THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE
OTTAWA, Monday, December 14, 2020
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade met this day with videoconference at 10 a.m. [ET] to study Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act.
Senator Peter M. Boehm (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: My name is Peter Boehm. I am a senator from Ontario, and I am the chair of the committee.
Today, we are conducting a hybrid meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Thank you in advance, senators, for your patience as we adapt to this new way of holding our meetings. This is the first ever meeting of this committee to be done in this way.
Before we begin, I would like to remind senators and witnesses to please keep your microphones muted at all times, unless recognized by name by the chair.
For senators participating via Zoom, I will ask you to use the “raise hand” feature in order to be recognized. For those attending the meeting in person here in the meeting room, I will ask you to please signal to the clerk, Ms. Lemay, who is sitting to my left, if you want to be recognized.
I will do my best to get to everyone who wants to ask a question to witnesses, and in order to do so, I ask senators to try and keep their questions, and preambles to questions, brief.
I would also like to remind you that when speaking, you should be on the same interpretation channel as the language you are speaking.
Should any technical challenges arise, particularly in relation to interpretation, please signal this to the chair or the clerk and we will work to resolve the issue.
Now, I would like to introduce the members of the committee who are participating in this meeting: Senator Ataullahjan; Senator Black (Alberta); Senator Cormier; Senator Coyle; Senator Dean; Senator Deacon (Ontario); Senator Greene; Senator Harder, deputy chair; Senator Ngo, deputy chair; and Senator Ravalia.
I wish to welcome all of you, and the viewers across the country who may be watching this meeting.
Today, we are beginning our consideration of Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act. The bill was introduced in the Senate on October 27 of this year. It received second reading on December 2, 2020, and was referred the same day to our committee.
This morning, for the first hour or so, to go over the bill and give us some background and answer our questions, we welcome, from Global Affairs Canada, Dan Costello, Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security and Political Affairs. Welcome to the meeting, Mr. Costello. It’s great to see you in these circumstances. We used to work together before. Also joining us are Sébastien Carrière, Executive Director, Non-proliferation and Disarmament Division; and Alison Grant, Director, Eastern Europe & Eurasia division.
Also in attendance with Mr. Costello are the National Coordinator and the Deputy National Coordinator of the Canadian National Authority to the Chemical Weapons Convention, Brendan Murphy and Andrew Halliday.
Welcome to all and thank you very much for being with us. Mr. Costello, you have the floor.
Dan Costello, Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security and Political Affairs, Global Affairs Canada: Thank you, Mr. Chair, for your kind introduction, and thank you, honourable senators, for your invitation to appear today before this committee. It’s a real privilege to do so, not least because my colleagues and I are very mindful and appreciative of the important work you do on behalf of Canadians.
To this I’ll add that it’s an additional privilege for me, personally, knowing that among the members of your committee are two of my greatest models and mentors in public service and diplomacy. You know who you are and I hope you know how grateful I remain to you.
I will now move to today’s topic: Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act.
Honourable senators, in March 2018, the world was shocked to learn that a military grade nerve agent, a chemical weapon called a Novichok, was used in an attempt to assassinate Mr. Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Ms. Yulia Skripal, in the city of Salisbury, United Kingdom. This attack put the Skripals, a police detective, and an innocent bystander in the hospital and caused another bystander to lose her life.
Canada and our allies have assessed that the Russian Federation is highly likely responsible for the attack, and in the UK, two alleged Russian intelligence agents have been charged in absentia for the incident. This attack took place several months after the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) certified that the Russian Federation had completely destroyed its declared chemical weapons stockpile.
Meanwhile, in the Syrian Arab Republic, hundreds have been injured or killed by chemical weapons employed by the armed forces of the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Competent bodies have attributed no fewer than seven separate chemical weapons attacks, either with the nerve agent sarin or the toxic industrial chemical chlorine, to Assad’s armed forces. All seven of these attacks have taken place after Syria acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention and after its declared chemical weapons had all been destroyed.
Before these egregious attacks, we believed that, through the convention, we were consigning the use of chemical weapons to the past. But it is clear that some States have failed to declare their entire stockpile of weapons, in violation of their obligations under the convention.
