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 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP 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 ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 1 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP 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 ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very relevant question. I think he touched on something we seem to forget far too often.

Since this government came to power in 2006, our international reputation has suffered greatly because the Conservatives have changed their stance, ideologically speaking.

I remember that, for years, we worked with the government during negotiations for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, since the government had to respect its constitutional obligations. In 2006, the Canadian delegation came to see the aboriginal representatives at the United Nations—I was one of them—to tell them that the government's approach had changed and that it wanted to obstruct the United Nations in its multilateral negotiations.

That is one reason why this is taking longer now.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, obviously this makes sense. Today is practically a day of celebration, since we are all going to vote the same way.

We want to protect ourselves against a possible nuclear terrorist attack, but has my colleague seen anything in the Conservatives' many pieces of legislation that would reduce the number of potential targets in Canada by giving scientists the means to come up with good solutions for the disposal of all the nuclear waste we have been stockpiling for years?

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his excellent question. The short answer is no.

He also raised one aspect of this debate that we often seem to forget, because nuclear and other kinds of waste are a concern for our country. They are often found in isolated areas, like in my riding and in many northern ridings.

The Conservatives seem to be saying that the Prime Minister travels to the Arctic every year because that region matters to him, when, really, he shows up for a photo-op. There is absolutely nothing concrete on the ground for the environment or the people who live in the far north.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my esteemed colleague, whose work I admire tremendously.

Since September 11, 2001, the United States, Canada and other countries have joined forces to try to improve security protocols. Furthermore, two countries, the United States and Canada, have not yet ratified the conventions, because they have not passed the kind of legislation were are about to pass.

My question is similar to that of my hon. colleague from Brome—Missisquoi on the delay, but it is a little strange that it is those who were on the front lines in North America who are dragging their feet on signing the treaties in question.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Gatineau for the question.

I am not surprised, and for several reasons. As a keen observer of what is going on internationally and especially regarding international co-operation, I am noticing more and more that we seem to have lost the role and the influence that we once had.

Barack Obama said something interesting regarding this debate, but it also applies to other contexts. He said that we cannot invite others down a path that we are not willing to follow ourselves. That is problem here, in terms of our role on the international scene.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2013 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP 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 ActGovernment Orders

March 28th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I missed my colleague's speech because of the House schedule.

I would still like to ask him a question, which I believe gets to the heart of what we are trying to do with this bill.

While this issue is a challenge for our country, it still involves international treaties and commitments we have made regarding those treaties.

I would ask him to speak about how we hope that this bill is a signal that Canada will begin to do more to honour its international commitments.

I would also like him to demonstrate how our international reputation is waning and how the NDP's vision is quite different.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 28th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I will start with an international perspective and a familiar example. If Canada extracts uranium from the soil and exports it, Canada must bring the radioactive and nuclear waste back in the end. This is a real problem, especially if we take into account the lax approach and other problems we are seeing right now, as I mentioned in my speech.

Currently, it is almost impossible for humans to contain this waste. This is a really hot topic in Quebec right now that senior officials in Quebec are discussing, perhaps at this very moment.

It remains a highly controversial industry, and governments must make significant efforts in this respect. We are left with some real questions here.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 28th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am interested in my hon. colleague's comments about the appropriateness of government bills coming through the Senate. Of course we are happy that the government is addressing this, but we are a little concerned that it came through Senate. I know it is an issue of interest and concern to our party, the official opposition, and I am very interested in the member's comments on that.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 28th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

My position on the Senate is shared by a number of my colleagues. We know that an almost air-tight seal surrounds all the discussions there. We also know that partisan behaviour is behind all of it. I am not saying that I have studied all these ideas specifically, but I know quite well that these individuals are not elected and are, in fact, appointed. This is about political capital and these are, first and foremost, partisan positions.

I am highly dubious of the relevance in 2013 of submitting such bills that could have a major impact to a House—in this case, the Senate—made up of people who, at the end of the day, benefited from favouritism.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 28th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

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

With respect to international affairs, it is well known that the New Democrats are in favour of multilateral diplomacy rather than the very limited, and even simplistic, bilateral negotiations the government prefers. I spoke about this at the Standing Committee on International Trade.

After adopting this bill, we will still have to move forward and ratify the agreement that brought about this bill, and also implement measures to address it.

Does my colleague believe that the government will take appropriate measures after adopting Bill S-9?

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 28th, 2013 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

Here are my thoughts. I am aware of and have seen the pernicious effects of lobbies and how they presently have the ear of this Conservative government. I would say that there are very powerful lobbies behind the nuclear movement. I would also say that there is a very strong likelihood that the hands of some people are definitely tied because there is great interest in growing the economy at any cost. This growth is always based on the exploitation of natural resources as the sole agent and driver of Canada's economy.

Once this bill is adopted, there will be waffling: people will pussyfoot around, take a step back and then take a step forward. I guarantee that over the next few years, there will be backpedalling and pussyfooting around because of the undue influence of a number of lobbies and special interest groups in Canada.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 28th, 2013 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is one of the bills put forward by the government through the Senate, unfortunately, that deals with the Criminal Code of Canada, and the current government has touted itself on being tough on crime or making changes to the Criminal Code. However, when we review the history, it is not a very progressive agenda.

In fact, there are numerous actions that the Conservatives have taken over the past little while that would speak to the fact that they are not actually trying to prevent crime in this country. In particular, I am referring to the recent reductions in funding to the RCMP and, in particular, reductions in funding to the native reserves for their policing.

Can you comment on whether this is as important as that to the people of Canada?