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 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, that question deserves a response, both as to the nature of the threat and what could be done about it.

Number one, in my view the situation with regard to international terrorism has frankly gotten worse. I think part of the problem is that sometimes we have been so focused on the issue of al-Qaeda terrorism that we then repeat the mantra “al-Qaeda is not what it was”, as if that was where all the terrorism resided.

We have seen, taking one case study, the phenomenon of Hezbollah. Here, too, the government has taken the lead in trying to get the European Union and the European community to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, as we did here in Canada, in 2002.

I mention Hezbollah, because very recently, testimony, in a trial in Cypress and in the apprehension of a prospective terrorist attack in Nigeria, indicated the footprints of Hezbollah, as we have seen them in terrorist attacks from Azerbaijan to India to Bulgaria, which even implicated a Canadian.

In a word, international terrorism is from Central Asia to Central America. We need to implement the existing framework for anti-terrorism law in that regard as well as undertake other responsibilities.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I also want to compliment the member for Mount Royal on his excellent speech and intervention, and for his long career of work in international law and human rights.

I would like to ask him, and I will not get into the specifics of what he is proposing in other areas outside this treaty, whether he would care to comment on what appears to be the dilatory nature of states that are party to these two conventions in actually taking action.

We know the Americans, for example, have yet to ratify this, although they are signatories and support the objectives. Here we are in Canada, having signed one of these treaties in 1980, and we are only now getting around to ratifying it. We were signatories to this 2005 agreement, but it is seven years later and we are only now taking the steps to ratify this.

Would the member like to comment on the government talking about it being urgent but then waiting seven years to bring it forward?

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was the minister of justice at the time that we signed the international convention in 2005. It was my hope at that point that we would move to implement that undertaking with the ratification and the appropriate domestic implementing legislation. Regrettably, as the member has said, it has taken us all this time to get to that.

Part of the problem, if I may say, is the government's preoccupation with the justice agenda. I am not saying we do not need a domestic criminal justice agenda. I am saying that a justice agenda has to be more than a crime and punishment agenda on the domestic side, which I have spoken to elsewhere. It also has to have an international justice dimension. We have not seen an international justice dimension from the current government.

In an exchange that took place between the Minister of Justice and my colleague from St. Paul's, when she asked why it took eight years until we moved to ratify, his response was that we had been filibustering on the domestic justice agenda. Even if that were true, which I suggest it is not, what relationship does that have to our responsibility on the international justice agenda, whether that be with regard to the combatting of nuclear proliferation, combatting international terrorism, or whether it be with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights?

In other words, we need to have a conception of justice that is not only domestic, and when it is domestic, that is not just limited to the criminal law area but also has an international justice agenda.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we recognize the importance of the issue of nuclear terrorism and the potential threat. It is a concern that many people around the world share. The United Nations plays a very critical role in terms of that worldwide leadership.

My colleague made reference to when he was the minister of justice and these two agreements that were signed in good faith. If we reflect on the legislation we have today, my understanding is that the legislation in essence would incorporate the things that were decided back in 2005. It seems that in principle the legislation does have the support of all members of the House of Commons. Could the member provide comment on that and why in his most recent question he was referring to the delay?

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned the exchange that took place and the response by the minister to my colleague from St. Paul's. I do not want to go over it, but I want to make another point.

I believe that the consensus to adopt this domestic implementing legislation in Bill S-9 and the like was there back in 2005. I recommend to the government that rather than accusing us of filibustering on the domestic agenda, to reach out more and engage with the opposition and invite opposition critics to consult. If the minister had done that, he perhaps would have been able to determine, back in 2006, that the consensus was there to adopt the domestic implementing legislation for this convention. We need a little more engagement in this House from across the aisle on both the domestic justice agenda and the international justice agenda. I invite the government to engage with its opposition critics in this regard, so we can move forward where the consensus already did exist and not have to wait eight years.

