to work hard, vote on bills and get things done.
In closing, I commend this motion to the House and encourage all hon. members to vote for this motion, add a few hours to our day, continue the work of our productive, orderly and hard-working Parliament, and deliver real results for Canadians.
Extension of Sitting Hours
May 21st, 2013 / 12:05 p.m.
Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC
Mr. Speaker, I apologize for interrupting my colleague just at the beginning of his speech on the justification for the motion that he has just presented to the House, but we have a point of order that we need to raise because I think it establishes a couple of important things for you, as Speaker, to determine before we get into the context and the particulars of this motion.
Specifically, I will be citing Standing Order 13, which says:
Whenever the Speaker is of the opinion that a motion offered to the House is contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament, the Speaker shall apprise the House thereof immediately, before putting the question thereon, and quote the Standing Order or authority applicable to the case.
This is the standing order that we cite, because we have looked at the motion the government has presented here today with some notice given last week.
This motion goes against the Standing Orders and certainly the spirit of Parliament. The government is not allowed to break the rules of Parliament that protect the rights of the minority, the opposition and all members of the House of Commons who have to do their jobs for the people they represent. This motion is very clearly contrary to the existing Standing Orders.
I have some good examples to illustrate this. In my opinion, there is no urgency that would justify the government's heavy-handed tactics to prevent members from holding a reasonable debate on its agenda. I say “agenda”, but for a long time now it has been difficult to pin down what this government's agenda is exactly. This is nothing new.
The motion comes to us today at a difficult time, but just because the government held a brief caucus meeting and is facing numerous problems and a few scandals, it is not justified in violating the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. No one would accept those excuses. There is no historical basis for the government to use the Standing Orders in this way. That does not work.
There are a few important things we need to point out. One is that it behooves us to have some explanation of what this motion actually does. For those of us who do not intimately follow the rules and history of Parliament, it can be quite confusing not in terms of the intention of what the government has read but certainly in the implications. It needs some translation, not French to English or English to French, but translation as to what it actually means for the House of Commons. That is why we believe a point of order exists for this motion.
The motion essentially would immediately begin something that would ordinarily begin in a couple of weeks, which is for the House to sit until midnight to review legislation. This is somewhat ironic from a government that has a bad history with respect to moving legislation correctly through the process and allowing us to do our work, which is what we are here to do on behalf of Canadians.
I am not alone in seeing that the government has shown the intention of having some urgency with respect to 23 bills, 14 of which have not even been introduced since the last election. Suddenly there is great urgency, when in fact it is the government that has set the agenda. The urgency is so great that it has to fundamentally change the rules of how we conduct ourselves in this place in response to an urgency that did not exist until this moment.
One has to question the need. Why the panic? Why now, and why over these pieces of legislation? Are they crucial to Canada's economic well-being? Is it to restore the social safety net that the government has brutalized over the last number of years? What is the panic and what is the urgency?
Context sets everything in politics, and the context that the government exists under right now is quite telling. Every time I have had to stand in this place raising points of order and countering the closure and time allocation motions that the government uses, I am often stating and citing that this is a new low standard for Parliament. I have thought at times that there was not much more it could do to this place to further erode the confidence of Canadians or further erode the opportunity for members of Parliament to speak, yet it has again invented something new, and here we are today debating that motion.
That is why we believe that Standing Order 13 needs to be called. It is because it is very clear that when a motion is moved that is contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament—which is what I would underline, as it is the important part—the Speaker must involve himself or herself in the debate and ask that the debate no longer proceed.
The privileges of members of Parliament are not the privileges that are being talked about by our friends down the hall to falsely claim money that did not exist or privileges of limo rides and trips around the world. The privileges of Parliament that speak constitutionally to the need for Parliament are that members of Parliament have the opportunity to scrutinized and debate government bills.
Just before the riding week, we saw the government introduce another time allocation on a bill that had received exactly 60 minutes of debate. Somehow the Conservatives felt that had exhausted the conversation on a bill they had sat on for years, and suddenly the panic was on. We are seeing this pattern again and again with a government that is facing more scandal.
I was looking through the news today. Every morning I start my day with the news and we consider what we should ask the government in question period. There are some days when the focus can be difficult and one may not be sure what the most important issue of the day is. However, the challenge for us today as the official opposition is that, as there are so many scandals on so many fronts, how do we address them all within the short time we have during question period or in debate on bills.
