Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today in support of Bill C-25.
Support for Bill C-25 has been expressed in terms of different ministerial mandates. In lending support for the bill, I will primarily focus on how it promotes the foreign policy interests of the Government of Canada. I will conclude with some thoughts on why this bill is good for Canadians, good for Canada and good for our international relations.
Before I do that, let me explain how it came to pass that the Minister of Foreign Affairs became the administrator of this bill. This will link the benefits of Canada's foreign policy with the reasoning behind certain provisions of the bill.
Outer space is a domain that borders every nation. Look up from anywhere on earth and outer space is only 200 kilometres or so above our heads. That is approximately the distance between Ottawa and Montreal. Activities that occur in outer space, for good or ill, affect all nations.
It was not long after Sputnik was launched in 1957 that the international community turned its attention to outer space. United Nations resolutions soon began to express the determination that outer space would be used only for peaceful purposes. Certainly military uses of space are consistent with these principles, but not all of them.
Eventually this diplomatic activity culminated in the adoption of the 1967 outer space treaty. The outer space treaty enshrined the international responsibility of states for the activities of their nationals in outer space. States also agreed to ban weapons of mass destruction from this sphere. Canada was an original signatory to that treaty, the Magna Carta for outer space, based on the conviction that winning battles through law was superior to winning by force.
This is the approach taken in the remote sensing space systems act before us today. Reflecting its international obligations, Canada would license remote sensing space systems controlled from within Canada. We would also license the activities of Canadians and corporations in the field, no matter where they chose to establish operations.
This last requirement to cover the activity of Canadians abroad is not unusual in outer space matters, since remote sensing satellites can be operated from any place in the world. The Outer Space Act 1986 of the United Kingdom and the Land Remote Sensing Policy Act of 1992 of the United States impose licensing requirements on U.K. and U.S. citizens respectively, even when they may conduct operations from sites in other legal jurisdictions.
These requirements may, however, result in a multiplicity of states asserting jurisdiction over the same activities by the same person. To resolve such competing claims of jurisdiction requires the coordination of the foreign ministries of space-faring nations and may ultimately result in the need for formal arrangements among them. This is the responsibility of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The proposed remote sensing space systems act that is before us today asserts a broad jurisdiction. It also, however, grants the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to resolve competing claims of jurisdiction by a ministerial order of exemption.
Under the act, the Minister of Foreign Affairs could exempt persons, systems or data if he or she was satisfied with such a step. The exemption must not be injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada's conduct of international relations. It must not be inconsistent with Canada's international obligations. As well, adequate provision must be made for the protection of the environment, public health, and the safety of persons and property as well as the interests of provinces.
To ensure that Canada maintains jurisdiction over any remote sensing satellite that it has licensed, the proposed act requires that the licensee maintain direct control of the satellite from within Canada. This ensures that the government has the ability to guarantee compliance with the provisions of the licence by keeping satellite command operations within its territorial jurisdiction.
At the same time, a licence would be required for all remote sensing satellites controlled from Canada, regardless of domestic or foreign ownership, and a licensee or former licensee may not transfer control of the licensed satellite without the approval of the minister. This provision ensures that sensitive technology embodied in a remote sensing satellite, once in orbit, cannot be transferred to a foreign person at odds with Canada's security, defence and foreign policy interests. In that regard, the act before this House would be comparable to Canada's Export and Import Permits Act.
By this approach, the bill reflects a favourable attitude toward foreign investment in Canada's high technology industry as long as our security interests are protected. That in turn means jobs for Canadians and opportunities for our own businesses.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs is well positioned to help Canadians compete, prosper and make a success of the most international of all activities: outer space. The minister's mandate combines an international security responsibility on the one hand and the responsibility to promote the national prosperity of Canadians on the other.
During the debate on Bill C-25, we heard about the defence interests in regulating remote sensing space systems in Canada. We were also informed about the socio-economic benefits of regulation of the Canadian remote sensing space industry.
Let me assure my colleagues that under the proposed act it would be an important part of the Minister of Foreign Affairs' job to weigh the risks and the benefits of granting a licence, and under what conditions, with the goal of striking a right balance: to encourage Canada's technological development and economic prosperity while at the same time safeguarding our security through smart regulations.
Certain states have implemented similar legislation to regulate remote sensing systems. We propose to join the vanguard of that cause. Other nations will also be following us. With foresight, we lead others to a world view that supports the peaceful use of outer space and all its aspects, a world view that establishes the rule of law and justice on the new high frontier, a world view that permits all nations to enjoy equitably the benefits of the peaceful use of outer space, benefits for international peace and security and benefits for economic development and prosperity.
The bill is also important in terms of our relationship with the United States. Canada's decision to control its own remote sensing satellites, announced in June of 1999, enabled Canada and the U.S. to come to a common understanding concerning the operation of commercial remote sensing satellites, an understanding codified in a treaty signed in June 2000. This treaty aims to ensure that commercial remote sensing satellite systems will be controlled in each country so as to protect shared national security and foreign policy interests, while simultaneously promoting the commercial benefits to be derived from these systems.
Today we can conclude a process to honour the commitments made under that very treaty. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill at the earliest opportunity so that Canada's deeds are shown to be as good as its words.
Before closing, I want to touch on one or two additional aspects of the bill that relate directly to the Minister of Foreign Affairs' mandate. Let me begin with the minister's powers to interrupt normal commercial service.
No one wants to cause their friends and allies harm by act or omission, hence the provision in the act granting the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to interrupt normal service, to invoke “shutter control” on a Canadian satellite to assist another state. Shutter control is a power designed for use primarily to protect our own national interests under the most serious of circumstances, but it is also an important element in protecting both valuable alliances and shared interests.
The case is similar with respect to granting the Minister of Foreign Affairs the power to order priority access service in the interests of conducting Canada's international relations. In this regard, we can, for example, foresee the need to assist another state or the United Nations urgently in dealing with a humanitarian emergency. By way of example, it is worth remembering the benefits of Canadian RADARSAT-1 technology in supporting Canada's foreign policy interests during the Rwandan crisis and in responding to the recent tsunami tragedy in South Asia.
Let me conclude by reiterating the core rationale for the bill. The House should adopt the remote sensing space systems act because it is better to provide a smart regulatory framework for these remote sensing satellite systems than to risk injury to Canada's national security, national defence or foreign policy.
We should pass this bill to fulfill Canada's international obligations to regulate the outer space activities of its nationals.
We should pass this bill to ensure that Canadian companies can lead in the provision of remote sensing space technology and services through the establishment of a clear regulatory framework that can attract investment, technology and markets.