Nuclear Terrorism Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to create four new offences relating to nuclear terrorism in order to implement the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

May 21, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, what can I say?

The contempt for the very essence of the parliamentary system is so great on the other side of the House that the Conservatives are now redefining what a parliament should be. If they were honest in their approach to the parliamentary system, they would adopt a motion in the House to change the name of the House of Commons to something like “Let's botch this quick and pass everything without debating too much!” I do not know how we could sum it up in one word.

If there were any consistency in their way of thinking, they would even refuse to be called parliamentarians and they would move a completely ridiculous motion, one that would be dismissive of 175 years of traditions that have allowed people to speak out about bills. They would at least be somewhat consistent, but they definitely would not have my support for their scornful attitude towards the Canadian parliamentary system and parliamentary government in general.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a different type of question for the member.

When we talk about nuclear terrorism, there is always the question of what is happening around the world, which is very real. Ultimately, though, many Canadians are also concerned about nuclear plants and other industries located physically here in Canada.

I am interested in knowing to what degree the member believes we need to see the government put more effort into working with the provinces to establish a communication network to ensure that safety is first and foremost here in Canada, that our facilities are being protected in the best way they can be, that there are very real emergency scenarios and that the government could minimize any threat of nuclear terrorism right here in Canada.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the questions posed by my colleague from Winnipeg North are often very general. I will try to do my best based on a general understanding of the situation.

I wonder if members remember the isotope crisis. A certain commission president suggested that a nuclear facility be closed. The government intervened, inappropriately in my opinion, and went against her recommendations.

More specifically, I believe that my colleague is right to be concerned by this government's lack of judgment when it comes to nuclear safety. We should ensure that the recommendations and operating mechanisms are strictly observed in future so that we do not end up with a situation that is as disturbing as the one where a member of the nuclear safety commission is overruled by someone who is by no means an expert, but just an elected member.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to this important bill. Obviously my colleagues have shared some of the key points surrounding the bill and the important steps it takes when it comes to something as vital as violent nuclear acts that harm people to the point of actually taking people's lives. We truly support the expansive approach and the changes that were made to strengthen Canada's legislation when it comes to these kinds of acts.

Since I have limited time, I would like to focus on the fact that the government took so long. I heard members previously ask why we are debating this. The irony is that we are now in 2013, the government was first elected in 2006, and it took seven long years for the government to bring this kind of bill forward to this stage in spite of being in a majority position for the last two years.

Our point is it should not have taken this long if it was so important. However, at the moment that it does come to the House, our role as members of Parliament is to debate the issues ahead of us, make sure that due diligence is done when it comes to the legislation in front of us and raise the voices of Canadians, whether they agree or disagree with the legislation being put forward.

Unfortunately, the government has not paid much respect to that approach. We have seen the government apply closure, I believe 28 times, in the House on various pieces of legislation. It has essentially silenced MPs from bringing forward key concerns—and more importantly, the voices of Canadians—when legislation is in front of us.

That is not acceptable. It goes against our basic reason for being here as members of Parliament. It raises the question of why Canadians would be interested in the work of Parliament if we are not here to speak out on their behalf and if they cannot tune in to Parliament to hear the positions of their communities and organizations being put forward on these bills.

Debate is clearly important, and we would like to highlight some of the important pieces of the bill. Bill S-9 reinforces Canada's obligation under UN Security Council resolution 1540 to take and enforce effective measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear materials, as well as chemical and biological weapons. If the implementation of a treaty requires amendments to Canadian legislation, the treaty is ratified only when such amendments or new legislation has been passed.

Unfortunately, Canada has not ratified either the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material nor the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. This is because Canada does not yet have legislation in place to criminalize the offences outlined in both of these documents.

Today is an important step. The debate here is an important step in giving a bill like this its due diligence. I know hard work was done by our members and the NDP at the committee level. We certainly encourage the government to take seriously our need to be leaders at the international level, whether it is dealing with nuclear weapons or whatever it may be, and to truly show leadership.

Canada is well-known for the leadership it has taken in the past on the international stage. We hope that the Conservative government will change course, support healthy debate, and take the steps, without waiting for years to go by, to make sure that Canada is once again showing leadership on the issues that matter for us and for people around the world.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2012 / 10:05 a.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Scarborough—Rouge River.

Today, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill S-9, introduced by the hon. Marjory LeBreton.

I would like to being by recognizing the work done by the senator on this initiative, the purpose of which is to ensure that Canada honours the international commitments it made in 2005 in relation to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

Historically, Canada has been an important leader on the international scene, in spite of the pitfalls encountered in recent years. This country has distinguished itself by its proactive approach, by honouring its commitments and by its significant support for international law. It is therefore important to lay the legislative groundwork for ratifying these two conventions.