I listened to my friend for Langley, who has been somewhat in the news of late on his attempt to speak on issues he felt were important to his constituents. We saw him move a new private member's bill today. He withdrew the former bill, and now he is moving one again. The New Democrats will support the bill going to committee for study because we think there are some options and availability for us to look at the legislation and do our job.
Whether it is muzzling of their own MPs and the Conservatives' attempt to muzzle all MPs in the House of Commons, or using private members' bills to avoid the scrutiny that is applied to government legislation, and one important piece of that scrutiny is the charter defence of the legislation and so, in a sense, the Conservatives are using the back door to get government legislation through and move their agenda in another way, or the omnibus legislation, which has received so much controversy in Canada as the government has increasingly abused the use of omnibus legislation, or the F-35 fiasco, or the recent Auditor General's report, or the former parliamentary budget officer who was under much abuse and the new Parliamentary Budget Officer who has asked for the same things he did, or infamously, prorogation, time and time again the pattern is the same. The government has complete disdain for the House.
Whether it be the scandals in the Senate, or the China FIPA accord, or the recent problems with the Prime Minister's former chief of staff, or the employment insurance scandals, or the $3 billion missing, or the 300,000 jobs that have not been replaced, the government keeps trying to avoid proper scrutiny out of embarrassment. However, the House of Commons exists for one thing and one thing alone, which is to hold the government to account.
The government will make some claims that the urgency right now is because there has not been enough progress on legislation. Therefore, the Conservatives have to hit the panic button and would have the House sit until midnight, which has consequences beyond just being a late night, and I will get into those consequences in a moment because they support our notion that it infringes upon the entitlements of members of Parliament to debate legislation properly.
The Conservatives' record shows, and this is not speculation or conspiracy, that when they ram legislation through, they more often than not get it wrong. That is not just expensive for the process of law making, but it is expensive for Canadians. These things often end up in court costing millions and millions of dollars and with victims of their own making. The scandal that exists in the Senate is absolutely one of their own making. The Prime Minister can point the finger where he likes, but he appointed those senators.
Specific to the point of order I am raising, this motion would lower the amount of scrutiny paid to legislation. It would allow the government extended sittings, which are coming in the second week of June anyway, as the Standing Orders currently exist, to allow the government to do that, but the Conservatives want to move the clock up and have more legislation rammed through the House.
Also, as you would know, Mr. Speaker, the order of our day includes concurrence reports from committee, which allow the House to debate something that happened in committee which can sometimes be very critical, and many are moved from all sides. However, they would not get started until midnight under the Conservatives' new rules. Therefore, we would study and give scrutiny on what happened at committee from midnight until two or three o'clock in the morning.
As well, emergency debates would not start until midnight. Just recently we had a debate, Mr. Speaker, that your office agreed to allow happen, which was quite important to those implicated. We were talking about peace and war and Canada's role in the world. It was a critical emergency debate that certainly went into the night. However, the idea is that we would take emergency debates that the Speaker's office and members of Parliament felt were important and start them at midnight and somehow they would be of the same quality as those started at seven o'clock in the evening.
The scrutiny of legislation has become much less important than the government moving its agenda through, which is an infringement on our privilege as members of Parliament. The Conservative's so-called urgency, their panic, is not a justification for overriding the privileges that members of Parliament hold dear.
As for progress, just recently we moved the nuclear terrorism bill through, Bill S-9.
We also had much debate but an improvement on Bill C-15, the military justice bill, to better serve our men and women in the Forces. The original drafting was bad. The Conservatives wanted to force it forward and we resisted. My friend from St. John's worked hard and got an amendment through that would help those in the military who found themselves in front of a tribunal.
We have the divorce in civil marriages act, which has been sitting and sitting. It would allow people in same-sex marriages to file for and seek divorce. All we have offered to the government is one vote and one speaker each. The government refuses to bring the bill forward and I suspect it is because it would require a vote. It is a shame when a government resists the idea that a vote would be a good thing for members of Parliament to declare their intentions on, certainly something as important as civil liberties and rights for gay men and women.
I mentioned earlier why, in the infringement of this privilege, it causes great harm and distress not just to Parliament but to the country.
I asked my team to pull up the list of bills that were so badly written that they had to be either withdrawn or completely rewritten at committee and even in the Senate which, God knows, is a terrible strategy for any legislation.
