Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be able to speak about Bill S-9, the Nuclear Terrorism Act, which amends the Criminal Code. I would like to point out that this bill comes from the Senate.
The bill was introduced with a view to implementing the requirements of two international treaties signed by Canada, but not yet ratified. For a treaty to be ratified, the laws that apply to it must have come into force.
The purpose of these two international treaties is to combat nuclear terrorism. They are the amended 2005 version of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, or the CPPNM, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, or ICSANT. Canada signed both of these treaties in 2005.
In Canada, there are several steps involved in signing an international treaty. To begin with, there are negotiations and the signing. Then comes ratification, which is the implementation stage, after which the treaty comes into force. For both treaties, we are still only at the signing stage.
Signing an international treaty is only the first step in the process. Signing means that a country is in principle in agreement with the terms of the treaty and that it intends to comply with them. After signing the treaty, Canada must avoid actions that are contrary to the purpose and intent of the treaty, but it is not officially bound by the treaty until it has been ratified. There is still a long way to go before these treaties come into force in Canada.
To be able to ratify these two treaties, Canada needs to amend some of its statutes. In practice, this means that we need to introduce legislation to criminalize the offences described in both treaties. That, moreover, is the purpose of this bill: to make the required amendments to the Criminal Code in order to be able to ratify the two treaties and move one step closer to having them come into force.
It is therefore important at the outset to ask what these two treaties would like to introduce.
The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, which was ratified by Canada in 1980, was at the time intended to develop measures designed to prevent, detect and punish crimes related to nuclear material. However, the field of application of the CPPMN was limited to “nuclear material used for peaceful purposes while in international nuclear transport”. In 2005, amendments were made to cover nuclear material used for peaceful purposes while in domestic use, storage and transport as well as domestic nuclear facilities. The amendments also introduced changes to foster co-operation between states with respect to the development of measures to recover stolen or smuggled nuclear material, mitigation of the radiological impacts of sabotage and measures to fight crime related to nuclear material.
This amendment clearly affirms that the objective of the convention is to prevent and combat offences involving nuclear material and facilities throughout the world and to facilitate co-operation between states. Canada ratified the 1980 version, but has not yet done so for the 2005 version, which introduced the amendments I have just mentioned.
The purpose of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism was to provide for new criminal offences for acts of nuclear terrorism and to impose the obligation to “extradite or prosecute” in the event of acts of nuclear terrorism.
The bill that was introduced creates various clauses to implement the provisions contained in these two conventions. It is important to take a few moments to understand why I support this bill as a member of the NDP and why the NDP in general has chosen to support it.
We all agree that nuclear terrorism is a major threat to international security. It is one of the most significant threats in the world because the consequences—as we have already seen, unfortunately—can be devastating. Currently, we know that it does not take much to cause significant damage. People here in Canada and around the world are quite concerned about nuclear terrorism and are very concerned when they hear there is a possibility that some countries have nuclear programs. This is something that is very important to people not only on a national level—to Canadians—but also on an international level.
I also want to note that we are committed to diplomacy and international co-operation. Ratifying treaties to ensure the co-operation of countries when it comes to terrorism and nuclear terrorism seems like common sense to me. When it comes to such worrisome situations as this for security, we cannot bury our heads in the sand. We have no choice but to co-operate with every democratic body in order to obtain results and ensure the security of every citizen not only of our country, but of all countries.
There is one reason, among others, that I want to support this bill. In the NDP, we are proud of our international reputation, even though it has been tarnished a bit by the Conservative government many times over the past few years. Taking one step closer to ratifying these treaties shows that we have not forgotten our international commitments and would allow us to get back on the right track with regard to the image Canada wants to project on the world stage.
As several witnesses testified during consideration of the bill in the Senate, one of the main ways to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on radioactive material is to beef up nuclear security and, whenever possible, to limit military applications of radioactive materials. It is simple logic. By limiting the use of nuclear materials as much as possible, such materials will become more scarce and terrorists will have a much harder time stealing them and using them to harm our society. It is a first step. The military is increasingly moving away from nuclear weapons. This should spare us quite a few problems in the future.
