Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill S-9, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the nuclear terrorism act, at second reading, in order to give the bill further study at committee.
It is an honour to speak on a topic that is so important to the safety of Canadians and also our global security. Safety and security are a priority for the constituents of my great riding of Scarborough--Rouge River, and Canadians deserve to feel safe and secure in their own home communities. Residents of Scarborough are still reeling, sadly, following the tragic incident this summer that involved the loss of two young lives and left 23 injured.
I was proud to co-host the leader of the official opposition in Scarborough to share in a discussion about what the community wants and needs to feel safe in the neighbourhood. The outcome of this discussion was that people want to see increased care of the environment, longer term investment in our youth and job creation in Canada, increased witness protection to ensure people who are witness to a crime can feel safe and, of course, a decrease in the number of guns on our streets.
The Conservative government does not properly invest in witness protection. It is slashing public safety staff, which is allowing more guns to flow on to our streets. We are not seeing legislation to prevent gun violence from occurring. People do not feel safe and they feel further terrorized by guns. It is disheartening that the Conservatives ignore the pleas for action from constituents and residents of the GTA.
Today is about Bill S-9. This Senate bill would amend the Criminal Code in order to implement the criminal law requirements of two international counterterrorism treaties, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the CPPNM, as amended in 2005, and the 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the ICSANT. These two agreements deal with the protection of radioactive material, nuclear material and nuclear facilities, as well as the protection from nuclear or radioactive devices.
The bill would align our laws to these treaties by introducing four new indictable offences into part II of the Criminal Code. First, it will be illegal to possess, use or dispose of nuclear radioactive material or a nuclear or radioactive device, or commit an act against a nuclear facility or its operation with the intent to cause death, serious bodily harm or substantial damage to property or the environment. Second, it will be illegal to 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. Third, it will also be illegal to 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. Finally, it will be illegal to threaten to commit any of the other three offences.
The New Democratic Party believes we must seriously address the issue of nuclear security and comply with our international obligations in order to better co-operate with other countries on counterterrorism strategies. New Democrats are committed to multilateral diplomacy and international co-operation, especially in areas of great common concern such as nuclear terrorism. It is certainly important that we, along with our international partners, do what we can to protect Canadians from all forms of terrorism and protect global security.
It is curious as to why the government waited for so long to implement the necessary changes and ratify these two treaties. As I said, the bill would fulfill Canada's treaty obligations under the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the CPPNM, and the ICSANT. This includes extending international measures beyond protecting against the proliferation of nuclear materials to now include the protection of nuclear facilities.
Bill S-9 would reinforce Canada's obligation under the 2004 UN Security Council Resolution 1540 to take and enforce effective measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear materials as well as chemical and biological weapons. To date Canada has not ratified either the ICSANT or the CPPNM amendment because Canada does not yet have legislation in place to criminalize the offences outlined in the ICSANT or some of the offences outlined in the CPPNM amendment.
The amendments in Bill S-9, introduced into the code, are Canada's effort to align its domestic legislation with what is required by both conventions so they can be ratified. If these amendments should become law, one could presume Canada could be in a position to ratify both the ICSANT and CPPNM amendment, something Canada, as well as other countries, committed to working toward at both the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, D.C., and the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Korea. This is an important step for global security.
Miles Pomper, senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Monterey Institute of International Studies, advised those at the Senate hearing on Bill S-9 as follows:
—I want to point out generally how important it is to global security that Canada ratify these treaties. As you know, Canada and other countries, at the 2010 and 2012 Nuclear Security Summits, committed to ratifying these conventions. At the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, just held a few months ago in Seoul, states also made a particular commitment to have the 2005 CPPNM amendment enter into force by the time of the next nuclear summit in 2014. For this to happen, two thirds of the 145 parties to the original CPPNM, or 97 states, need to ratify the treaty. To this date only 56 have done so.
In ratifying this treaty, therefore, Canada will not only bring us one step closer to the magic number needed for entry into force. Canada is deeply respected in the international community for its leadership on nuclear issues and its commitment to multilateral diplomacy. Its ratification will encourage other countries to move forward with their own ratifications and improve global security.
We believe that Bill S-9 brings forward necessary measures as part of Canada's international co-operation against threats related to nuclear terrorism. Given the increasingly heightened sophistication of technology and radioactive devices, it seems to me to be imperative to ensure that Canada is co-operating with other parties and in compliance with international treaties. As I said, New Democrats are committed to multilateral diplomacy and international co-operation, especially in areas such as nuclear terrorism.
Canada needs to work with other leading countries that are moving toward ratifying these conventions. It is very important that we fulfill our international obligations, and Canada will only be able to officially ratify these conventions after their domestic implementation is complete. We believe there must be close technical scrutiny of the bill in committee to make sure Bill S-9 is drafted in the best way to fulfill our obligations under these two treaties. Once we ratify, Canada can go on and will not be in non-compliance.
This stage of study is extremely important. As we saw in the Senate hearings, a vital component of the bill was originally missing. Bill S-9, in its original form, did not include the making of a radioactive device as an offence. We appreciate that the Senate amended this major omission in the bill. It is a good thing that the bill arrived with this improvement already in it. Once again, it is a relief that this omission was caught and corrected in the Senate, but it demonstrates the need for greater scrutiny in committee, and assurances that nothing else will be overlooked.
There are a few technical issues that I hope those in committee will undertake during their consideration. It seems that this bill may be broader and more general than the treaties themselves. As my colleagues have noted, some of the new Criminal Code offences are broader in scope than the offences found in individual international agreements. As well, the language used in the bill is more general than the specific treaty articles. For instance, my colleague noted concerns with proposed sections 82.3 and 82.4 in the bill, in that the specific intent formulations of the ICSANT treaty with regard to damage to a nuclear facility are not replicated in Bill S-9. Rather, Bill S-9 assumes a general intent standard. Also, the reference to crimes of threat in Bill S-9 go further than required under the treaty. Ultimately, these concerns highlight the need for scrutiny at committee to ensure the legislation has been drafted to be in compliance and that the issues that have been raised in the Senate and the House chamber are dealt with.
In conclusion, Canadians and people around the globe deserve to feel safe and secure. Nuclear weapons are an affront to safety, security and peace in the world. New Democrats are very pleased to support this bill at second reading and to send it to committee for further study.