Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of rising once again to speak to Bill S-9, which aims to implement two international treaties to fight terrorism, namely, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
I spoke to the bill at second reading, at which time I supported the bill in principle. Essentially, the bill was not amended in committee and several witnesses reminded us of the importance of its swift passage.
Before quoting some very enlightening testimony heard at committee, I would like to remind the House what Bill S-9 is all about. Quite simply, it amends the Criminal Code to create new offences allowing us to better foil certain activities related to nuclear terrorism.
Among other things, the bill makes it illegal to possess, use or dispose of nuclear or radioactive material 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; to use or alter 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; to commit an indictable offence under federal law for the purpose of obtaining nuclear or radioactive material, or access to a nuclear facility; and to threaten to commit any of the other three offences.
The bill also has a prevention component to it. As Terry Jamieson, vice-president of the Technical Support Branch of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, told the committee:
...if Bill S-9 is enacted and Canada ratifies the CPPNM as well as the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, there is no additional work necessary to implement the physical protection measures among Canada's nuclear facility operators. These measures in fact have already been in place for years.
This bill is vital to Canada's credibility in the fight against terrorism. Professor Matthew Bunn, from Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said the following in committee:
Since the September 11 attacks in the United States, both [Canada and the United States] 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.
It is time to walk the walk. Canada cannot just pay lip service to this issue. We must put our words into action and deliver a clear message to the international community. Speaking of sending a clear message, our neighbours to the south have yet to approve similar legislation. Hopefully, between now and nuclear safety week in 2014, they will be inspired by our example to ratify the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the CPPNM amendment and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
Although Bill S-9 and those conventions seem to have limited content, they at least promote international consistency. Again, according to Matthew Bunn:
I think the domestic steps, such as passing this legislation, are crucial to being able to build this global framework. The reality is that we won't get everybody participating in this global framework. You're not going to see North Korea ratifying these treaties any time soon.
On the other hand, I think that through the international cooperation that we have managed to achieve...we've managed to get many countries where radioactive materials or even nuclear materials were quite vulnerable to take action by improving the security of those items or by getting rid of them entirely from particular places. I think that has reduced the risk to all of us.
That being said, it is essential that Canada recognize nuclear terrorism as a real threat to security and live up to its responsibilities to the international community.
Again, I am quoting Professor Matthew Bunn, on the current dangers of nuclear terrorism:
Government studies in the United States and in other countries have concluded that if terrorists manage to get enough highly enriched uranium or plutonium, they might very well be able to make a crude nuclear bomb capable of incinerating the heart of a major city. In the case of highly enriched uranium, making such a bomb is basically a matter of slamming two pieces together at high speed. The amounts required are small, and smuggling them is frighteningly easy.
The core of al Qaeda is, as President Obama mentioned the other night, a shadow of its former self, but regional affiliates are metastasizing and some of the key nuclear operatives of al Qaeda remain free today. With at least two terrorist groups having pursued nuclear weapons seriously in the last 20 years, we cannot expect that they will be the last. Moreover, some terrorists have seriously considered sabotaging nuclear power plants, perhaps causing something like what we saw at Fukushima in Japan, or dispersing highly radioactive materials in a so-called “dirty bomb”.
It is vital to keep in mind that Canada is a major uranium producer and has a number of nuclear reactors. What is more, nuclear substances are delivered in Canada hundreds of times daily. An example that springs to mind is the medical isotopes delivered to Canadian hospitals.
These facts remind us that we must be vigilant. It is important to know, for example, that a person was successfully prosecuted in 2010 for trying to send Iran dual-use nuclear devices, which might have been used for uranium enrichment.
To have an idea of the extent of these realities at the international level, we must remember that the International Atomic Energy Agency official responsible for non-proliferation and risk reduction reported 2000 incidents relating to the unauthorized possession and transportation of nuclear and radioactive material between 1993 and 2011.
Furthermore, as I pointed out in my speech at second reading, the Conservative government should also recognize that Canada will not be able to reduce nuclear terrorism threats unless it implements an action framework that it conceived and endowed with sufficient resources to support the implementation of these conventions.
We in the NDP are determined to promote multilateral diplomacy and international cooperation, particularly in areas of shared concern, such as nuclear terrorism.
I look forward to my colleagues' questions.