Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today. We are dealing with a fairly difficult issue that concerns all Canadians and people throughout the entire world. As my colleague mentioned, this issue concerns everyone and is a worry for everyone. The NDP supports this bill. It is important that I start my speech by saying that we will work with the government.
However, I am wondering why it took the government five years to decide to talk about terrorism and nuclear weapons. And, why did this bill originate in the Senate? I do not wish to belittle the work of the senators who worked hard on this bill, but I do not understand why the government did not take the initiative to introduce it. Why, after years of discussion, did the Senate introduce this bill, when the government had numerous opportunities to do so?
Of course, the Conservative members will say that they were a minority government at the time, but that is no excuse since everyone was in favour of drafting and passing a bill to ratify two conventions—the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
I would like to ask the government the following questions. Why did it wait five years before debating this subject in the House? Why did it wait for the Senate to introduce such a bill? Why did the government not take the initiative? The government used nuclear issues and terrorism to its advantage whenever it pleased but, when it came to taking action, we had to wait five years for this topic to be discussed in the House.
To add insult to injury, today while we are examining this bill in the House, the Conservative members are not asking any questions and are not trying to debate this issue. They are letting the Senate do all the work and, when it is time to debate and to ask the government what it wants, the government just lets things happen and lets the opposition debate the issue alone. Who is going to answer my questions? I wonder. The government is once again refusing to debate bills designed to ensure the safety of Canadians.
We have seen this not only with regard to nuclear issues but also with regard to food safety. As we have seen over the past two weeks, food safety is not really a priority for the government.
I would now like to talk about Bill S-9 and give a little background information. In order for a convention to be ratified and apply in Canada, an implementation act must be passed. That is what Bill S-9 does. The NDP would never oppose the fact that Canada must respect its international obligations. The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material has already been ratified, but no bill has been passed to implement it. The Conservatives have finally decided to implement the convention. It would great if the government would do the same for all of the conventions it has ratified, particularly the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which, I seem to recall, Canada did sign.
I would like to take this opportunity to reach out to the government and tell it that we in the NDP are determined to use multilateral diplomacy, to promote multilateralism and international co-operation, especially in areas that concern not only Canadians, but everyone on the planet.
Everyone, all nation states, are concerned about terrorism, which affects everyone around the globe. We all know how important this is. The NDP fully supports the criminal offences created by Bill S-9.
We need to work with other major countries that have begun a similar ratification process. For instance, in front of the UN General Assembly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs criticized the very organization that had invited him to speak, one that merely acts on the recommendations of its member states. Criticizing the UN is tantamount to criticizing the 191 member states, and our own allies. Why not use diplomacy and our influence instead?
I have a feeling that this government has forgotten that Canada has a great deal of influence on the international stage. Unfortunately, this influence has diminished considerably since the Conservatives came to power in 2006. As an extra little dig at my colleagues opposite, I would remind the House that Canada lost its seat on the UN Security Council for the first time.
This bill is a good opportunity for this government to realize the influence and the importance of the role it can play in the fight against terrorism and nuclear threats.
It is important to understand what the UN is. The minister does not seem to understand what it is for. The UN is a forum for discussion among states, to ensure that problems are resolved through dialogue whenever possible. The NDP does not think we should wait for a problem to arise before taking action, whether we are talking about terrorism, nuclear threat, criminal justice or food safety. We must prevent a problem, conflict, food safety crisis or crime. We must not take action after the fact.
That is why we have such an important role in diplomacy and at the UN. We must use our influence to ensure all the states ratify these two conventions, apply them and adopt them, as we will do in the coming weeks, when Bill S-9 is passed. These conventions must be implemented immediately and not after five years, as the Conservative government is doing. There is a problem now and we are talking about it now.
We can use the UN forum to ensure that all states benefit from Canada's policies. Instead of withdrawing from talks, why not step forward and offer our assistance? Why not use our influence to help other countries adopt the same kind of bill? Why not?
Canada has always supported multilateralism. It should make more of an effort in this regard. Even the United States, which had abandoned multilateralism under George Bush, has understood the mistake it made.