There was the infamous or famous Bill C-30, the Internet snooping bill, which the Minister of Public Safety said something to the effect that either people were with the government or they were with child pornographers, which may be an example of the worst framing in Canadian political history. There has probably been worse, but that was pretty bad. The Conservatives had to kill the bill.
We have also seen Bill C-10, Bill C-31, Bill C-38 and Bill C-42, all of these bills were so badly written that oftentimes the government had to amend them after having voted for them. After saying they were perfect and ramming them through, invoking closure and shutting down debate, the Conservatives got to committee and heard from people who actually understood the issue and realized the law they had written would be illegal and would not work or fix the problem that was identified, and so they had to rewrite it. That is the point of Parliament. That is the point of the work we do.
We have also seen bills that have been challenged at great expense before the courts. Former Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act, with huge sections of the government's main anti-crime agenda, was challenged and defeated in court.
Bill C-38, arbitrarily eliminating backlog for skilled workers, was challenged and defeated.
Bill C-7, Senate term limits, was after years just now deferred to the Supreme Court. It is called “kicking it down the road”.
The essential thrust of our intention is in identifying the rules that govern us, and specifically Standing Order 13. The government has time and again talked about accountability before the Canadian people and talked about doing things better than its predecessors in the Liberal Party, the government that became so arrogant and so unaccountable to Canadians that the Conservatives threw it out of office. History repeats itself if one does not learn true lessons from history.
As I mentioned, Standing Order 27(1) already exists, and it allows the government to do exactly what we are talking about, but not starting until the last 10 sitting days. The Conservatives have said that there is so much on their so-called agenda that they have to do this early, allowing for less scrutiny, allowing for emergency debates to start at midnight, allowing for concurrence debates that come from committees to start at midnight and go until two, three or four o'clock in the morning.
This is contrary to the work of parliamentarians. If the Conservatives are in such a rush, why do they not negotiate? Why do they not actually come to the table and do what parliamentarians have done throughout time, which is offer the to and fro of any proper negotiation between reasonable people?
We have moved legislation forward. My friend across the way was moving an important motion commemorating war heroes. We worked with that member and other members to ensure the bill, which came from the Senate, made it through speedy passage.
Parliament can work if the Conservatives let it work, but it cannot work if they keep abusing it. Canadians continue to lose faith and trust in the vigour of our work and the ability to hold government to account. We see it time and again, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you have as well, in talking to constituents who say that they are not sure what goes on here anymore, that it just seems like government will not answer questions, that everyday they ask sincere and thoughtful questions and the Conservatives do not answer. Bills get shut down with motions of closure.
Let us look at the current government's record.
Thirty-three times, the Conservatives have moved allocation on legislation, an all-time high for any government in Canadian history. Through war and peace, through good and bad, no government has shut down debate in Parliaments more than the current one.
Ninety-nine point three per cent of all amendments moved by the opposition have been rejected by the government. Let us take a look at that stat for a moment. That suggests that virtually 100% of the time, the government has been perfectly right on the legislation it moves. All the testimony from witnesses and experts, comments from average Canadians, when moving amendments to the legislation before us, 99.3% of the time the government rejects it out of hand. It ends up in court. It ends up not doing what it was meant to do.
Ten Conservative MPs have never spoken to legislation at all. I will note one in particular. The Minister of Finance, who has not bothered to speak to his own bills, including the omnibus legislation, Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, which caused so much controversy. He did not bother to stand and justify his actions. I find it deplorable and it is not just me, Canadians as well, increasingly so.
This is my final argument. We cannot allow this abuse to continue. This pattern has consequences, not just for what happens here today or tomorrow, but in the days, weeks, months and years to come and the Parliaments to come. If we keep allowing for and not standing up in opposition to bad ideas and draconian measures, we in a sense condone them.
We say that Parliament should become less irrelevant. We think that is wrong. We think what the government is doing is fundamentally wrong. It is not right and left; it is right and wrong. When the government is wrong in its treatment and abuse of Canada's Parliament, that affects all Canadians, whatever their political persuasion. We built this place out of bricks and mortar to do one thing: to allow the voice of Canadians to be represented, to speak on behalf of those who did not have a voice and to hold the government of the day to account. Lord knows the government needs that more than anything. It needs a little adult supervision from time to time to take some of those suggestions and put a little, as we say, water in its wine.
