Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

November 01, 2013 10:00 ET

Legislation to Combat Nuclear Terrorism Comes Into Force

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Nov. 1, 2013) - The Honourable Peter MacKay, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Central Nova, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today announced that the Nuclear Terrorism Act has come into force. This legislation enhances the domestic legal framework to better respond to the threat of nuclear terrorism and fulfills key international commitments Canada has made in the area of nuclear security.

"Nuclear terrorism is a threat of serious global concern," said Minister MacKay. "That is why our Government has taken action to enhance our ability to fight nuclear terrorism by punishing those who aspire to commit such acts. Safety and security are paramount."

The Nuclear Terrorism Act creates four new Criminal Code offences related to nuclear terrorism:

  • Making a device, or possessing, using, transferring, exporting, importing, altering or disposing of nuclear or radioactive material or a device, or committing 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;
  • Using or altering nuclear or radioactive material or a device, or committing an act against a nuclear facility or its operation, with the intent to compel a person, a government or a domestic or international organization to do, or refrain from doing, any act;
  • Committing an indictable offence for the purpose of obtaining nuclear or radioactive material or a device, or to obtain access to a nuclear facility;
  • Threatening to commit any of these offences.

The international community, including Canada, has strengthened its cooperation to help prevent the acquisition of nuclear material, radioactive material and devices by individuals or groups with malicious intent.

These amendments will permit Canada to ratify the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

An online version of the legislation is available at www.parl.gc.ca.

Backgrounder: Nuclear Terrorism Legislation

Internet: http://www.justice.gc.ca

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Backgrounder: Nuclear Terrorism Legislation

The Nuclear Terrorism Act will help combat nuclear terrorism by:

  • Enhancing the domestic legal framework available to respond to the threat posed by acts of nuclear terrorism; and
  • Fulfilling key international commitments Canada has made in the area of nuclear security.

Enhancing the Domestic Legal Framework

This Act amends the Criminal Code to create four new offences related to nuclear terrorism, including:

  • Making a device or possessing or trafficking nuclear or radioactive material or a device, or committing 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;
  • Using or altering nuclear or radioactive material or a device, or committing an act against a nuclear facility or its operation with the intent to compel a person, a government or a domestic or international organization to do, or refrain from doing, anything;
  • Committing an indictable offence for the purpose of obtaining nuclear or radioactive material or a device or to obtain access to a nuclear facility; and
  • Threatening to commit these offences.

Three of the offences call for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment - a level of punishment consistent with similar terrorism offences in the Criminal Code. The threat offence carries a maximum penalty of fourteen years imprisonment.

In addition, since the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism have been added to the list of international conventions which make up the definition of terrorist activity in the Criminal Code, a number of terrorism provisions now apply to the new offences, such as reverse onus bail and the availability of one-year wiretap authorizations.

The legislation is not intended to criminalize existing lawful activity, or use or possession of nuclear and radioactive material or devices.

Delivering on International Nuclear Terrorism Commitments

The 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) established measures related to the prevention, detection and punishment of offences related to nuclear material. Canada ratified the CPPNM in 1986 and became a State Party. In 2005, State Parties to the CPPNM adopted by consensus the CPPNM Amendment calling for the protection of nuclear facilities and material in peaceful domestic use, storage and transport. The CPPNM Amendment also provides for expanded cooperation between and among States regarding rapid measures to locate and recover stolen or smuggled nuclear material, mitigate any radiological consequences of sabotage, and prevent and combat related offences. For Canada, the physical protection measures contemplated in the CPPNM Amendment are already in place through the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the Nuclear Security Regulations.

Also in 2005, the international community negotiated and concluded the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT). The ICSANT covers a broad range of criminal acts and possible targets, including threats and attempts. The ICSANT also stipulates that offenders shall be either extradited or prosecuted, and encourages States to cooperate in preventing terrorist attacks by sharing information and assisting each other with criminal investigations and extradition proceedings. Canada has signed, but not yet ratified, the ICSANT.

At the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., the Prime Minister committed, along with other world leaders, to work toward ratification of the CPPNM Amendment and the ICSANT. Several domestic and international nuclear security initiatives were also announced at this Summit. At the 2012 Summit in Seoul, Republic of Korea, Canada committed to taking concrete steps toward ratification of the CPPNM Amendment and the ICSANT.

Ratification, which is the formal international act by which Canada signifies its consent to be legally bound by the terms of the Conventions, can only take place once the necessary domestic implementing legislation is in force.

Contact Information

  • Paloma Aguilar
    Press Secretary
    Office of the Minister of Justice
    613-992-4621

    Media Relations Office
    Department of Justice
    613-957-4207