These conventions are the product of negotiated agreements and extensive work done with the objective of making our world safer and more secure. In 2005, Canada committed itself to enhancing security around activities relating to nuclear energy. At the nuclear security summits held in 2010 and 2012, Canada reiterated that commitment, with a view to the 2014 summit. In terms of both physical protection and potential acts of terrorism, Canada has committed itself to taking action to contain these problems.

By signing these two conventions, Canada committed itself to ratifying the agreements negotiated by the international community.

At present, 56 countries have already ratified the treaty, but Canada has still not done so. Bill S-9 is therefore a welcome initiative, since it will eventually bring us closer to formally implementing these conventions and ensuring a more uniform enforcement internationally.

Seven years have passed, and it is now time for action to honour those agreements. Usually, our parliamentary caucus is not open to bills coming from the Senate, because that institution is not elected. However, we agree that the technical aspect of this legislation, in the sense that it is a matter of honouring our international commitments, makes it more acceptable.

Bill S-9, the Nuclear Terrorism Act, is a step toward eventual ratification of the commitments relating to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

There are many aspects to this legislation. First of all, it makes it formally and explicitly illegal to possess, use or dispose of nuclear or radioactive material or a nuclear or radioactive device. It also makes it illegal to use or alter nuclear or radioactive material or a nuclear or radioactive device. At the same time, it formally prohibits the commission of any act against a nuclear facility or its operations. Finally, it makes it illegal to threaten to commit any of the other three offences.

Bill S-9 introduces and defines several key terms related to nuclear and radioactive concerns, including “nuclear facility”, “nuclear material”, “radioactive material” and “device”.

It also amends the definition of “terrorist activity” and broadens the legal scope of these measures, meaning that an individual can be prosecuted in Canadian courts even if the offences are committed outside our borders.

It is also important to note that wiretap provisions have been introduced so that warrants can be issued in the event of offences related to this legislation.

This legislation also amends the notion of double jeopardy. Therefore, if someone is prosecuted by a foreign court for a crime under Bill S-9, but that trial does not meet certain basic Canadian legal standards, that person can be tried again in Canada for the same crime.

In short, Bill S-9 covers several legal issues and therefore warrants careful consideration and a more thorough examination in committee, especially since it is a question of defining new legal terms and broadening the application of Canadian laws. Our parliamentary branch recognizes how important it is for Canada to meet its international obligations, which Bill S-9 largely does. However, certain deficiencies have been identified and warrant careful consideration.

On the one hand, in some respects, the proposed measure goes too far. Some components of the bill have an overly broad scope. We want to make sure, for instance, that the provisions related to wiretaps do not go too far, and more importantly, that they do not violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The crimes outlawed by this legislation are serious, but we must respect the surrounding legal framework.

On the other hand, Senator LeBreton's initiative does not go far enough. All the same, we commend the Liberal amendment that aims at prohibiting the production of nuclear or radioactive devices, without which the bill would not comply with the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

We also have reservations about the penalties. We want to make sure that the penalties will be appropriate and that they will correspond to the convention's expectation that these offences will be dealt with severely. At the same time, we believe it is necessary to take steps to strengthen the security of nuclear facilities. We do not want government action to be based solely on the legal aspects. We must also be sure that measures are taken to guarantee the security of facilities themselves.

Our position on Bill S-9 is going to be pragmatic and conciliatory. As has been stated, the bill does contain some positive elements, but there are also some not insignificant shortcomings, which could be remedied through amendments. This is why we will be voting in favour of this measure, so that the process will run its course. I would like to remind my colleagues how important it is that the initiative by the hon. Marjory LeBreton be sent to committee for discussion.

Together, we will be able to work on improving it and strengthening its positive impact. When we have an opportunity to debate and discuss this issue, parliamentarians will also be able to understand the proposed policy more fully. The legal scope of this bill and its complexity demand that parliamentarians give it particular attention.

On the other hand, the government must also show good faith by accepting the opposition's amendments, intended as they are to improve Bill S-9. Such multi-party dialogue will lead to better legislation for Canadians, as well as for national and international security.

To conclude, I want the members of this House to give some thought to how they will vote on Bill S-9. They should give some thought to the importance of complying with international conventions, the importance of filling the gaps in the senator’s initiative and the importance of pinpointing the problems relating to nuclear and radioactive issues.

Let us send this bill to committee, so that we can implement a just and effective policy.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2012 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by my colleague from Saint-Lambert concerning this important bill.

Every time we discuss the international convention on nuclear safety and that there are international concerns in that regard, we always talk about the urgent need for action. This convention was signed in 2005 and it is now 2012. Legislation to ratify this convention will probably not even pass before 2013.

The years are passing and the urgent need for action is always at the forefront of discussions. Therefore, can my colleague talk about the fact that the government has not been very proactive and has not set a good example internationally in terms of ratifying this convention and amending legislation in order to proceed with ratifying this convention in a more reasonable timeframe?