It has the majority. This is the irony of what the government is doing. In moving more time allocation than any government in history and shutting down debate more than any government in history and using what it is today, it speaks to weakness not strength. The Conservatives have the numbers to move legislation through if they saw fit, but they do not. They move legislation, they say it is an agenda and they hold up a raft of bills.
Nuclear Terrorism Act
May 10th, 2013 / 1:10 p.m.
Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC
Mr. Speaker, like many of my colleagues, I am rising in the House in support of Bill S-9 on nuclear terrorism.
This bill would amend the Criminal Code in order to add the criminal law requirements found in two international treaties designed to combat nuclear terrorism around the world.
The two treaties in question are the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the CPPNM, and the 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
These international conventions require the signatory states to improve the physical protection of their nuclear facilities as well as the use, storage and transport of nuclear materials. The states are also required to create new criminal offences for acts of terrorism, among other things.
These treaties show that the international community is willing to work together to combat the threats against countries all around the world.
Unfortunately, we are seeing an increasing number of nuclear threats around the world, whether we are talking about Canada, the United States or other countries.
In the past, for example, at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in 2010 and in Seoul in 2012, Canada committed to be legally bound by these conventions and to ratify them.
In 2005, Canada signed the two United Nations treaties, but since then, the Conservatives have unfortunately done nothing.
Bill S-9 would pop up on the order paper from time to time, when they were trying to fill some holes to avoid prorogation. Now, as we approach the end of the session and there are still a few weeks to fill, Bill S-9 is back.
This is an extremely important issue, but Canada has dragged its feet when it comes to honouring the promises and commitments we made to the international community.
Despite everything, I am happy that we are having this debate in the House and that we can maybe move forward with legislation to better protect Canadians and people in other countries, as well as have better relations with the rest of the international community.
At present, we are still unable to keep our promise to ratify those treaties because we do not have a legislative provision in the Criminal Code that criminalizes the offences contained in the two treaties we are discussing today.
If Bill S-9 were passed, it would allow Canada to finally fulfill its international obligations by amending the Criminal Code, which in turn would then meet the requirements of international conventions that the Prime Minister has clearly said he wants Canada to endorse. It is time to keep that promise and to finally achieve the desired result of ensuring everyone's security.
The bill on nuclear terrorism we are debating today includes 10 clauses that would create four new offences under part II of the Criminal Code, as well as other amendments that are consequential to these four offences.
They have already been described at length in the House. I will not go over all the legislative provisions contained in this bill. However, it is extremely important that we make these amendments to the Criminal Code.
The NDP firmly believes in the importance of promoting multilateral diplomacy and international co-operation, especially on such an important issue as nuclear terrorism. This is not the kind of file that we can shove into a drawer and come back to when we have more time or at a more opportune moment. It is something that must be dealt with fairly quickly.
Canada signed these treaties back in 2005. A number of years passed before some measures were taken in order to get the wheels turning. That is what I find disappointing about the whole process.
There is something else that I find quite unfortunate. Once again, the Senate was given the responsibility of introducing a bill that is of vital importance.
It should not be the role of the unelected chamber. Still, I have to say that I appreciate the technical work that was done here. It was painstaking and detailed work. The senators even managed to correct at least one shortcoming in the bill. That effort is appreciated. However, I still believe that this bill should have been introduced initially in the House of Commons, which is where we should have been debating it from the start. Of course, we have the opportunity to do so now, but it is getting to us a bit late.
Despite the procedural shortcomings, Canada still has a responsibility to the international community, and we really need to take action. We have to get serious about domestic and international nuclear security, and we have to co-operate more with other countries on strategies to fight nuclear terrorism.
Unfortunately, threats in today's world are increasing in number and diversity. It can be difficult to predict what tragedy may happen if radioactive or nuclear material were to fall into the wrong hands. Small amounts of this material can cause absolutely unbelievable damage. That is why it is so important to pass Bill S-9 and ensure that the steps we are taking here, in Canada, truly meet our needs.
Aside from creating new offences for nuclear terrorism, threats and so on, what I find interesting and important is that the treaties address various aspects of transporting and storing nuclear material, be it nuclear waste or something else. Canada is a significant producer of medical isotopes. We still use nuclear material that is highly enriched, which creates large quantities of waste that must be disposed of safely.
