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.