When they do not take the leadership for eight years on something like this, then it undercuts the ability to take leadership on other issues internationally. We have to have an international perspective, where we move forward as effectively and as quickly as we can, and in a holistic approach, to recognize, again, that issues of nuclear proliferation, international terrorism, international rights violations and incitement are all inextricably bound, one with the other. We need a comprehensive strategic approach with respect to addressing and redressing each and all of these violations.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill S-9, now before the House. It is called an act to amend the Criminal Code, but it is very directly related to the short title, which is nuclear terrorism act. It is an important piece of legislation on which my colleague, and dare I say friend, from Mount Royal, has said there is a consensus and probably has been a consensus for six or seven years in this country.

Therefore, it is quite a surprise that it has not been brought forward. As he pointed out, there are many instances where there can be a consensus on matters that could come before the House and be dealt with expeditiously, and some are, but there ought to be more of that. If we are going to be combative about certain things, I think that is the nature of politics. However, where there is a consensus, there can be a great deal more co-operation.

An ironic example of that was last year when the justice bill, Bill C-10, was before the House. It went to committee. The member for Mount Royal moved six or seven amendments at committee. They were defeated at committee. The government had to bring them into the House, but they were ruled out of order because they could have been done at committee. The Conservatives had to use the other place to deal with the passage of those amendments. It was quite embarrassing, I should think, that they showed their nature in terms of dealing with legislation and dealing with the opposition. However, that is one example of many.

Mr. Speaker, I was supposed to say at the beginning of my speech that I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Beaches—East York.

The substance of the bill is something that we support. The bill has a number of objectives. It amends the Criminal Code in adding four new offences.The bill was introduced in the Senate a year ago. It could have been brought here earlier than this, but, once again, that is a sign of not moving as quickly as one would have thought on something as important as this.

The bill adds four new offences to the Criminal Code, having to do with possession, use or disposing of nuclear radioactive material with the intention to cause death, serious bodily harm or substantial damage to property or the environment. That is an act against a nuclear facility or any of its operations. One has to do with using or altering a radioactive material or a nuclear or radioactive device with the intent to compel a person or government organization to do or refrain from doing any act being guilty of an indictable offence. That is a classic example of terrorism. Then, there's committing an indictable offence under a federal law for the purpose of obtaining nuclear radioactive material or a radioactive device or to control a facility, or to threaten to commit any of those other three offences.

These are significant crimes and would be given significant penalties in the Criminal Code as a result of the bill. It would be life imprisonment for the first three, as a maximum penalty, and 14 years as a maximum penalty for the threat to do any of these three things.

It is an important part of following through on two conventions that were agreed upon internationally: the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. Both of these conventions were an important part of a regime to attempt to control nuclear materials throughout the world.

As we were debating the bill this morning, I recalled growing up in an era where there was a real threat of nuclear war and nuclear annihilation. I grew up in the fifties and sixties, and in 1962 we all know there was a Cuban missile crisis.

I distinctly remember hearing air raid sirens being tested occasionally to remind us what they sounded like, and we had instructions. Some people were building fallout shelters in their back gardens in the event of a nuclear war. That was the reality. In schools, children were being told that if they heard the air raid sirens, they should get under their desks or under the stairs in their homes, and so forth. That was the way we thought about the world when we were children.

Happily, that is not something that children think about today, or have to think about, because the world is not in a state in which that is a likelihood or even a remote possibility at this point.

However, we do see proliferation. States such as Pakistan and India, with certain historic difficulties and disagreements that have not been resolved, are becoming nuclear powers. North Korea is attempting to engage in the development of nuclear weapons, as is Iran, as the member from Mount Royal has pointed out. Therefore, there are significant threats.

It is important to note that among the signatories to this convention are some important players, including the United States of America, China, India, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Obviously we would like to see more. However, it is a framework that can be used to control international terrorism or attempts to use these materials for nefarious purposes.

More can and should be done. The area of prevention is extremely important. Canada and the countries who are signatories can play a role in assisting countries to ensure the protection of nuclear materials, because there are countries that do not necessarily have the technical ability to control those activities within their own borders.