There are ways to deal with that. I do not think that the materials currently used to make our medical isotopes should still be used. There are alternatives that would produce good results. In the meantime, we need to commit to reducing the quantity of waste we produce from medical isotopes and find better ways to store it. Canada already does this relatively well, but we can always do better and ensure even better protection for the people within our borders.
Some of my colleagues also mentioned the closure of the Gentilly-2 reactor in Quebec, which highlights the importance of proper storage of nuclear materials and proper disposal of waste. Given the closure of that reactor, we need to ensure that we really can dispose of radioactive materials safely when they can no longer be used, in order to ensure that they do not fall into the wrong hands and do not affect the health of Canadians.
I am sure everyone remembers what happened with Bruce Power, an Ontario company, in 2011. It wanted to transport 16 nuclear reactors down the St. Lawrence River and then on to Sweden to decontaminate them, bring them back here and then bury them. It stirred up a great deal of controversy at the time. Mayors of the cities and towns along the river opposed it, and the company had to change its plans. In fact, people were worried about the precedent it would set, about the transportation of this kind of waste increasing considerably on the river, thereby potentially putting our health at risk. Once again, we cannot always predict what will happen with this kind of transportation.
These are all issues that we need to address as parliamentarians. We had the opportunity to do so with Bill S-9. It is critically important that we pass this bill and I hope it receives unanimous support.
Nuclear Terrorism Act
May 10th, 2013 / 1 p.m.
Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very thoughtful speech on Bill S-9.
Why does he think the government waited so long? The government was in power for over five years before this issue became a priority for it.
I have some suggestions. Is it because this government has a hidden political agenda, and standing up for the needs of all Canadians is just not a priority?
Nuclear Terrorism Act
May 10th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
Romeo Saganash Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank all my colleagues who participated in the debate on Bill S-9 before us today. This bill is about a very important issue on which all parties in the House agree.
Recently we have seen many examples of the dangers of terrorism throughout the world and even close to home. These incidents remind us that the world is much smaller that it used to be, and that we cannot ensure our security by retreating behind our own borders. To truly protect ourselves in today's world, we have to be engaged citizens of the planet, reach out and work with other countries in order to find solutions and help one another.
We, the New Democrats, have always favoured multilateral diplomacy and international co-operation, especially in common areas of great concern, like nuclear terrorism. I have worked in international law for my entire adult life and at the United Nations with people from all over the world. This has allowed me to see for myself what can be achieved through international co-operation. I saw this when, in 2007, after 23 years of negotiations, we finalized the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
I often put a great deal of emphasis on the importance of international co-operation because it is one of the pillars—I would even say the cornerstone—of international law with respect to relations among countries. In fact, it is a principle and an obligation that is set out in article 1 of the United Nations charter. Nothing can be achieved without international co-operation.
Canada has a history of being a force for good in the world when we take a multilateral approach, but, sadly, over time we have seen the Conservative government go in a different direction most of the time. However, Bill S-9 is an exception to that trend.
Bill S-9 would amend the Criminal Code to implement criminal law requirements found in two international counterterrorism treaties: the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. By passing the bill, Canada will fulfill its international obligations under these treaties and will be legally bound by them. Passing the bill will allow Canada to finally ratify these conventions, putting us in line with our international partners. We need to be working with other leading countries that are moving toward ratifying these conventions, and passing Bill S-9 will go a long way in doing that.
As a member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development for the past years, I have had a front-row seat to witness the Conservatives' view of the world and how they choose to deal with other countries. They have taken an abrasive approach to diplomacy, while calling it “principled”, but act more like a confused bull in a fine China shop than diplomats or simply fellow citizens of the earth.
We have seen the Conservatives pull out of the UN's desertification conventions for reasons, to be polite, that were questionable.
We have seen them send out ministers of the Crown to berate one of the UN's special rapporteurs for pointing out the fact that we have a food security problem in many parts of our country.
We then saw the Minister of Foreign Affairs ignore multiple requests from three other UN special rapporteurs for 15 months before finally answering while presenting at the UN's Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights. I am sure that the timing of that announcement was the purest of pure coincidences.
Then, for the final coup de grâce, we heard from the Minister of Foreign Affairs that Canada would not even attempt to win a seat on the UN Security Council because our defeat was so certain. To put that into perspective, under the Conservative government we have gone from never losing an election for a Security Council seat to not even trying because we are so sure to lose that election.
