Mr. Speaker, like many of my colleagues, I am rising in the House in support of Bill S-9 on nuclear terrorism.
This bill would amend the Criminal Code in order to add the criminal law requirements found in two international treaties designed to combat nuclear terrorism around the world.
The two treaties in question are the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the CPPNM, and the 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
These international conventions require the signatory states to improve the physical protection of their nuclear facilities as well as the use, storage and transport of nuclear materials. The states are also required to create new criminal offences for acts of terrorism, among other things.
These treaties show that the international community is willing to work together to combat the threats against countries all around the world.
Unfortunately, we are seeing an increasing number of nuclear threats around the world, whether we are talking about Canada, the United States or other countries.
In the past, for example, at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in 2010 and in Seoul in 2012, Canada committed to be legally bound by these conventions and to ratify them.
In 2005, Canada signed the two United Nations treaties, but since then, the Conservatives have unfortunately done nothing.
Bill S-9 would pop up on the order paper from time to time, when they were trying to fill some holes to avoid prorogation. Now, as we approach the end of the session and there are still a few weeks to fill, Bill S-9 is back.
This is an extremely important issue, but Canada has dragged its feet when it comes to honouring the promises and commitments we made to the international community.
Despite everything, I am happy that we are having this debate in the House and that we can maybe move forward with legislation to better protect Canadians and people in other countries, as well as have better relations with the rest of the international community.
At present, we are still unable to keep our promise to ratify those treaties because we do not have a legislative provision in the Criminal Code that criminalizes the offences contained in the two treaties we are discussing today.
If Bill S-9 were passed, it would allow Canada to finally fulfill its international obligations by amending the Criminal Code, which in turn would then meet the requirements of international conventions that the Prime Minister has clearly said he wants Canada to endorse. It is time to keep that promise and to finally achieve the desired result of ensuring everyone's security.
The bill on nuclear terrorism we are debating today includes 10 clauses that would create four new offences under part II of the Criminal Code, as well as other amendments that are consequential to these four offences.
They have already been described at length in the House. I will not go over all the legislative provisions contained in this bill. However, it is extremely important that we make these amendments to the Criminal Code.
The NDP firmly believes in the importance of promoting multilateral diplomacy and international co-operation, especially on such an important issue as nuclear terrorism. This is not the kind of file that we can shove into a drawer and come back to when we have more time or at a more opportune moment. It is something that must be dealt with fairly quickly.
Canada signed these treaties back in 2005. A number of years passed before some measures were taken in order to get the wheels turning. That is what I find disappointing about the whole process.
There is something else that I find quite unfortunate. Once again, the Senate was given the responsibility of introducing a bill that is of vital importance.
It should not be the role of the unelected chamber. Still, I have to say that I appreciate the technical work that was done here. It was painstaking and detailed work. The senators even managed to correct at least one shortcoming in the bill. That effort is appreciated. However, I still believe that this bill should have been introduced initially in the House of Commons, which is where we should have been debating it from the start. Of course, we have the opportunity to do so now, but it is getting to us a bit late.
Despite the procedural shortcomings, Canada still has a responsibility to the international community, and we really need to take action. We have to get serious about domestic and international nuclear security, and we have to co-operate more with other countries on strategies to fight nuclear terrorism.
Unfortunately, threats in today's world are increasing in number and diversity. It can be difficult to predict what tragedy may happen if radioactive or nuclear material were to fall into the wrong hands. Small amounts of this material can cause absolutely unbelievable damage. That is why it is so important to pass Bill S-9 and ensure that the steps we are taking here, in Canada, truly meet our needs.
Aside from creating new offences for nuclear terrorism, threats and so on, what I find interesting and important is that the treaties address various aspects of transporting and storing nuclear material, be it nuclear waste or something else. Canada is a significant producer of medical isotopes. We still use nuclear material that is highly enriched, which creates large quantities of waste that must be disposed of safely.
There are ways to deal with that. I do not think that the materials currently used to make our medical isotopes should still be used. There are alternatives that would produce good results. In the meantime, we need to commit to reducing the quantity of waste we produce from medical isotopes and find better ways to store it. Canada already does this relatively well, but we can always do better and ensure even better protection for the people within our borders.
Some of my colleagues also mentioned the closure of the Gentilly-2 reactor in Quebec, which highlights the importance of proper storage of nuclear materials and proper disposal of waste. Given the closure of that reactor, we need to ensure that we really can dispose of radioactive materials safely when they can no longer be used, in order to ensure that they do not fall into the wrong hands and do not affect the health of Canadians.
I am sure everyone remembers what happened with Bruce Power, an Ontario company, in 2011. It wanted to transport 16 nuclear reactors down the St. Lawrence River and then on to Sweden to decontaminate them, bring them back here and then bury them. It stirred up a great deal of controversy at the time. Mayors of the cities and towns along the river opposed it, and the company had to change its plans. In fact, people were worried about the precedent it would set, about the transportation of this kind of waste increasing considerably on the river, thereby potentially putting our health at risk. Once again, we cannot always predict what will happen with this kind of transportation.
These are all issues that we need to address as parliamentarians. We had the opportunity to do so with Bill S-9. It is critically important that we pass this bill and I hope it receives unanimous support.