Honourable senators, the Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits any state from developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling, retaining and using chemical weapons. It also prohibits preparing to use them and encouraging or inducing another entity to engage in prohibited behaviour. It also oversees the destruction of existing declared chemical weapons stockpiles. All of these provisions are implemented in a way that does not hamper legitimate trade in chemicals or work in chemistry for peaceful purposes.
Since 1997, when the convention entered into force, the OPCW — the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons — the independent treaty body established to implement the convention, has verified the destruction of some 71,000 metric tonnes of chemical weapons, or over 98% of the world’s declared stockpiles. The OPCW’s strict verification regime helps to ensure that these weapons, once destroyed, are never produced again.
Now, the Chemical Weapons Convention includes an annex on chemicals called the Schedules, a list of the most common toxic chemicals and their precursors. These chemicals are subject to restrictions and declaration requirements, varying based on their toxicity and usefulness in chemical industry, and are subject to verification by the OPCW. Schedule 1 chemicals are extremely toxic and have no commercial or industrial applications and thus may only be produced or used in defence against chemical weapons. Chemicals listed in Schedules 2 and 3 have some uses in industry, and so the restrictions on their production and trade are lower. A chemical weapon is defined not by its inclusion on a list, but rather by its use for the purpose of harm. Both the Novichok used in Salisbury and the chlorine used in Syria are prohibited weapons under the convention.
In response to the attack in Salisbury, Canada joined with close allies to propose a technical change to add these new families of toxic chemicals to Schedule 1 of the Annex on Chemicals, indeed, the first time new chemicals would be added to the annex since the convention entered into force in 1997.
In November 2019, after no small amount of diplomatic work by Canada together with like-minded allies, the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention agreed to add four new categories of toxic chemicals to Schedule 1, additions which came into effect on June 7, 2020.
This means that effective last June, Canadians are no longer permitted to handle these chemicals without a licence issued by the Canadian National Authority to the convention, which is located within Global Affairs Canada. Since these chemicals have no use in industry, the impact of this change for Canadians is effectively nil. Those permitted to handle Schedule 1 chemicals, notably at the Canadian National Single Small-Scale Facility, a chemical defence research facility located at Canadian Forces Base Suffield, must, of course, declare their work with these chemicals, and these declarations are subject to verification by the OPCW.
Bill S-2 is not required for these changes to take effect; they are already in effect. How, might you ask, is that so? Canada’s Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act includes the original convention annex on chemicals, but that original annex is now out of date. Elsewhere in our implementation act, specifically in subsection 2(1), the convention and its annexes are defined by reference to the legal text of the convention. Moreover, section 2(3) states that in case of conflict between the convention and the schedule in our implementation act, the convention itself always takes precedence. So because of that provision, even though the schedule in our current act is now out of date, the correct list of chemicals found in the new Chemical Weapons Convention annex is what applies to Canada. In short, Canadians are automatically bound by the amended convention list, even if the schedule in our own implementation act is now out of date.
I feel certain you will agree, however, that this is potentially confusing for Canadians who may be interested and look for and find conflicting information about the chemicals they are not permitted to handle without authorization.
To avoid any such confusion and to ensure that our implementation act stays current, Bill S-2, which is before you, proposes to remove the schedule altogether. It amends the definition of “convention” under subsection 2(1) and deletes subsection 2(3) entirely in order to remove references to the outdated schedule that is itself to be removed. Once the schedule is removed, it will be clear that the correct list of chemicals is the one maintained by the OPCW. There will be no doubt and no possibility of confusion. Repealing the schedule with Bill S-2 does not impact how it applies to Canadians, and it does not change Canada’s obligations or commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention. The same list of controlled chemicals, those of the updated convention, will remain in force in Canada.
While Bill S-2 is, therefore, quite straightforward, I hope you will agree that it is an important and necessary step in making Canadian obligations clear and easy to understand.
I will end this brief presentation on the content of Bill S-2 here. I must mention that I am accompanied by four colleagues from Global Affairs Canada, whom the chair introduced at the beginning of the session.
