Mr. Speaker, it is important to put this debate in context. The first thing I have to note, and this happens every time we have a bill from the Senate, is the dependence of the government on bringing bills from the Senate. As a democrat, not just a New Democrat, I believe that bills should originate in this House and go to the other place after. After all, we are elected to bring forward legislation, to oversee legislation and to then take it to the other place. That is how I see our obligations here. However, the government sees it differently. That is the difference between us.
This is important legislation. As referenced, it is our obligation under international treaty that we have legislation to deal with the importance of locking down and securing nuclear resources and materials. In fact, if we just pull back a bit and look at what the scenario is right now, the threat of nuclear weapons is very concerning for many of us.
I disagree with the government on its analysis of the biggest threats we face as a species. It has its own view. I think we face two major issues, no question: climate change and nuclear weapons.
The fact of the matter is that we have to deal with climate change. The government sometimes believes in the science of climate change, and at other times not so much. We need to do more there. I do not have to list all the threats we face because of climate change. We can see it worldwide. We see it in the Arctic and in sub-Saharan Africa. It is something that is increasing in terms of its threat.
The other threat, of course, is nuclear weapons. More people should be seized with the threat of nuclear weapons. We have passed motions in the House. I worked with the other side. All parties agreed on a motion to actually have Canada engage in a nuclear weapons convention. I will be interested to see what the response of the government is. It was a couple of years ago. All parties agreed. It was passed in the Senate, in a similar motion, that we need to be seized with nuclear proliferation.
When I was growing up, there were two big powers, and the two big nuclear threats were between those two superpowers. However, an amazing thing happened, and that was around 1989. We saw two things happen. One was the fall of the Soviet Union, the fall of the wall, which was historic and memorable.
I was just in Berlin for a conference on a nuclear convention. It was hosted by the German government, as a matter of fact. It is amazing to see that city and to see what happened where the wall came down. What happened around the same time, which was unimaginable in the years prior to 1989, was that there were agreements for fairly rapid, substantive nuclear disarmament.
We started on a path in the 1990s of what I would call a period of not just reconciliation but of fairly stable peace, because we saw the threat of nuclear weapons really being reduced. Let us think about it. We had over 60,000 nuclear weapons pointed at us, indirectly, through the United States, and the same from Europe to the Soviet Union. Within a matter of years, that was diminished to just over 10,000, which is what we presently have.
However, things have changed. We are in a multi-polar world. We have threats. We know of North Korea. We have Iran, which is continuing to ramp up its program. We have non-state actors. This is what this bill is addressing because of our international commitment to the treaty of 2004 and the UN resolution. They can conceivably not only find access to these materials but can then turn those materials into weapons-grade uranium, with some support, and have missiles that are fairly portable. Clearly we need to be seized with this.
This is why it is important to understand nuclear power in all its aspects and how it can change from what we use for power to a threat.
In Chalk River, the government is engaged in decommissioning. It is looking to taking the highly enriched uranium out of that facility, which has been there since post-World War II, and transferring it to the United States. This is important not only for my constituents but for everyone in Ontario, because there are a lot of questions about it. There is not a question about the need to do it. In the scheme of things, it is not a bad thing. In fact, the Prime Minister announced the intention to do it just after the 2012 nuclear conference, which has been referenced.
It is important to have this legislation in place before the trucks start moving down the road. I say that because what the Prime Minister announced was that we would be sending highly enriched uranium through the province of Ontario to the United States. Part of our obligation under the UN resolution we signed in 2004 is to ensure that there will be mechanisms in place so that the materials from Chalk River do not end up in the wrong place.
There have been some legitimate concerns raised by mayors of towns throughout the province about the government's plan when it comes to decommissioning and sending these materials south. Non-proliferation advocates want to make sure that everything is done so that none of the material lands in the wrong hands. That is why we would have hoped to have seen this kind of protocol put in place a while back. In 2012, when the Prime Minister made the announcement, we should have had it in place. As was mentioned by my colleagues, the government has had problems in terms of drafting and in putting it on the front burner. If the two biggest threats we face are climate change and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, this should have been done as early as possible, and certainly before the Prime Minister announced at the Nuclear Security Summit in 2012 that we would be sending these materials from Chalk River south.
The people affected by this need to hear, from the government, about a process whereby local villages and towns and mayors are given notice and are confident that all appropriate measures are taking place.
This is a fairly complicated process. We are talking about making sure that the spent fuel rods are secure, that the routes they are taking are secure, and that everything is being done by the government to ensure that the intent of the bill is actually being done.
In the past we have seen problems with the government and its relationship with the supervisory capacity of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. I will not go back in history on that. It was very controversial. I am hoping that some lessons were learned by the government at that time. However, we need to know that the government will work with those mayors and those people who are affected in Ontario.
I would say to all members of Parliament for Ontario on the government side that if they have not done so already, it is their responsibility to represent their constituents and engage both the safety commission and the government to ensure that the plan is solid.