This is a serious decline in our international standing in a very short period of time. We need to ask ourselves why this is happening, because this is not the Canada I knew.
That is not the Canada I knew, a Canada that had a definite role and definite influence on the international scene. That is not the Canada we have now under the Conservatives.
The Conservatives will try to tell us that none of that really matters and that their approach will not have any serious consequences. I challenge the Conservative members who serve on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to go to Montreal and meet the thousands of people who work at the International Civil Aviation Organization and whose jobs are threatened because of the Conservatives' lack of diplomacy.
In light of our recent past and the government's failed attempts at international diplomacy, I hope that this bill marks a shift towards genuine, respectful multilateral diplomacy.
Simply passing Bill S-9 will not repair the damage this government has done to our international reputation, but it could be a first step towards regaining our place in the world, which is so important to Canadians.
I sincerely hope that the Conservatives will seize this chance as an opportunity to do just that, because we have a great deal of expertise in the field of nuclear science. Canada has long been a leader in this field, and an engaged Canada on this file can be a large force for good for the world.
We need to remember how the world has changed around us in the past 30 years when it comes to nuclear weapons. During the Cold War, the number of nations with these weapons or the capacity to make them was small, with the United States and Russia by far holding the largest arsenals of these weapons. These two superpowers had strong control over their stockpiles, but after the fall of the Iron Curtain, into the 1990s and beyond, we saw that control weaken in Russia. We also saw more countries gain nuclear facilities, either for energy production or for research.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, the world is a much smaller place today and the ability to move people and items around this planet has increased immensely. These conditions make it all the more important to work with other nations and bring ourselves into compliance with conventions like these.
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 is a lot, considering the destruction and damage that a single nuclear attack could do.
In light of the danger these materials and weapons pose, we need to ensure that we have the necessary laws in place to stop those who could use them during terrorist attacks. We need to work together with the rest of the world to meet this challenge. We need to work with other countries to protect our safety here, at home, in light of the threat that nuclear materials pose.
We can protect our own safety, but not by barricading ourselves behind our borders and hoping that the problem will go away on its own. It is time to take action. I encourage my colleagues to join us and support this legislation.
Nuclear Terrorism Act
May 10th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for her excellent speech on something that is not always an easy subject.
I have to say that bills amending the Criminal Code or dealing with nuclear terrorism, like Bill S-9, are not the best topic of conversation around the dinner table.
The member was able to highlight the important role Canada plays with respect to the international treaties we have signed. I would like to quote Matthew Bunn, an associate professor of public policy at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. He said:
At the moment, unfortunately, the mechanisms for global governance of nuclear security remain weak. No global rules specify how secure a nuclear weapon...ought to be. There are no mechanisms in place to verify that every country that has these materials is securing them responsibly.
Does my colleague agree that this is a step towards complying with our international conventions, but that we cannot stop there?
Nuclear Terrorism Act
May 10th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question. She is absolutely right.
Bill S-9 implements measures consistent with international commitments that we support. This is therefore very important. Even if we have concerns, it is more important to co-operate at the international level so that we can advance within the international community. Canada is a very important player on the international scene. What we do here with our laws can reflect these agreements, and it is very important to set an example for other countries.
The case of Bill S-2 is completely different. As I mentioned, many countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Sweden, are calling for us to do something for aboriginal women. None of them have told us that Bill S-2 is a step in the right direction, since the bill creates more problems than it solves.
Countries around the world are trying to help us and encourage us to prevent violence and racial discrimination against aboriginal women, and it is sad that our government has been ignoring these issues because it wants to play petty politics. Unfortunately, that is what the Conservatives are doing.
Nuclear Terrorism Act
May 10th, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Nuclear Terrorism Act. This bill puts in place legislative measures to comply with the criminal law requirements contained in two international counterterrorism treaties: the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, amended in 2005, and the 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
The NDP and I myself believe that we must seriously address the issue of nuclear safety and comply with our international obligations, in order to better cooperate with other countries on a nuclear counterterrorism strategy.
