Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to an important issue. It is not new but has actually been talked about for a number of years.
As was pointed out in the most recent question and answer, governments will go abroad and work with other levels of government and sign agreements. Quite often we find that a signed agreement is nothing but a piece of paper with a signature, with the intent of it ultimately passing the House of Commons. In fact, that is the case with this particular treaty.
There have been four treaties relating to the whole issue of security and nuclear terrorism. The first was United Nations Security Council resolution 1373 done in 2001 and then United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 done in 2004. There was also the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism of 2005, and in that same year the amendments to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. I will provide a bit of a comment on each of those a little later.
The point I would like to make is that what we have before us today is not really new. This whole topic has been debated at different levels of government. Different governments around the world have come together, recognizing that as a world community we need to come up with progressive legislation among the member nations of the United Nations supporting a common goal. That common goal is to deal with the horrors of nuclear energy, the power of nuclear energy and the damage it could ultimately cause if it were used inappropriately.
Hollywood has made hundreds of millions of dollars producing movies based on the fear factor of the potential harm of nuclear fusion, including the ability to kill millions of people with just one dirty bomb or nuclear bomb. Previous generations have witnessed that in a world war, seeing just how horrific a nuclear bomb can be.
This is something that has been in the minds of many politicians and diplomats over the years as they have tried to come up with the best way to manage this very complicated and difficult issue. When we see organizations like the United Nations come to a conclusion and propose and support resolutions, we would expect the government to want to take action in a more timely fashion.
The bill that we have before us could have been introduced years ago. For whatever reasons, the government has not really acted on the issue. In fact, in principle, we in the Liberal Party support the bill going to committee stage so that we can hear some more technical presentations and make sure that we are moving in the right direction.
Suffice it to say, former Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin were leaders at the time in ensuring that Canada would be at the table and that our viewpoints would in fact be heard. I believe that through both Mr. Chrétien and Mr. Martin, at least in part, we were able to see these treaties come into play. I think that speaks volumes.
My NDP colleagues talk about how they believe in the importance of addressing the issue. Not only do Liberals believe in it, we have acted on it. Both Liberal prime ministers, predating the current Prime Minister, played a critical role in getting those treaties at least signed off by Canada and raised the concerns we would have in regard to the whole area of nuclear. There is the negative side, but there is somewhat of a positive side, and I will make some reference to that also.
This has been sitting on the back burner. It is encouraging that Senate has seen the value in bringing it forth and getting the ball rolling.
I appreciate that the Senate had the opportunity for some public meetings on the issue. I was quite pleased to see that some amendments were suggested. Former general Senator Dallaire provided some feed back on the importance of incorporating into an amendment something that would prohibit the making of radioactive devices. It is important that we recognize, as Senator Dallaire has, that even though we have Bill S-9, there is a need for us to be diligent as we go through the committee process, because there is the opportunity to make it better legislation.
Like the Senate, I would suggest the House vote in favour of the bill. I do not see it as controversial legislation. At the very least, let us see if we can pass it through second reading and ultimately get it to committee stage.
I am not the critic assigned to the bill, but I can assure the House that our critic for public safety has a great many thoughts and concerns that we would like to express at the committee stage, but most important, we would like to encourage the government to have an open mind in approaching the committee stage, with the idea that the bill can be improved upon.
It is important that we underscore the fact that Canada's efforts to combat nuclear terrorism fall into an overall framework of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. While it is still necessary, especially in implementing international agreements, Bill S-9 is insufficient if it is to constitute a significant part of Canada's efforts on this file.
The Liberal Party believes we could do more. In the past, Canada has demonstrated great leadership on the international scene, and this is one of those areas in which Canada has the potential to play a leadership role.
Many of the critical components to nuclear fusion comes from Canada. We have had a great many scientists who have trained and gained the knowledge that is necessary to become experts on the issue. In Manitoba the whole idea of nuclear power was greatly explored through Pinawa. A great deal of scientific work was done in regard to some of the positive ways we could use nuclear power, as an example. It generated not only economic activity, but it also provided a great deal of expertise.
Whether it is looking at the scientists we have in Canada, or political leadership and the experience gained, or Canada's role in the world in being able to have influence to speak out in forums like the United Nations, we can in fact make a difference. We have a lot more to contribute.