Thank you, honourable senators. We are now ready to respond to your questions and comments. I return the floor to you, Mr. Chair.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Costello.
Colleagues, we will open the question period now. First on my list, I have Senator Ataullahjan, who is the critic for the bill.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for appearing before us. As the critic of the bill, I have to say I support this legislation. However, I do have a couple of questions.
Do you agree that this ban in Canada itself is entirely symbolic? I mean, we don’t produce this class of weapons. Russia does, and I don’t know if Russia has any intention to change its practices. How will this legislation impact what Russia or other countries choose to do, and what is the government’s action plan related to the enforcement of the provisions?
Mr. Costello: Thank you for your support of this bill. At one level, I can agree that it’s symbolic because we don’t expect that this is a chemical that pops up in Canada, and we are an adherent to the treaty and any of our use for defensive purposes and research is declared and subject to strict verification mechanisms.
But I think it does go a little bit beyond symbolic in that it’s our commitment to upholding the treaty and the treaty-based obligations that reinforce and strengthen the application of the treaty and allows us to say to the world that we are committing ourselves to this implementation at home, and we are going to subject ourselves to all that involves — the declarations and verifications and so forth — because this treaty is an important part of international law and the rules-based international order. On that basis, it allows us to say we expect all signatories to uphold their obligations and comply with the terms of the treaty, including the monitoring and verification provisions that this independent treaty-based organization brings to everyone else.
Beyond the symbolism, the fact of our reinforcing and strengthening this treaty is an important part of our ability to advocate and urge all other parties to the treaty to uphold their obligations as well.
On your question about Russia, we have been very active in supporting the OPCW, its important work, expertise, capacities and budgets, and in updating the convention, as I noted, by adding these new families of chemicals to the schedule, we have also been very active in calling out this kind of frankly outrageous behaviour along with our closest allies and making sure this is something that is considered completely unacceptable in terms of international norms, standards and law.
Senator Ataullahjan: When Senator Coyle spoke, she noted the principal reason this initiative was taken by Canada and our American and Dutch allies was to respond to the use of the class of weapons used in the attack in Salisbury. Are we confident this legislation would prevent an attack similar to the one in Salisbury?
Mr. Costello: We have no illusions that this act to amend Canadian domestic implementation legislation will have an effect in assuring prevention around the world, because that’s clearly beyond what we can reach through our domestic legislation. However, it does reinforce our adherence to the treaty and the treaty-based regime, the treaty body that implements with the force of international law the treaty provisions around the world, and it allows us to go on strengthening the international rules that apply and the implementation mechanisms that go along with them and to build advocacy among like-minded allies to ensure that they are fully prosecuted to make the world aware of any such violation.
So while clearly this won’t prevent future attacks — I would like to say there would be none — but what we have seen in Syria and in Russian behaviour is that there are undeclared stocks out there being used, and we need to call this outrageous behaviour out and use all the tools in our diplomatic tool kit with our like-minded allies to make sure that that does not go by without the outrage of the international community being expressed in ways that make it clear that this is just not acceptable.
Our implementation of our domestic obligations is an important part of our ability to speak vocally, forcefully and credibly as full adherents to our obligations under the treaty and as strong supporters of its implementation globally.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Costello.
Senator Coyle: Mr. Costello, thank you very much for your very interesting introductory remarks. In fact, in answering Senator Ataullahjan, you actually answered a couple of my burning questions as well. As sponsor of Bill S-2, I do have two questions. I’ll pose the first one.
You have highlighted some of the international fault lines that exist in the chemical weapons world. You have mentioned Syria and, of course, Russia, and more recently the issue of Mr. Navalny that I know is an ongoing, active case. As a person with this portfolio, are you seeing or monitoring, with the OPCW, potential fault lines in other parts of the world? Where are we potentially worried about chemical weapons monitoring being more necessary than other places? We know about Syria. We know about Russia. What about the rest of the world, if you are able to say so?
Mr. Costello: That’s a great question. Thank you, senator. Perhaps I should offer my colleagues a chance to comment as well because I know this is something of real concern to us.
