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

May 10th, 2013 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent question and for mentioning the UN convention.

Such a convention would never have been possible if international co-operation had not become a necessity, as it has today, in 2013. The planet is now a small village. Indeed, the potential fallout of such major issues as climate change or nuclear terrorism does not recognize state lines. Radiation does not stop at the border, and neither do the climate disruptions that we are currently experiencing. Therefore, it is our duty to work with every international body.

Unfortunately, since the arrival of the Conservative majority, we have gradually been distancing ourselves from these relationships that countries must build with others in order to deal with global issues on a local level, in the hopes of finding a global solution.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Trois-Rivières for his very compelling speech.

I agree with him about the government's credibility, as it has clearly grown complacent on that front and rarely chooses to be a part of the global community.

My colleague spoke not only of international obligations, but also of the need to honour national charters.

I would like the member for Trois-Rivières to explain why it is important for us to do so.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I think it unfortunate that the nuclear terrorism bill has come from the Senate, a chamber where the occupants have not been democratically elected, but, rather, appointed for partisan reasons. Bills should be debated first and foremost in the House of Commons, where the elected representatives sit. That is the very principle of a parliamentary system.

The government was already beating all records for time allocation and closure. Now it is bringing its bills in by the back door, by way of the Senate. It is really sad.

Let us discuss Bill S-9, which will enable Canada to fulfill its commitments under two international conventions. These conventions are intended to go beyond the limits of nuclear non-proliferation and will now include protective measures for 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.

According to Matthew Bunn, associate professor of public policy at Harvard University, there have been a number of cases of trafficking in since the 1990s. For example, there have been 20 seizures of highly enriched uranium since 1992. There is also a black market for less radioactive materials. The International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, has reported nearly 2,000 incidents of unauthorized use, transport, and possession of nuclear and other radioactive material between 1993 and 2011.

We must remain watchful and aware of the danger. Canada is one of the world's major producers and exporters of uranium. That means we must stockpile a great deal of radioactive and nuclear waste. That is an enormous problem, especially with the lax enforcement of regulations and prevention seen in the field. It is very difficult to contain this kind of waste. When a potential black market in radioactive material is added to this problem, we must see that the potential for nuclear terrorism is right here in Canada, under our noses.

My hon. colleague the member for Manicouagan told a story the other day here about L. Bélanger Métal, a large scrapyard in Trois-Rivières, that detected a very high level of radiation in certain metal beams it had received in 2012. Tests were done and they were able to determine that the metal came from Gentilly. How did this radioactive metal end up there? It is a very disturbing situation that shows how far-reaching the problem is. The greatest nuclear terrorism threat lies in the waste from Canada's nuclear reactors, which are unprotected from theft or simple negligence.

Nuclear terrorism does not occur in isolation but has an impact on the entire world. New Democrats agree that we must co-operate with our international partners. Historically, Canada has always had a reputation as an international leader. It is sad to see that our reputation has been quite tarnished since 2006, for example, with the new environmental policies. If we want to be serious about preventing nuclear terrorism, the first thing is to strengthen our procedures governing environmental assessment and the way we stockpile nuclear waste.

Still, I hope that Bill S-9 will help build Canada's credibility in the fight against nuclear terrorism. I also hope that, when they see us implementing this legislation here, our international partners will be inspired to follow suit.

The Senate committee provided many interesting comments during the long process the bill went through. First, with the development of new technologies, Canada will no longer need to use nuclear reactors and enriched uranium to produce medical isotopes.

The committee also believes that Canada should be a leader in nuclear safety, by committing to stop the use of highly enriched uranium for civilian purposes as soon as possible.

Second, Canada must show greater care in its safety arrangements. Malicious people are always looking for ways to bypass existing safety features. As a result, we must remain vigilant and move to new methods focused on prevention rather than repression.

Another issue was raised during consideration of the bill. The justice department's intention was to stick as closely as possible to the provisions of the international convention. However, some of the new offences in the Criminal Code have a broader scope than the offences found in the international agreements. We must ensure that the overly broad scope of these new sections will not lead to excessive criminalization and will not violate the charters of rights.

Lastly, Canada is legally bound by these international conventions, which means that we have obligations to fulfill. However, we cannot ratify the conventions until the domestic implementation process is complete. That is why I support Bill S-9, while hoping that it will not turn out to be just something passed to court votes.

We need to do more in terms of securing sites, creating protocols and implementing storage solutions that will not become a burden for future generations.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.