Importantly, the 2005 amendments to the treaties made to deal with interstate transport and usage of these materials extended the scope to also cover domestic use, storage and transport and nuclear facilities used for peaceful purposes.

Historically, Canada ratified one of these conventions in 1980. Canada only signed the agreement, which does not make us a party until it has actually been ratified. This step is one of ratification of both these treaties.

What is also interesting as well is that this piece of legislation is called Bill S-9 for a reason. It was started in what we are required to call “the other place”. I think we are allowed to say “senators” and we are allowed to talk about people by name over there, but what are we doing? Are we now the chamber of sober second thought? Have we reversed the constitutional roles? Do we have legislation coming out of the Senate? Is that where we start?

The Senate has looked at this legislation and has fixed it by adding one of the measures that was in the convention but not in the bill. I am sure it could have been fixed here easily before it was sent over there, but the government wants to legitimize the other place somehow, and even though senators are unelected, unaccountable and unapologetic, as we have found out in the last long while, the government seems to rely on the Senate as some sort of an institution where it can start legislation and have it come over here. Are we here to ratify what the Senate has done? Is that the expectation?

I think we support the bill, but it should have been brought here five or six years ago, when the government came into power.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I was happy to hear in my colleague's speech that the NDP is supportive of the bill. However, I will have to disagree with him on one comment he made, that being that Canadians do not worry about nuclear terrorism in the way they used to.

I grew up at the same time he did. I want to read an email I received this morning from one of my constituents, named Chris, who stated:

The elite in North Korea are going nuts over the new sanctions at the UN. They involve yachts (yachts?), luxury cars, racing cars, and jewellery. They also can't use international banking. So, they are cancelling the 1953 ceasefire and have now threatened a nuclear first strike against the U.S.

Along with my constituent, I would argue that Canadians are concerned about this issue. My constituents are very aware of what is happening in the world.

I was wondering if the member could explain to the House whether the NDP feels that nuclear terrorism is a real threat. Also, although the New Democrats are supporting the bill, do they have any suggestions to strengthen the bill further?

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I was sorry to hear my colleague across the way mischaracterize my statements about growing up with the threat of worldwide thermonuclear war between states armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons and with red phones sitting on the desks of the President of the United States and the president of Russia during the Cold War. That is what I was talking about.

I did not say that people were not concerned about nuclear terrorism, obviously. I specifically mentioned North Korea, Iran and others. On the threats that people make like that, threats and capabilities are two different things, and we are certainly concerned about that. It is why we are passing legislation like this. It is why we are urging countries like Canada, as well as the United Nations, to impose and increase sanctions to try to find a solution to the acts of states such as North Korea and Iran and to come to a better way of dealing with them. All efforts should be made to try to deal with that. I reject the member's characterization of what I said. Of course people are concerned about nuclear terrorism.

However, I wonder why we waited until now to try to ratify this convention and bring into our domestic law the important aspects that we have here. That is what I am wondering about.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, as in trade, human rights and environmental norms, New Democrats support multilateralism and international co-operation. We support this kind of negotiation especially on such things as nuclear safety and safety from nuclear terrorism. Canada has agreed to be legally bound by these conventions, and it requires domestic implementation before we ratify the convention.

On the record of the government in terms of engaging in international multilateralism and international co-operation, we think of climate change accords and different things on the international stage. How can we have confidence that the current government would look after nuclear terrorism when it has abrogated its duty to stand up for Canada on the international stage so many times when it comes to human rights and environmental norms?

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately we have a situation in which Canada has not measured up to the reputation we had in the past for co-operation with other nations, so much so that Canada, unthinkably, lost the opportunity to have a seat on the Security Council of the United Nations.

It was a tradition that Canada would be able to win that seat every 10 years. However, despite vigorous campaigning at the last minute, it was clearly a negative thing. We would certainly want to see more emphasis on that, and this failure is something that we will wear for quite a while.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand up and speak a second time to Bill S-9. I would like to pick up where my colleague from St. John's East left off in talking about where the bill comes from. It emanates from the Senate, with the nomenclature “S”.