I would like to highlight something that Matthew Bunn, Associate Professor of Public Policy at Harvard, told the Senate committee:
At scores of sites around the world, dramatically improved nuclear security has been put in place, and, at scores of other sites, the weapons-usable nuclear material has been removed entirely, reducing the threat of nuclear theft at those sites to zero. More than 20 countries have eliminated all of the weapons-usable nuclear material on their soil. These successes represent, in a real sense, bombs that will never go off.
The five last words of that quote are worth repeating: “...bombs that will never go off.” This goes to show that if we can limit or eliminate the use of such material, there will be fewer bombs hanging over our heads, and more bombs that will never go off.
To that end, Canada must take concrete steps to support nuclear safety throughout the world, and I think that this bill is a step in the right direction. Although it applies to Canada's laws, it is based on a worldwide effort.
Canada is only one of the countries that signed these treaties, and since this is an international effort to reach a common goal, it is important to ensure that every country does its part to reduce the risk to our fellow Canadians. This bill involves international co-operation among various entities.
In the past, Canada was known on the world stage as a country that values co-operation. We must continue to do our fair share and follow through on our international commitments. If Canada wants to once again play a leading role in diplomacy and international co-operation and if it wants to convince other countries to adopt a responsible approach to reducing the risk of terrorism and the theft of nuclear material and weapons, then we have to set an example and take responsible measures immediately.
Canada's ratification of these treaties will also encourage other countries to take measures to ratify the treaties and thereby help us to take one more step in improving global security.
I would like to digress for a moment. Although I am emphasizing the importance of adopting these measures, the fact remains that nuclear safety is a fairly complex issue. Everyone agrees on that. However, the desire to ratify and implement measures fairly quickly does not mean that we should avoid doing the work in committee. What is important here is taking the time to carefully examine the issues so that we only have to do the work once and so that we do not have to make changes later. Although there is a somewhat urgent need to act, we must take the time to do things right because the safety of our fellow Canadians is at stake. I would like to point out that the Conservatives have been in power for a long time and that they could have introduced this type of bill a long time ago.
As soon as it is ratified by Canada, the treaty will become the legal basis for Canada's collaboration with the other parties to the treaty in areas such as criminal investigations, mutual legal assistance and extradition. This will quite clearly strengthen international co-operation and contribute to the fight against the nuclear threat.
The bill must be seen as a way to give effect to the treaty provisions on an international scale. To that end, however, the committee will have to undertake an in-depth study of the bill and review its technical aspects.
The bill seeks to enact provisions related to those found in the two international treaties. The committee will have the opportunity to go through every clause to make sure the bill achieves its goal, which is to ratify these two treaties signed in 2005.
As I mentioned earlier, we have to understand that several aspects of the issue of nuclear security are highly technical. The committee will need to take the time to study the issue in depth to make sure the bill includes all the necessary provisions and that it goes far enough without going too far. We have to act in a non-partisan fashion to protect the security of our fellow Canadians as well as international security.
Considering the number of Canadian travellers who like to gallivant around the world, even if a nuclear bomb were used by terrorists outside of our borders, this could have a serious impact on Canadians abroad. It is therefore important to create a bill that we can be proud of and can serve as an example to other countries that have not yet ratified the two separate conventions, in terms of what they can do to move forward on nuclear safety.
Quite apart from the technical details of the bill that will be thoroughly examined in committee, I would remind the House that it is extremely important to go ahead with the ratification of these treaties in order to support efforts to ensure global nuclear safety.
Between 2010 and 2012, Canada and several other nations taking part in the nuclear summit agreed to ratify these two conventions. Furthermore, at the 2012 summit in Seoul, participating states agreed to enforce the CPPNM amendments made in 2005 in time for the 2014 summit.
However, for that to happen, two-thirds of the 145 participating states must ratify the treaty. So far, only 56 have done so, when at least 97 ratifications are needed. If Canada were to ratify the treaty, this would be another positive step towards international implementation of this amendment to the convention.
This represents another step forward for the entire population towards enhanced nuclear safety in our country, as well as around the globe.