The other area this touches on is the UN resolution. The UN resolution stems from the concerns of the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council about the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons. After the Iraq war in 2003, the IAEA was questioned by some of our allies at the time, including the Bush administration.
The head of the IAEA, Mr. ElBaradei at the time, said that they did not believe there was evidence there of nuclear weapons, and of course we saw what happened after, the cooking of the books. After that, there was not only consensus but an urgency to ensure we would have smart policy and fair rules to ensure this kind of fiasco did not happen again. Essentially, we had one of our member states along with support of another member state deciding that they would, in effect, override this international agency, IAEA, and come up with their own “facts”. We found out the facts were not the facts. The yellowcake story, for instance, was something that had been cooked up and it was just a premise for an invasion of a country and another agenda.
Therefore, in 2004 resolution 1540 was passed. It was to deal with the fact that this was a serious issue and we needed to have not only laws within our own countries about dealing with nuclear materials, but there had to be some globalization of this process so we would not see the same playing of politics with this. We had not only to sign onto this, but also to implement and enact legislation, and that is what this is. That is a fairly long period of time and the threats that we face, as I mentioned, with non-state actors with certain states that are proliferating in the Middle East and other places, and we need to understand that.
However, if we take from this lesson that we need to work in a multilateral way, that we need to push for non-proliferation, we should also embed that in the way we do business. As members know and as was in the newspaper today, our agency is in the U.K. promoting the Candu reactor. I do not have to tell members the lessons that we should have learned with the sale of our technology to India. It led to India having the capacity for nuclear weapons. That proliferation continued, as we know, in Pakistan, et cetera. I say that because we cannot separate the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the proliferation of nuclear power. We have to understand that one can lead to the other. Certainly that is the case in Iran with which everyone is seized. We need to have a capacity to deal with that.
My concern, not with the bill but with the direction of the government, is that the members have said a lot of interesting things about proliferation but they really have not gone far enough in pushing for non-proliferation. I have a couple of examples.
Many right now are pushing for Canada to be involved in a preparatory committee for a nuclear weapons convention. People would like to see this happen in a couple of years. We have seen leadership from the White House, as members know, with the speech by President Obama in Prague a couple of years ago. We had the “four horsemen” article a couple of years before that. We have had Ban Ki-moon talk about the need for a nuclear convention.
I have not heard, except for when we have raised it in the House and we passed our unanimous motion, a real commitment from the government on non-proliferation to the extent that we could do more. We are proudly a non-nuclear weapon country. I give credit to John Diefenbaker for that role. We need to say that Canada will play a role in working with others in a multilateral way and through the U.N. and other agencies to strengthen nuclear non-proliferation. We have some of the best people in verification. We have the technology that we have developed. I am a little concerned that we are not putting enough into oversight, as I mentioned in the case of Chalk River. We should be strengthening the IAEA. We should be working with others to come up with verification instruments so we can actually lock down nuclear materials. We have some of this capability, but we have not kept up with it and it should be a priority.
In the end, what we are left with is a process whereby we are obviously manufacturing the materials and are promoting nuclear energy. We also need to recommit ourselves, because we have been committed in our country before, to non-proliferation. We should be working with others for a nuclear weapons convention. We should be saying that Canada will take a leadership role when it comes to nuclear non-proliferation. We should be pushing those states that have nuclear weapons and have not signed the NPT to do so, and we should be looking for real reductions, as former Secretary Shultz, others in the United States, Ban Ki-moon and President Obama have said.
We should be very active on this, because if we are sincere about making sure that we deal with one of the two threats to global existence, nuclear weapons, then we have to be serious about how we promote nuclear non-proliferation.
If not Canada, then who? We are the ones who were between the two superpowers for that long period of time during the Cold War. We were the ones who decided—and I credit a Conservative leader, Prime Minister Diefenbaker—that they would not be on our terrain. We never had nuclear weapons on our land, so we are in a perfect position to be leaders in forging a better agreement on nuclear weapons.
This is an opportunity to talk about that with the bill today. As was mentioned by my colleagues, we will support it. However, let us do what other countries have done and ask for more. There are two examples I can think of in recent history of deciding to get rid of nuclear weapons: South Africa and Kazakhstan. In the case of Kazakhstan, that was where it was decided to test nuclear weapons. It was a decision by Stalin, who said that there was no one near the place so they would not worry about it. They conducted 450 nuclear tests. I was there recently, and the results are there still. There are people with deformities who have passed them on through generations. It is a reminder. Fukushima, in Japan, is another reminder that we have to take this seriously. We have to do more when it comes to nuclear non-proliferation.
I ask the government to not only bring in legislation that meets our UN obligations but to do more on the issue of non-proliferation. It would have support not only from this side of the House but from Canadians from coast to coast to coast. People would be proud and would be saying that this is something that is in line with our values and our history and would actually be contributing to peace and security in the world.
I support the bill, but I ask that the government do more to support non-proliferation to make it a more secure world. That is in keeping with Canadian history.