We cannot criticize the UN if member states refuse to take action on a given situation or are divided on how to respond to a crisis. The UN never had a mandate to make decisions on its own. The member states, including Canada, give it the mandate to take action in response to a given situation.
When the Minister of Foreign Affairs decides to criticize the UN and withdraw Canada from work that he called fruitless, he is giving up on improving any situation and preventing conflict, on improving how the UN works. This also jeopardizes the resolution of future conflicts, for example, in Syria.
The government must work together with the opposition today to create multilateral institutions and to create a strong Canada that can use its influence in the interest not only of every Canadian, but of every human being. We have to improve the current situation to resolve problems, to be proactive and not reactive.
To have a foreign policy that is worthy of Canada is to do things that show the entire world the values that we are defending today in the House. Through the policies we adopt and the speeches we make here, like the ones we are making this evening, we can show that Canada is a leader that defends the values of democracy, human rights, peace and justice.
That is why the NDP will vote in favour of this bill. Mostly, the NDP will be voting in favour of multilateral diplomacy and international co-operation, which might benefit everyone. We know that terrorism is of concern to everyone. For example, as my colleague was saying, we all know where we were on September 11. I remember where I was. It was my first week of high school. It was a defining moment for someone entering adolescence. I remember very clearly that all my classes were cancelled because something significant was happening.
Why has it taken so long to talk about this? I was 12 when that happened. Today, I sit in the House of Commons and I am asking the government: why did it take so long? Why did it wait for the Senate to introduce such a bill instead of taking the lead internationally, as it so often forgets to do? The government could have taken concrete action on a problem that all Canadians and all human beings on Earth are dealing with today.
The bill reinforces Canada's obligations under resolution 1540 of the UN Security Council that was adopted in 2004. Today, as far as I know, it is 2012. That is a big time span. The government can blame others; it can point fingers at the other side of the House, but it was the government's responsibility. It had a choice and it chose to wait for the Senate to introduce the bill.
What would have happened if the Senate had decided not to introduce Bill S-9? Would the government have acted? I would like to know. Would the government have waited another 10 or 20 years, or would it have waited for a major conflict before passing Bill C-9 and not Bill S-9? None of this diminishes the Senators' excellent work on the bill. I know they work very hard.
As I said, what we want is for Canada to abide by its international obligations. That is a principle that Canada has always advocated. However, since the Conservatives have been in power, we have veered more toward unilateralism and bilateralism and away from multilateralism. Why? Here again, the government could clarify the matter for us. But what does it decide to do? It rejects all debate and leaves the opposition to try to improve bills and work with the government to adopt good laws that protect the safety of Canadians.
It has to be said that, try as they might to generate political capital over the safety of Canadians, when the time comes to act, I really wonder where the Conservatives stand.
We have to take a serious look at the issue of nuclear security. We must use not just the UN, but also every other international institution and organization, to dialogue with other governments in order to prevent these kinds of acts from occurring. Terrorism is clearly a terrible thing. I did not mention it at the start of my speech, but our hearts go out to all the victims and families who have suffered the loss of a loved one. It is truly terrible to lose someone.
Every measure taken to protect people's lives is worth debating and presenting before this House. I would like to see some active participation on the government's part. As I said, I was 12 years old when it happened; now I am 23. We have been talking about combating terrorism for 11 years. Why have we waited all this time to implement treaties whose purpose is precisely to criminalize and eradicate terrorist acts?
It would be good for the government to lead the debate and to explain to us what it wants today. Unfortunately, it has not yet managed to pursue that course. We know the government is an ardent advocate of democracy around the world, except in Canada, of course. Everything is done very quickly; bills are passed very quickly. The New Democratic Party is asking that this bill be carefully studied in committee, that we take the necessary time and hear from witnesses so that we can pass a good bill that will criminalize acts of nuclear terrorism and obtain justice for the victims.
The New Democratic Party supports the victims of nuclear terrorism and asks the government to take the necessary time to properly discuss this bill, to study it so that we can say at last that we are taking measures to eradicate nuclear terrorism.