Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Nuclear Terrorism Act), at third reading.
I believe that ensuring the safety and security of our country is extremely important for all parliamentarians, and the work that has been done in this bill strengthens the ability to protect Canadian citizens. Bill S-9 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, ICSANT.
This bill would fulfill Canada's treaty obligations under the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the CPPNM, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. It would also reinforce Canada's obligations under the United Nations Security Council resolution passed in 2004, resolution 1540, to take and enforce effective measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear materials as well as chemical and biological weapons.
At this point, Canada has not yet ratified the ICSANT or the CPPNM amendments, as it does not have the legislation in place to criminalize the offences outlined in the ICSANT or some of the offences outlined in the CPPNM amendment. The amendments proposed in Bill S-9 would help to align Canada's domestic legislation with what is required by both of these conventions. Should these amendments become law, Canada would then, presumably, have the ability to ratify both the ICSANT and the CPPNM amendment by the 2014 deadline.
This is a commitment Canada and other countries agreed to work toward at the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. and at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Korea. This is good to see, as we have witnessed the government not paying much attention to many of our international agreements and treaties. Let us hope that this bill that was started in the Senate is a sign of renewed commitment to our international obligations and treaties. Maybe we will actually see more respect for our treaties with the first nations and aboriginal peoples in Canada.
I digress, but I will go back to Bill S-9 now. The bill introduces definitions of terms such as “environment”, “nuclear facility”, “nuclear material” and “device”. It also amends the definition of “terrorist activity”, which would certainly work to improve clarity for enforcement agencies in Canada.
New Democrats are committed to multilateral diplomacy and international co-operation, especially in areas of great common concern, like nuclear terrorism. For this reason, we need to work with other leading countries that are moving toward ratifying these conventions. Moreover, Canada has agreed to be legally bound by these conventions. It is important to fulfill our international obligations. Canada is unable to ratify these conventions in an official capacity until our domestic implementation is actually complete.
During the discussions on Bill S-9, the committee heard warnings that the dangers of nuclear terrorism are very real. While this is not something that is likely often on the minds of Canadians, they trust that we, as parliamentarian, are working to protect their safety. As such, we must ensure that we are making efforts to fulfill our international obligations to protect Canadians and our international partners.
Safety and security rests not only with these sorts of international protections. I know that in my community of Scarborough, residents are also looking for action to improve the safety of our local communities. There have been far too many occurrences of gun violence in Toronto. The most recent statistics from the Toronto Police Service state that 20 shootings have resulted in five homicides, three of which were young people under the age of 16 in our community. The death of a child or youth is felt throughout a community. It is a tragedy that leaves family, friends and loved ones devastated and also leaves the entire community worried, anxious and on edge.
A week and a half ago, the member for Scarborough Southwest and I met with individuals, community organizations and front-line workers to hear their concerns about how to improve the safety and security of our communities. At this meeting, I heard of the need for a coordinated national youth strategy, dedicated core funding for preventative and productive sustainable youth programming, rather than punitive measures. We also heard of the importance of all levels of government being present at the table and providing the much needed support for the sustainability and increased safety of our communities. Finally, we heard that it was crucial that funders were aware of and in communication with the front-line service providers to truly know how the funding dollars were being spent on the ground. Many of the service providers felt that during their intermittent communications with the funding ministries, the persons responsible did not have a clear grasp of the real situations on the ground.
While the New Democratic Party believes it must seriously address the issue of nuclear security and comply with its international obligations in order to better co-operate with other countries on counterterrorism strategies, this is one area of many that needs to be tackled for Canadians to truly feel safe.
I hope the safety of Canadians in their communities is something that will be reflected in the upcoming budget. I hope to see quality investments in prevention strategies and investments in our youth. Cuts to border services and community programs will not help our communities. Investments in youth gang prevention programs will also help our young people, as some current programs will see their funding expire.
We need to see real action in job creation for our young people. There are nearly 400,000 young people looking for work. It is shocking that in a country such as Canada, youth unemployment is at 13.5%. Helping youth get quality jobs can divert youth away from gang activities and allow them to help build our communities as well as improve their safety. I certainly hope to see some leadership soon from the government on this issue. Our communities truly deserve better.
I digress again. I am very passionate about safety in our communities and when we talk about nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism, I automatically think of safety in my own backyard.
Coming back to Bill S-9, in the committee stage of the bill, one witness, Professor Bunn, shared some thoughts that I believe highlight the necessity of the bill and Canada's role on the international stage. He stated:
—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.
Canada has always had a reputation as an international leader on the world stage. It is unfortunate that under the Conservative government, this internationally high regard has been depleted in areas such as Canada's environmental policies. However, it is hopeful that through Bill S-9, Canada's international partners will follow its lead in the area of nuclear terrorism protection.
Professor Bunn went on to say:
Should terrorists succeed in detonating a nuclear bomb in a major city, the political, economic, and social effects would reverberate throughout the world. Kofi Annan, when he was secretary-general of the United Nations, warned that the economic effects would drive millions of people into poverty and create a second death toll in the developing world. Fears that terrorists might have another bomb that they might set off somewhere else would be acute. The world would be transformed, and not for the better.
The New Democrats agree that we have an obligation to work with our international partners, as nuclear terrorism will not have an impact in isolation, but it will affect the global community. It seems to me that the sophistication of technology and radioactive devices continues to improve. Therefore, Canada and countries around the world must act in a responsive, proactive and effective manner to ensure the protection of our citizens.
When it comes to terrorism, no country works in isolation. Rather, we require a consistent global response. The New Democratic Party believes we must seriously address the issue of nuclear security and comply with Canada's international obligations in order to better co-operate with other countries on counterterrorism strategies. Canadians and people around the globe deserve to feel safe and secure. It is for these reasons that we will be supporting Bill S-9.