Mr. Speaker, I feel fortunate because it is now my turn. I am tempted to pick up where the previous speakers left, namely the members for Toronto—Danforth and for Lac-Saint-Louis. The latter told the former that he should resort to political rants. I almost feel like doing just that because I see a problem. It is not the first time, because several justice bills are brought forward. You are aware of that because at one point you were our justice critic. Now, we are faced with the same scenario. A parliamentary secretary introduces a bill and then we hear nothing more from the government side.
We lack information regarding bills. Indeed, the bill is all we have. Again, all hon. members should read it, because it is fascinating. For some, this may be a relaxing exercise that will help them get to sleep, given how dry the document is. This legislation is not easy reading stuff. It is not what the member for Lac-Saint-Louis called a bill that is introduced following a big news story. It is not always easy to understand.
If these stages are followed in the House—and you know that Mr. Speaker, because you have been here a long time, probably longer than many of us—it is because they are all important. There is the first reading stage, when the minister introduces his bill. That is usually done quickly. This is followed by the second reading, which begins with a speech in which the government must explain its intentions. We ask some questions, but we do not always get answers. Then it is over, because there is nothing but silence from the other side, when we could already have an idea of where the government is headed with its legislation, what it is contemplating and whether it has considered all the issues. As the member for Toronto—Danforth pointed out, when listening to the parliamentary secretary, we got the impression that, maybe, something had been omitted. I am not imputing motives to her, but it is as though the government does not realize that it has been amended in the Senate. A rather important substantive amendment was made, but the government has not said much about it.
When we asked why it took the Conservative government so long to introduce Bill S-9, which does not present any problem—and we asked that question a number of times—we were told that it was part of our international commitments. And to quote the member for Toronto—Danforth, it may not even go far enough. We will see at committee stage. I am not sure I share this opinion. In any case we will see in committee, “but why five years”? Is it because, as the member for Lac-Saint-Louis suggested, the government thinks this legislation is not sexy enough—if I may use that expression—because it does not make headlines, because it will not be mentioned on the 11 p.m. news bulletin? I agree, but these are extremely important measures which seriously affect people's safety, and that is again the case here.
What is Bill S-9? This legislation was introduced in the Senate on March 27, 2012. If hon. members listened to my speech this morning on Bill S-7—at the beginning of the debate at second reading—they know that I am absolutely, and always will be, opposed to the introduction of a bill in the Senate first. In this House, we have elected members who represent the population. If a government wants to propose measures, it should introduce them in the House first. I realize that, sometimes, it may be practical because it seems that the other place has time to conduct studies. However, since we will have to do those studies in any case, I have a serious problem with that. Is that problem serious enough to prevent me from supporting the bill? It has to do more with the form. I am making a substantive criticism of the form, but Bill S-9 must fundamentally be approved by this House so that it can at least be referred to a committee.
We have various concerns regarding Bill S-9. The member for Toronto—Danforth presented a number of those concerns but I want to go back to some of them.
Bill S-9 amends the Criminal Code to implement the criminal law requirements contained in two international treaties to combat terrorism, namely the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the CPPNM, which was amended in 2005, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the ICSANT, signed in 2005.
As one can see, that is not necessarily an easy process. That is basically what the bill does. It simply allows us to join these treaties.
The bill on nuclear terrorism includes 10 clauses that create four new offences under part II of the Criminal Code.
It will 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 or 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; commit an indictable offence under federal law for the purpose of obtaining nuclear or radioactive material, a nuclear or radioactive device, or access or control of a nuclear facility; and threaten to commit any of the other three offences.
The bill seeks to introduce into the Criminal Code other amendments that are incidental to these four offences, but are nonetheless significant.
The bill also introduces definitions of certain terms used in the description of the new offences including, as the parliamentary secretary indicated, a definition of “environment,” “nuclear facility,” “nuclear material,” “radioactive material and device,” and the amendment to the definition of “terrorist activity.”
It will not be easy. The committee that will examine this bill will have to carry out several studies in order for everybody to properly understand the scope of the amendments being introduced.
The bill would also introduce a new section in the Criminal Code in order to ensure that individuals who commit or attempt to commit one of these offences while abroad can be prosecuted in Canada.
I am sure that members of the House have already heard about the concept of double jeopardy, which means being accused a second time for a crime for which the individual has already been found guilty or innocent.