The danger remains very real. It is therefore very important that we implement these UN treaties. Even though we normally oppose a government bill that is introduced through the Senate, Bill S-9 is important enough that we can understand that it is worthwhile for the Senate to do the first vetting of legislation that is intended merely to be technical in order to create compliance with international legislation. It is very important for me as a member of the NDP that we comply with our obligations in the international arena. We are determined to promote multilateral diplomacy and international cooperation, particularly in areas of shared concern, such as nuclear terrorism.
Because Canada has already agreed to be legally bound by these conventions, it is important to fulfill our international obligations.
It is good to see that the government is taking action to comply with these international treaties and conventions. We must of course note that the elements in the bill are in response to these 2005 treaties. It is a bit late in the day to be doing this, but we are used to it.
This bill was tabled in the Senate on March 27, and moved very slowly. The government brought it before the House sporadically, and only in order to fill gaps in its program. This is unfortunate.
As I was saying, the intent of Bill S-9 is to comply with Canada’s international obligations, but it is still a breath of fresh air in the House.
I would like to take this opportunity to draw the attention of this House to Canada’s other international responsibilities that are still waiting to be dealt with by this government.
It is very relevant, in fact, given that the United Nations Universal Periodic Review was just tabled in late April 2013. The report points out that the Committee against Torture has urged Canada to incorporate the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in its law, so that its provisions can be invoked directly before a court of law and so that the Convention be given precedence.
Unfortunately, Canada has not been moving on this file. It is nevertheless part of the same process to amend our statutes to fulfill our international responsibilities.
Torturing human beings ought not to be allowed here or anywhere else. Even so, we have not yet ratified the treaty here in the House, despite our international agreements.
Moreover, the Committee Against Torture remains concerned by the fact that Canadian law, particularly subsection 115(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, continues to provide exceptions to the principle of non-refoulement.
Are the Conservatives moving this file forward? No. Instead, they are pushing their bits and pieces of legislation through the back door in the form of private member’s bills.
These bills runs completely counter to what the international community is asking of us. By possibly endangering these people—whether by returning them without review, imprisoning and sometimes separating them from their children, or even by making them stateless—this government is once again violating international obligations and its obligations to its own citizens.
Unfortunately, that is not all. The Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Canada find a constitutional way of providing a comprehensive national legal framework that fully integrates the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols.
Once again, we are at a standstill on this matter. All Canadians are very unhappy about it. It is yet another convention left for dead by the people on the other side of the house. Yet, children are our future, and the rights of children need to be protected unconditionally.
On that note, I would also like to point out that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination strongly urged Canada, in consultation with aboriginal peoples, to consider adopting a national action plan to enforce the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Many allied countries have questioned Canada on this matter, including New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. Unfortunately, as we heard yesterday in the committee of the whole with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, the Conservatives' approach to aboriginal rights is paternalistic, improvised and partisan.
Owing to the absence of any real consultations with aboriginal communities, to use the language of the minister himself, and of course their cavalier way of handling claims by aboriginal peoples, it is impossible to believe that the Conservatives want a harmonious relationship. They also do not really want to comply with international laws in this area.
The community of Kanesatake, which I represent, is suffering seriously from this lack of vision. Whether because of its lack of openness and consultation, its chronic underfunding of education and other areas, or its abysmal management of land claims, the Conservative government gives the appearance of really working against Kanesatake.
I would like to know whether my government colleagues are aware that the Committee on the Rights of the Child has urged Canada to pass laws that would bring it into compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, and to amend its legislation to ensure that information on the date and place of birth of adopted children and their biological parents is retained.
This is a short list of important actions Canada needs to take with respect to the federal government's international obligations, whether in terms of co-operating with other countries and the UN or developing laws, in order to continue to be a world leader. Only then would we be in a position to leave a legacy.
We saw this already with Bill S-9, on which action was very slow indeed. Action should really have been much faster.
Unfortunately, as I just mentioned, it was introduced in the Senate, but we are going to support it because it is extremely important.
I would nevertheless like to point to the government's lack of motivation to implement international agreements. I would certainly never say that one is less important than the other, but in this instance, the bill on nuclear terrorism was of course chosen.
For many years, the process to eliminate discrimination against aboriginal peoples and to provide genuine assistance for aboriginal women was delayed. That process is stalled now.
To conclude, I would like to reiterate that I will support this bill, which brings in legislative measures to comply with the criminal law requirements in the two international treaties on combatting terrorism.
I sincerely hope that the government will comply with the treaty requirements in those areas I spoke about today.