When we look at Bill S-9, it is important that it represent a domestic focus as well as our international obligations to contribute to the debate. The stronger we reflect on what we can do in Canada to improve our own situation I think will bode well when we sit down at those international tables. At the end of the day, we speak with a louder voice when we have done the work in our backyard.
I have made reference to the four resolutions, particularly the United Nations Security Council resolution 1373, which requires member states to adopt certain anti-terrorism legislation and policies. It calls upon member states to prevent and repress the financing of terrorist acts; freeze the financial resources available to terrorist organizations; suppress the supply of weapons to terrorist organizations; and deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support or commit terrorist acts. It also calls upon member states to become party to and fully implement the relevant international conventions and protocols related to terrorism as soon as possible.
In Canada many of these acts were criminalized and reclassified as a terrorist activity as a result of the 2001 Anti-terrorism Act. Since then, amendments have been brought forward to that act.
We know through experience that we want to play a significant role in ensuring that terrorism, and the promotion of terrorism, is minimized and as much as possible. We want to prevent it from taking place. We want to prevent it from originating in Canada and prevent people who are residing in Canada to contribute in any fashion whatsoever to world terrorism.
I made reference earlier to the United Nations Security Council resolution 1540, which was adopted in 2004. It focused specifically on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It asked member states to take steps to prohibit non-state actors from acquiring nuclear weapons and to put in place additional controls on nuclear materials. It also asked member states to adopt and enforce effective domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; adopt legislation to prevent the acquisition, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons by state and non-state actors; extend such criminal legislation to apply to citizens extraterritoriality; and include internal waters, territorial waters and air space in the territory for which nuclear weapons would be prohibited.
Each of these concepts are present in Bill S-9. Therefore, the principle of the bill is something I believe most, if not all members of the House, will see the merit in allowing it to go to committee.
However, just because the bill incorporates those concepts, we do not necessarily have to settle for that. As Senator Dallaire pointed out, there are other ways in which we can improve Bill S-9.
The other reference I made was in regard to the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, better known as the ICSANT, adopted in 2005. It was the first international convention related to terrorism open for a signature after 9/11. It builds on both the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and International Conventions for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings.
ICSANT is comprehensive and contains detailed language on what particular aspects of nuclear terrorism should be criminalized. ICSANT is the inspiration for the bulk of Bill S-9, as several articles are codified in Bill S-9, such as article 2, which outlines new offences created in section 82. Articles 4, 5 and 9 also all contribute to it.
It is important that we take note in terms of when that resolution was before the United Nations in 2005 and, in essence, asked that it take effect in June 2007. However, it does beg the question as to why we have waited so long in having this issue come before the House of Commons. One would have expected that the government would have had the support to pass such legislation.
It was interesting in one of the questions posed to the New Democratic Party in regard to why it was not passed at an earlier point, the speaker made reference to the fact that the NDP did not oppose the legislation. I suspect that had the government, two, three or four years ago, raised the issue with the opposition parties, there would have been the type of support necessary even to get it through a minority situation. I suspect that whether the House or Canadians are canvassed, we would find there is a need to not only support, but go beyond supporting and taking a proactive approach in dealing with issues of terrorism. If potential nuclear weapons, or chemical weapons, or weapons of mass destruction being used, I am sure there is an enormous amount of goodwill to protect the world community.
I think had the government genuinely wanted to see that pass, having a capable government House leader along with co-operative opposition House leaders, it would not have been a problem. It is a bit disappointing that it has taken as long as it has to come before us.
The last point I referenced about the United Nations was the amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, which was done in 2005 at a diplomatic conference convened in July 2005, three months after the ICSANT opened for signature. The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material was signed in Vienna, Austria in March 1980. It is the only legally binding undertaking in the area of physical protection of nuclear material and establishes measures related to the prevention, detection and the punishment of offences relating to nuclear material.
Given the age of the CPPNM, the 2005 meeting was meant to update and strengthen the CPPNM provisions. Therefore, the CPPNM amendment will require that states protect their nuclear facilities as well as nuclear material used, stored and transported domestically rather than protect only nuclear materials during international transport, as the CPPNM currently requires.