He mentioned some important aspects of life in the nuclear era, his primary focus being the safe storage of nuclear materials. I agree that safe storage is not the main purpose of the bill; however, if we want to reduce the risk, then safe storage is a key component of all the actions taken by countries that want to restrict access to nuclear materials for malicious purposes.

I would like the hon. member to elaborate on what he thinks about safe storage, which is a part of prevention. We cannot just implement repressive measures. We must also promote prevention.

I would like my colleague to comment on that.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for that very relevant question.

Prevention is indeed very important in this and many other areas. When it comes to crime, it is very important. Prevention as well as securing sites and storing nuclear materials are all very important when it comes to countering nuclear terrorism.

Prevention is also very important when it comes to environmental issues. It is a must and it pays off in the long term, since it prevents many future problems.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of rising once again to speak to Bill S-9, which aims to implement two international treaties to fight terrorism, namely, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

I spoke to the bill at second reading, at which time I supported the bill in principle. Essentially, the bill was not amended in committee and several witnesses reminded us of the importance of its swift passage.

Before quoting some very enlightening testimony heard at committee, I would like to remind the House what Bill S-9 is all about. Quite simply, it amends the Criminal Code to create new offences allowing us to better foil certain activities related to nuclear terrorism.

Among other things, the bill makes it illegal to possess, use or dispose of nuclear or radioactive material or commit an act against a nuclear facility or its operations, with the intent to cause death, serious bodily harm or substantial damage to property or the environment; to use or alter a nuclear or radioactive device or commit an act against a nuclear facility or its operations with the intent to compel a person, government or international organization to do or refrain from doing anything; to commit an indictable offence under federal law for the purpose of obtaining nuclear or radioactive material, or access to a nuclear facility; and to threaten to commit any of the other three offences.

The bill also has a prevention component to it. As Terry Jamieson, vice-president of the Technical Support Branch of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, told the committee:

...if Bill S-9 is enacted and Canada ratifies the CPPNM as well as the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, there is no additional work necessary to implement the physical protection measures among Canada's nuclear facility operators. These measures in fact have already been in place for years.

This bill is vital to Canada's credibility in the fight against terrorism. Professor Matthew Bunn, from Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said the following in committee:

Since the September 11 attacks in the United States, both [Canada and the United States] have improved security for their own nuclear materials, helped others to do the same, helped to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency's efforts, and worked to strengthen other elements of the global response. But if the United States and Canada are to succeed in convincing other countries to take a responsible approach to reducing the risks of nuclear theft and terrorism at the Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands in 2014 and beyond, then our two countries have to take the lead in taking responsible action ourselves.

It is time to walk the walk. Canada cannot just pay lip service to this issue. We must put our words into action and deliver a clear message to the international community. Speaking of sending a clear message, our neighbours to the south have yet to approve similar legislation. Hopefully, between now and nuclear safety week in 2014, they will be inspired by our example to ratify the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the CPPNM amendment and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

Although Bill S-9 and those conventions seem to have limited content, they at least promote international consistency. Again, according to Matthew Bunn:

I think the domestic steps, such as passing this legislation, are crucial to being able to build this global framework. The reality is that we won't get everybody participating in this global framework. You're not going to see North Korea ratifying these treaties any time soon.

On the other hand, I think that through the international cooperation that we have managed to achieve...we've managed to get many countries where radioactive materials or even nuclear materials were quite vulnerable to take action by improving the security of those items or by getting rid of them entirely from particular places. I think that has reduced the risk to all of us.

That being said, it is essential that Canada recognize nuclear terrorism as a real threat to security and live up to its responsibilities to the international community.

Again, I am quoting Professor Matthew Bunn, on the current dangers of nuclear terrorism:

Government studies in the United States and in other countries have concluded that if terrorists manage to get enough highly enriched uranium or plutonium, they might very well be able to make a crude nuclear bomb capable of incinerating the heart of a major city. In the case of highly enriched uranium, making such a bomb is basically a matter of slamming two pieces together at high speed. The amounts required are small, and smuggling them is frighteningly easy.

The core of al Qaeda is, as President Obama mentioned the other night, a shadow of its former self, but regional affiliates are metastasizing and some of the key nuclear operatives of al Qaeda remain free today. With at least two terrorist groups having pursued nuclear weapons seriously in the last 20 years, we cannot expect that they will be the last. Moreover, some terrorists have seriously considered sabotaging nuclear power plants, perhaps causing something like what we saw at Fukushima in Japan, or dispersing highly radioactive materials in a so-called “dirty bomb”.