For seven years, the same Prime Minister has been promising Senate reform. He claims to have an issue with the fact that the chamber is unelected and unaccountable, all the while dragging his feet and ragging the puck on this for seven years. In that time, he has led 58 of his friends to comfortable seats in the Senate at extraordinary expense to the taxpayers of our country.

That is the same old conduct that has been practised in this place by both Liberal and Conservative governments since Confederation. It is cynical politics, and it is breeding a deep concern about our political system in those who can still bear to cast a gaze upon this place and the spectacle that it has become.

It is a particularly sad day today, waking up to the realization that just last night the entrenched interests in this place and in the Senate—those interested in retaining the status quo, the Conservatives and the Liberals—did not just let an opportunity for change slip by, but actually stood on their feet to defeat that opportunity, a motion from my NDP colleague from Toronto—Danforth to usher in real change, to begin a discussion about expunging from our political system unelected, unaccountable power in the hope of bringing a deeper democracy to Canada, one befitting a modern, hopeful country. Instead, we have the party of so-called reform allowing an important bill like Bill S-9 to emanate from that unaccountable chamber.

Suffice it to say that I am disappointed that this important legislation honouring Canada's commitment to co-operate with the rest of the international community in protecting nuclear material and combating nuclear terrorism should have come from the Senate chamber instead of our own.

Bill S-9, also known as the nuclear terrorism act, when implemented, would amend the Criminal Code to comply with Canada's international obligations with respect to two treaties: the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

My NDP colleagues and I support the bill, in the spirit of forging ahead with Canada's fulfillment of these international obligations and commitments.

The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, or CPPNM, dates back to 1980 and is deposited with the International Atomic Energy Agency. To quote the IAEA:

The Convention is the only international legally binding undertaking in the area of physical protection of nuclear material. It establishes measures related to the prevention, detection and punishment of offenses relating to nuclear material.

Canada is a signatory and had ratified the convention by the time it entered into force in 1987. The CPPNM was amended in 2005 to strengthen the provisions of the convention. The 2005 version seeks to extend protection measures to nuclear facilities in addition to protecting against the proliferation of nuclear materials. As well, it reinforces Canada's obligation under UN Security Council resolution 1540, passed in 2004, to enforce measures seeking to prevent the proliferation of such materials.

It is the strengthened requirements of this amendment that Bill S-9 seeks to fulfill in clearing the way for Canada's ratification of the strengthened agreement.

The second treaty addressed within the provisions of Bill S-9 is the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, or ICSANT. This agreement falls under the auspices of the United Nations and dates back to 2005 as well. This convention deals more specifically with the issue of nuclear terrorism; it calls on its signatories to establish criminal offences within their national laws for acts of nuclear terrorism and also introduces mandatory prosecution or extradition of offenders.

Bill S-9 would amend the Criminal Code to include four new offences that related to nuclear terrorism and thus fulfill Canada's obligation under the above mentioned conventions.

These new offences would make it illegal to: possess, use or dispose of nuclear or radioactive material or a nuclear or radioactive device, 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; use or alter nuclear 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, to commit an indictable offence under federal law for the purpose of obtaining nuclear radioactive material, a nuclear radioactive device, or access or control of a nuclear facility; and, finally, to threaten or commit to do any of the above.

In addition to those four offences outlined above, the bill would amend the Criminal Code to allow for the prosecution in Canada of individuals who committed or attempted to commit these offences outside of Canada.

The bill would also amend the double jeopardy rule so that the person could be tried within Canada for an offence that he or she had previously been convicted of by a foreign court in the event that the foreign trial did not meet certain basic Canadian legal standards. The bill would also make amendments to wiretap provisions and would make the new offences primarily designated offences for the purpose of DNA warrants and collection orders.

Both the convention on the physical protection of nuclear material and the second convention outline in plain language the urgency of action. The CPPNM states:

—offences relating to nuclear material and nuclear facilities are a matter of grave concern and that there is an urgent need to adopt appropriate and effective measures, or to strengthen existing measures, to ensure the prevention, detection and punishment of such offences.