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2012 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. The nuclear issue is truly very important. The time it takes for this government to ratify international conventions is a major problem.

Many countries have already taken a position on this nuclear issue, and some of them are real leaders in this area. It is truly regrettable that Canada has not taken a position on this issue sooner.

However, today we are debating a bill that will really allow us to make up for lost time and to take the most appropriate course of action.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2012 / 10:15 a.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, of course, it is important for us to conform to the treaties to which we are a party. However, it seems that some modifications may be made, and we are supporting the bill to go to committee.

I note that the bill has been amended already in the Senate, to add a provision to make the manufacturing of a radioactive device a criminal offence. I wonder if that means a little more study is required. There are many types of radioactive devices, some of which are medical in nature and used for purposes of X-rays and different types of medical procedures. Is this one of the reasons we need to have further study on the bill, because it is highly technical in nature?

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2012 / 10:15 a.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. The issue of safety and criminal offences is an important one. In my speech, I emphasized that this bill must be referred to committee in order for us to truly have the opportunity to study it and to make constructive and positive suggestions about this bill and different nuclear devices. It is very important that this bill be improved and that new provisions also be heard.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2012 / 10:15 a.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech. It is indeed very important to move this bill forward to stop the proliferation of nuclear threats.

As the hon. member clearly explained, the convention dates back to 2005. Canada was involved in its drafting. Its ratification was pushed back to the end of 2012. This legislation is important. However, it comes from the Senate. It is rather odd that the Senate is the one teaching a lesson to the Conservatives.

I thank my colleague for her speech on this issue, and I want to ask her what she thinks of how long it is taking to finally ratify this convention.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2012 / 10:15 a.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. Of course, it is very unfortunate that it took so long to truly address an issue of critical importance in today's world.

The delay is indeed inexcusable and very regrettable. It is time to really deal with this Senate bill in a positive and constructive fashion, to improve it in committee, and to finally ratify this convention on nuclear terrorism.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2012 / 10:15 a.m.
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NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill S-9, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the nuclear terrorism act, at second reading, in order to give the bill further study at committee.

It is an honour to speak on a topic that is so important to the safety of Canadians and also our global security. Safety and security are a priority for the constituents of my great riding of Scarborough--Rouge River, and Canadians deserve to feel safe and secure in their own home communities. Residents of Scarborough are still reeling, sadly, following the tragic incident this summer that involved the loss of two young lives and left 23 injured.

I was proud to co-host the leader of the official opposition in Scarborough to share in a discussion about what the community wants and needs to feel safe in the neighbourhood. The outcome of this discussion was that people want to see increased care of the environment, longer term investment in our youth and job creation in Canada, increased witness protection to ensure people who are witness to a crime can feel safe and, of course, a decrease in the number of guns on our streets.

The Conservative government does not properly invest in witness protection. It is slashing public safety staff, which is allowing more guns to flow on to our streets. We are not seeing legislation to prevent gun violence from occurring. People do not feel safe and they feel further terrorized by guns. It is disheartening that the Conservatives ignore the pleas for action from constituents and residents of the GTA.

Today is about Bill S-9. This Senate bill 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, the CPPNM, as amended in 2005, and the 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the ICSANT. These two agreements deal with the protection of radioactive material, nuclear material and nuclear facilities, as well as the protection from nuclear or radioactive devices.

The bill would align our laws to these treaties by introducing four new indictable offences into part II of the Criminal Code. First, it will be illegal to possess, use or dispose of nuclear radioactive material or a nuclear or radioactive device, or commit an act against a nuclear facility or its operation with the intent to cause death, serious bodily harm or substantial damage to property or the environment. Second, it will be illegal 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. Third, it will also be illegal 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. Finally, it will be illegal to threaten to commit any of the other three offences.

The New Democratic Party believes we must seriously address the issue of nuclear security and comply with our international obligations in order to better co-operate with other countries on counterterrorism strategies. New Democrats are committed to multilateral diplomacy and international co-operation, especially in areas of great common concern such as nuclear terrorism. It is certainly important that we, along with our international partners, do what we can to protect Canadians from all forms of terrorism and protect global security.

It is curious as to why the government waited for so long to implement the necessary changes and ratify these two treaties. As I said, the bill would fulfill Canada's treaty obligations under the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the CPPNM, and the ICSANT. This includes extending international measures beyond protecting against the proliferation of nuclear materials to now include the protection of nuclear facilities.

Bill S-9 would reinforce Canada's obligation under the 2004 UN Security Council Resolution 1540 to take and enforce effective measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear materials as well as chemical and biological weapons. To date Canada has not ratified either the ICSANT or the CPPNM amendment because Canada does not yet have legislation in place to criminalize the offences outlined in the ICSANT or some of the offences outlined in the CPPNM amendment.