It is vital to keep in mind that Canada is a major uranium producer and has a number of nuclear reactors. What is more, nuclear substances are delivered in Canada hundreds of times daily. An example that springs to mind is the medical isotopes delivered to Canadian hospitals.

These facts remind us that we must be vigilant. It is important to know, for example, that a person was successfully prosecuted in 2010 for trying to send Iran dual-use nuclear devices, which might have been used for uranium enrichment.

To have an idea of the extent of these realities at the international level, we must remember that the International Atomic Energy Agency official responsible for non-proliferation and risk reduction reported 2000 incidents relating to the unauthorized possession and transportation of nuclear and radioactive material between 1993 and 2011.

Furthermore, as I pointed out in my speech at second reading, the Conservative government should also recognize that Canada will not be able to reduce nuclear terrorism threats unless it implements an action framework that it conceived and endowed with sufficient resources to support the implementation of these conventions.

We in the NDP are determined to promote multilateral diplomacy and international cooperation, particularly in areas of shared concern, such as nuclear terrorism.

I look forward to my colleagues' questions.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to thank my colleague and congratulate her on her excellent speech.

My question is very brief. I liked her comments, because they throw light on a particularly important issue, especially given the modern context in which we now live.

Could she say a little more about the provisions in these treaties that concern transportation and storage of nuclear materials, whether waste materials or some other kind?

In the context of Quebec, if we think of the shutting down of Gentilly-2 or other events of this nature, this issue is of particular interest. I would therefore like to hear a little bit more about this facet of the issue.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, yes, it is a matter that is of concern to Quebeckers and Canadians from all parts of the country. It concerns the health and safety of Canadians throughout the country, and also in Quebec, as my honourable colleague pointed out.

We are asking the Conservative government to be vigilant and allocate the necessary resources to ensure these materials are safely stored. I should also point out that Canada is committed to providing $367 million over five years to the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. It is also committed to taking part in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Proliferation Security Initiative.

As I mentioned in my speech, these are praiseworthy initiatives, but we must go further still. I expect the Conservative government to take action in this regard.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very interesting speech.

I would like to point out that this is not the first time she has spoken on this matter in the House. She has been monitoring the progress of this bill to some extent.

Does she know whether any amendments were made to the bill when it was being studied in committee or in the House?

Before giving her the floor, I would like to say that I found her reminder of how important it is to walk the talk very interesting. For example, as the critic for seniors, I have seen bills introduced in the House without any resources for prevention and intervention, even though these bills were supposed to help combat elder abuse. This often happens in the House.

That is all I have to say, and I will now give her the opportunity to answer my question.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question from my hon. colleague is most appropriate.

In fact, no amendments to this bill were adopted in committee. Nevertheless, we believe that the bill is commendable. However, the Conservative government ought to come up with some other measures to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands.

I would remind the House that the bill is basically punitive. It increases the length of sentences and the number of criminal offences in the Criminal Code. We therefore expect the Conservative government to provide adequate resources to protect Canadians and ensure that the goals of this bill are achieved.

My colleague raised another interesting point. The parliamentary committees do indeed do essential work. Witnesses and experts therefore need to come and give evidence, something that the Conservatives have refused to allow in other committees.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP 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.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really liked the connection that my colleague made with the situation of aboriginal women. In fact, I too would like to make a connection between their situation and the bill that is before us.

My colleague said that she had concerns and expectations but that she still planned to support the bill. This is a good example that shows that, sometimes, we do not agree with all the measures or provisions of a bill but we are still prepared to support that bill because we think that it does not necessarily cause significant damage or because our concerns may not be so serious.

Bill S-2, which deals with the matrimonial rights of women living on reserves, is currently being examined in committee. This is an example of a bill that we are not necessarily prepared to support. Although its objective is very commendable, the way that it is written and the negative impacts it may have could be enough to stop us from supporting it.

The fact that the purpose of a bill is commendable does not mean that we are necessarily going to support it. We must go much further than that before making a decision. My colleague is very involved in women's issues. I commend her for that, and I commend her for her speech.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP 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 ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP 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 ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for Gatineau, for the excellent job she does on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. As justice critic, she lends a voice of reason in the House. I agree and I want to share something else that Matthew Bunn said in committee:

But if the United States and Canada are to succeed in convincing other countries to take a responsible approach to reducing the risks of nuclear theft and terrorism at the Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands in 2014 and beyond, then our two countries have to take the lead in taking responsible action ourselves. Hence, it is important for both of our countries to ratify the main conventions in this area...

We cannot stop there, however. As with any international agreement, this is only the first step. This is something we must do as a member of the international community, and we must move forward.