Mr. Speaker, Bill S-9, Nuclear Terrorism Act, 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, which was amended in 2005, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, signed in 2005.
Like my NDP colleagues, I believe that 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.
For the past 10 to 12 years, the United Nations and its members have been concerned about terrorism, including nuclear terrorism. They have adopted resolutions and played a key role in developing treaties and agreements, so that member states can give themselves the necessary tools in terms of legislation and policy to be able to keep up with the ever-changing terrorist threat. My speech here today will summarize some of the main resolutions and conventions that have been adopted or drafted, as well as Canada's efforts to respect its obligations in that regard.
I cannot even imagine the impact these kinds of activities would have on the people affected. We need only consider the repercussions of past nuclear incidents, like Hiroshima, Chernobyl or even Fukushima one year ago, to understand that it would be extremely damaging and powerful. The effects on health would be felt for decades, even on people who would not be directly affected.
Nuclear terrorism is a difficult concept to grasp. We do not have any concrete examples, aside from what we see in certain catastrophic Hollywood films. However, since the International Atomic Energy Agency has counted close to 2,000 incidents related to the use, transport and unauthorized possession of nuclear and radioactive material between 1993 and 2011, we must remain cautious and, above all, aware of the danger. In this sense, Canada must participate in the multilateral efforts internationally to ensure that the phenomenon remains confined to Hollywood movies.
The International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism was passed by the United Nations. It is the first international convention on terrorism to be signed since the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. It is an extension of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings.
The International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism was signed by Canada in 2005 and came into effect in 2007. However, since the treaty requires amendments to legislation, Canada has not yet ratified it. In Canadian law, it is not enough to simply have a treaty signed by a Canadian representative for it to automatically take effect or be implemented. The signature is simply Canada's agreement in principle. If amendments to Canadian legislation are required for a treaty to be implemented, the treaty is ratified only once the amendments are made or new legislation is passed.
In this case, several amendments to the Criminal Code would be required. It is unfortunate that this government did not decide to introduce this bill until this past year.
The government decided that ratifying the convention was not a priority. And here we are today.
Bill S-9, on nuclear terrorism, is a 10-clause bill that introduces four new offences to part II of the Criminal Code, which deals with offences against public order.
Adding these new offences, with respect to certain activities in relation to nuclear or radioactive material, nuclear or radioactive devices, or nuclear facilities, makes 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.
It also makes it 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 operations, with the intent to compel a person, government or international organization to do or refrain from doing anything.
It also makes it illegal to commit an indictable offence under federal law for the purpose of obtaining nuclear or radioactive material or a nuclear or radioactive device, or access to or control of a nuclear facility, and to threaten to commit any of the other three offences.
In addition, Bill S-9 introduces into the Criminal Code other amendments that are incidental to these four offences, but that are nonetheless significant. The bill provides definitions of certain terms used in the four offences outlined above, such as “environment”, “nuclear facility”, “nuclear material”, “radioactive material” and “device”. It also amends the definition of “terrorist activity”.
A new section is added to the Criminal Code to ensure that individuals who commit or who attempt to commit these offences, even if abroad, can be prosecuted in Canada.
The bill also amends the wiretap provisions found in the code to ensure that they apply to the new offences and amends the code so that these new offences are considered primary designated offences for the purposes of DNA warrants and collection orders.
There is also the amendment of the Canadian rule on double jeopardy, so that if an individual is tried for or convicted of these four new offences abroad, the double jeopardy rule, in other words, being convicted of and tried for the same crimes, does not apply if the trial abroad does not meet certain basic Canadian legal standards. In that case, a Canadian court can try that person again for the same crimes of which that person has already been convicted in a foreign court.
I am quite comfortable with these objectives.
I will conclude my remarks with a quote from Matthew Bunn, an associate professor of public policy at Harvard University, who made this comment during his testimony before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which I think should convince the members of the House and Canadians of the importance of passing this bill.
Since the September 11 attacks in the United States, both countries have improved security for their own nuclear materials, helped others to do the same, helped to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency's efforts, and worked to strengthen other elements of the global response. But if the United States and Canada are to succeed in convincing other countries to take a responsible approach to reducing the risks of nuclear theft and terrorism at the Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands in 2014 and beyond, then our two countries have to take the lead in taking responsible action ourselves.
Hence, it is important for both of our countries to ratify the main conventions in this area: the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the amendment to that convention, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
To conclude, I will do my part by voting in favour of the bill.