The amendments in Bill S-9, introduced into the code, are Canada's effort to align its domestic legislation with what is required by both conventions so they can be ratified. If these amendments should become law, one could presume Canada could be in a position to ratify both the ICSANT and CPPNM amendment, something Canada, as well as other countries, committed to working toward at both the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, D.C., and the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Korea. This is an important step for global security.

Miles Pomper, senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Monterey Institute of International Studies, advised those at the Senate hearing on Bill S-9 as follows:

—I want to point out generally how important it is to global security that Canada ratify these treaties. As you know, Canada and other countries, at the 2010 and 2012 Nuclear Security Summits, committed to ratifying these conventions. At the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, just held a few months ago in Seoul, states also made a particular commitment to have the 2005 CPPNM amendment enter into force by the time of the next nuclear summit in 2014. For this to happen, two thirds of the 145 parties to the original CPPNM, or 97 states, need to ratify the treaty. To this date only 56 have done so.

In ratifying this treaty, therefore, Canada will not only bring us one step closer to the magic number needed for entry into force. Canada is deeply respected in the international community for its leadership on nuclear issues and its commitment to multilateral diplomacy. Its ratification will encourage other countries to move forward with their own ratifications and improve global security.

We believe that Bill S-9 brings forward necessary measures as part of Canada's international co-operation against threats related to nuclear terrorism. Given the increasingly heightened sophistication of technology and radioactive devices, it seems to me to be imperative to ensure that Canada is co-operating with other parties and in compliance with international treaties. As I said, New Democrats are committed to multilateral diplomacy and international co-operation, especially in areas such as nuclear terrorism.

Canada needs to work with other leading countries that are moving toward ratifying these conventions. It is very important that we fulfill our international obligations, and Canada will only be able to officially ratify these conventions after their domestic implementation is complete. We believe there must be close technical scrutiny of the bill in committee to make sure Bill S-9 is drafted in the best way to fulfill our obligations under these two treaties. Once we ratify, Canada can go on and will not be in non-compliance.

This stage of study is extremely important. As we saw in the Senate hearings, a vital component of the bill was originally missing. Bill S-9, in its original form, did not include the making of a radioactive device as an offence. We appreciate that the Senate amended this major omission in the bill. It is a good thing that the bill arrived with this improvement already in it. Once again, it is a relief that this omission was caught and corrected in the Senate, but it demonstrates the need for greater scrutiny in committee, and assurances that nothing else will be overlooked.

There are a few technical issues that I hope those in committee will undertake during their consideration. It seems that this bill may be broader and more general than the treaties themselves. As my colleagues have noted, some of the new Criminal Code offences are broader in scope than the offences found in individual international agreements. As well, the language used in the bill is more general than the specific treaty articles. For instance, my colleague noted concerns with proposed sections 82.3 and 82.4 in the bill, in that the specific intent formulations of the ICSANT treaty with regard to damage to a nuclear facility are not replicated in Bill S-9. Rather, Bill S-9 assumes a general intent standard. Also, the reference to crimes of threat in Bill S-9 go further than required under the treaty. Ultimately, these concerns highlight the need for scrutiny at committee to ensure the legislation has been drafted to be in compliance and that the issues that have been raised in the Senate and the House chamber are dealt with.

In conclusion, Canadians and people around the globe deserve to feel safe and secure. Nuclear weapons are an affront to safety, security and peace in the world. New Democrats are very pleased to support this bill at second reading and to send it to committee for further study.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2012 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on her speech. She spoke to the urgency of ratifying these international conventions. She also mentioned the time lost, unfortunately, by our country with respect to these ratifications.

Could the hon. member tell us if, in her opinion, Bill S-9 goes far enough with regard to nuclear safety, considering that, unfortunately, a number of nuclear accidents have occurred in various countries? Does she think the bill goes far enough in terms of environmental and human security?

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2012 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her contribution to this debate in general.

The urgency of ratifying these treaties has been noted by people around the world. We are still waiting for many countries to get their domestic legislation in order so they can actually ratify the treaty. Canada is seen throughout the world as a leader in the global security realm. We need to ensure that we maintain that leadership position on the global scene. We need to ensure that our domestic affairs are in order so that this legislation can be studied with proper scrutiny to ensure that we meet all of the requirements of the treaty and ensure the safety of Canadians and the international community.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

November 30th, 2012 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would submit to the member for Scarborough—Rouge River an answer that was given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. She stated:

The fact is that there were attempts to bring forward many of these measures during the time of minority Parliaments but they were not accepted. Now we are in a majority situation and we are bringing them forward.

I would like to know if the hon. member is convinced by that argument. Does she think that any MP from any party would have voted against this bill if it had been proposed during a minority government?