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.