A clause has been added under which it would be impossible to prevent the Canadian government from filing an indictment against a person found guilty abroad when that person is on Canadian soil.
The bill has a number of implications that will certainly need to be reviewed in committee.
The bill also amends the provisions in the Criminal Code—and this too is extremely important—concerning wiretapping so that it applies to the new offences. The bill will also amend the Criminal Code in order that the four new offences be considered primary designated offences for the purposes of DNA warrants and collection orders. It would also modify the Canadian rule concerning double jeopardy, as I stated earlier.
I should add, as background, so that people understand—because it is not always clear—that the bill meets Canada's international obligations under the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. In my opinion, this is the cornerstone of the bill.
Concerns have been raised, but before speaking about this, it is important to remind members that Canada has not ratified either the CPPNM or the amended version of the ICSANT. This is explained by the fact that no legislation is in place criminalizing the offences contained in the CPPNM or those presented in the amended version of the ICSANT.
Canada will not be a party to the international treaties until Bill S-9 has been adopted. I think that this is extremely important. This is probably why all the parties in the House will support Bill S-9 so that it can be sent to committee as quickly as possible.
Here are some concerns raised during the review of the bill by the Senate committee. First, there was the issue of excessive scope. The intention of the Department of Justice was to adhere as closely as possible to the convention's provisions. The member for Toronto—Danforth made the point very well. Some of the new Criminal Code offences are even broader in scope than the offences included in the international agreements. Therefore, we will have to ensure that the excessive scope of these new clauses is not going to trigger undue criminalization and does not violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
There is also the issue of sentences. I was very pleased to see, at last, the Conservatives introduce a bill that does not include minimum sentences. This means we can take a serious look at their legislation without having a problem from the outset, even when we agree with all the rest. However, the maximum sentences that may be imposed for one of the four new offences are heavy. Three of the four offences may result in a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. This meets the requirements of the ICSANT and of the CPPNM, which provide that member countries must impose sentences in line with the serious nature of these offences.
The Senate brought an amendment regarding the development of a nuclear or radioactive device, which is prohibited by the ICSANT, but which was not in the original proposed amendments to the Criminal Code. I am very pleased that the Senate amended this part of the bill and that the amendment was unanimously adopted. It was an oversight. However, because of this kind of oversight, when I see that a bill—which has gone through so many stages at the justice department, through so many supposedly experts and which was approved by the minister before being introduced—contains such a glaring error, I worry about other oversights in this legislation. It is the lawyer in me that always makes me worry about that.
It goes without saying that we will take a close look at this bill in committee. We are not going to give the Conservatives a blank cheque because if they made such a serious mistake, they may have made other ones. We will see about that during the committee stage of Bill S-9.
It is important to understand some facts and numbers. The term “nuclear” usually sounds scary to people. 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 information was provided by the director general, Non-Proliferation and Security Threat Reduction, at Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
Canada ratified the CPPNM in 1980. That convention promotes the development of measures related to prevention, detection and the imposition of penalties for crimes related to nuclear material. The CPPNM was adopted under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA. There are many acronyms here.
The message I want to share with the House is this: we believe that we need to take a serious look at nuclear safety and that we need to meet our international obligations in order to co-operate better with other countries as regards strategies used to fight nuclear terrorism. There is no question about that.
I used to ask, again and again, why we were talking about five years. But I get the impression the Prime Minister really felt some pressure during his recent trips abroad: action was needed because relatively few countries have ratified the treaties.
In that context, since Canada usually enjoys a rather enviable reputation worldwide, if we can finally meet our international treaty obligations and pass a bill that makes sense, it may encourage other countries to do the same. At least, I hope it will.
Finally, we fully intend to foster multilateral diplomacy and international co-operation, obviously, especially in areas where we share common concerns, including nuclear terrorism. We must work with the leading countries that are in the process of ratifying these treaties. Since we have agreed to be legally bound by the treaties, it is important that we fulfill our international obligations. We cannot officially ratify the treaties until we have implemented national legislation. As we believe in co-operation and in the importance of this bill, we will support it at second reading so the committee can review it more thoroughly.
When it comes to nuclear issues, we have to be careful. Using less uranium would probably reduce risks. At committee, we will have a chance to bring forward some points about new technologies used to create isotopes. Members of the House will remember the isotope crisis. We have to be careful when we talk about burying nuclear waste. Will transporting nuclear waste be considered an act of terrorism? We also need to be careful when it comes to the methods used to bury nuclear waste.