The ICSANT speaks of:

—the urgent need to enhance international cooperation between States in devising and adopting effective and practical measures for the prevention of such acts of terrorism and for the prosecution and punishment of their perpetrators.

This sense of urgency was underscored in 2010 and again in 2012 during the nuclear security summits. The first summit proposed by President Obama in 2009 and held the following year in Washington was known as the global nuclear security summit and called together world leaders from 47 countries for talks regarding the advancement of nuclear security and the responsibility of nations to maintain and enhance this security.

In March 2012 the second summit was held in Seoul, where participants renewed the commitments made in 2010 and again underscored the urgency of the issue. To quote the Seoul communiqué:

We stress the fundamental responsibility of States, consistent with their respective national and international obligations, to maintain effective security of all nuclear material, which includes nuclear materials used in nuclear weapons, and nuclear facilities under their control, and to prevent non-state actors from acquiring such materials and from obtaining information or technology required to use them for malicious purposes.

Bill S-9 would bring us closer to the ratification of those two conventions and thus to the fulfilment of Canada's international obligations with regard to nuclear security. Given the importance of the legislation and the urgency of putting in place an international regime to counter nuclear terrorism, one wonders why the legislation has been seven years in the making. International agreements aiming to prevent nuclear terrorism are not something we should take lightly and our ratification has been delayed for far too long.

The bill has the support of both sides of the House and the lack of legislation thus far speaks more to the apathy on the government side rather than any threat of political interference or controversy.

Canada has long been a leader in the field of international co-operation, although that reputation has been tainted under the Conservative government. We should maintain that reputation. For that reason, we support Bill S-9.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, the nuclear power plant in Pickering is not far from the member's riding nor mine. We can see it from the lake front in my riding. It is an issue of concern that something could potentially happen down the road. I am happy we are finally moving forward with the bill.

As the member said, the legislation has been many years in the making. I wonder if he has a hypothesis or maybe he might know why it has taken so long for the government to bring this forward. Perhaps he could also elaborate on why it came from the other place, that place of unelected, unaccountable, unapologetic and under investigation senators rather than from the elected members in the House. Perhaps he could comment on that.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from my neighbouring riding and enjoy working cheek by jowl in the east end of Toronto with him.

On the latter question about why the Senate, I am confounded. The government claims to be concerned about the power of unelected and unaccountable officials and, yet, allows such an important bill to come forward from that chamber.

On the issue of Pickering, it has been a great advance in the legislation and the international conventions to include nuclear facilities. I spent a number of years working in the electricity industry in Ontario, representing nuclear workers. One thing one always needs to be careful of in matters of health, safety and public security is the normalization of risks.

While that is a tendency in workplaces and in the public, it is something that we in the House cannot allow to happen to us, especially with respect to issues of nuclear safety and security. I can only guess it is the issue of a normalization of risks that is the cause for the government taking so very long to bring forward this legislation. Public security, especially with respect to nuclear matters, should be a no-fail mission for any Government of Canada.

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jean-François Larose NDP Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is simple. I believe that all Canadians are seeing more and more that the international picture is becoming darker and bleaker. Nuclear proliferation is a growing problem. All the associations that exist among the various governments around the world seem to be saying that there is an increasing amount of negligence in putting meaningful measures in place.

Why did the government, which seems to be so proud of being in touch with all these people around the world, take so long to put such a measure in place? Why is it coming from the Senate and not the government? Why is the government now open to something that has always been obvious and needed to be regulated?

Nuclear Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

March 7th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have suggested it is the issue of normalization of risks that is, perhaps, responsible for the delay by the government in bringing forward the legislation. It is extremely disconcerting and concerning that such a delay exists, when one looks around the world at the fragility of states, the number of states that are precariously potentially failed states, the number of organizations, non-state actors, that advocate terrorist activities to see their objectives through.

In that context, for the government to delay bringing forward this important legislation is a matter of serious concern. I think that is why members hear me express those concerns in my speech. As well, many of my NDP colleagues are expressing that concern very unequivocally in the debate on the bill.