It’s interesting. This convention was adopted in 1997 with broad membership; 194, I think? My colleagues will correct me. One of the questions I asked my team was why we did not foresee that our domestic annex would need updating. I think it reflects the optimism of the post-Cold War period when we did not expect to have to add new dangerous chemical weapons to the schedule. I guess it’s also before Canadians had access to the OPCW website and so forth. But there are deep concerns.
In addition to supporting the OPCW and its budget, its implementation capacity, its expertise and, through diplomatic advocacy, its access, monitoring and verification, we also have a Weapons Threat Reduction Program, which you may remember as the global partnership program when it was initially launched in 2002 after the 9/11 attacks. This was at the Kananaskis G8 Summit. Its focus was to be on the “loose nukes” in the post-Soviet space, not just nuclear weapons, but all weapons of mass destruction: chemical, biological and radiological.
The program has evolved considerably since and we have been very active in all of these areas. We have focused a lot of our attention on chemical weapons. I can tell you there are a number of other regimes which are either not part of the convention or less open to its monitoring and verification provisions that do cause great concern.
Among the areas I can tell you we have invested through that Weapons Threat Reduction Program are not only in the capacities of the OPCW itself but in supporting UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea and its various missile programs and supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency in its verification of Iran’s compliance with its nuclear commitments, but also more generally strengthening global capacity in biosafety, biosecurity and disease surveillance. That has been handy during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also in ensuring that the OPCW can get to places where there are concerns about chemical weapons stockpiles.
You mentioned Russia and Syria. We did a lot of work in Libya and Iraq. I know there are ongoing concerns in a number of places, but I won’t go beyond that unless my colleagues wish to add something.
Alison Grant, Director, Eastern Europe & Eurasia, Global Affairs Canada: No additional comments from me, Mr. Chair.
Sébastien Carrière, Executive Director, Non-proliferation and Disarmament Division, Global Affairs Canada: Thank you for the question. Perhaps to add a few numbers to what Mr. Costello just indicated, there are 193 member states parties to the convention. Israel is the one country that has signed but not ratified. Three have not signed: Egypt, DPRK and South Sudan.
In terms of the geographical area, that is correct in mentioning Russia, Syria, Libya and Iraq where Canada in the past 20 years has invested upwards of $230 million to help with stockpile destruction. So following entry into force of the convention, one of the first areas of action for the international community was stockpile destruction: 72,304 metric tons of chemical agents were declared and 98.37% of those have been destroyed through international calibration under the umbrella of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Also, in terms of the Weapons Threat Reduction Program, Canada has helped the OPCW in strengthening all its aspects upwards of $40 million over the last 10 years through a variety of programs.
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator Coyle: I do have a supplementary. This is just for us to understand where the work of the OPCW itself — intervention et cetera — starts and stops and where we and our efforts as a country stop and start. I just want to understand how that works, for instance, regarding our relationship with Russia. Mr. Costello, you mentioned we have been actively supporting the OPCW with allies. There are three levels actually. With allies within OPCW, we have been actively calling out. What are we doing collectively through OPCW, collectively with allies and other members of OPCW and other signatories, and what are we doing on a bilateral basis with our own diplomatic and other efforts? Thank you.
The Chair: Mr. Costello, sounds like an easy question.
Mr. Costello: We could talk quite awhile on this, especially when you get into relations with Russia bilaterally or globally. You might recall that, at the time of the Salisbury attack, Canada joined allies in speaking out strongly and in expelling Russian diplomats and denying the applications of other diplomats as part of an unprecedented collective response. I think 29 countries announced the expulsion of over 150 diplomats. At the OPCW, we were able to move forward to add these families of chemicals. We have spoken out repeatedly in various configurations and we continue to raise this with the Russians directly and in multilateral forums.
On the issue of domestic implementation versus the requirements, perhaps I’ll ask Sébastien and Alison to speak again. They know this stuff very well. Maybe you could speak to the question of our obligations under the convention and the convention implementation and how that works both in Canada and abroad.
Alison, if you want to add anything on our relations with Russia, that might be helpful.
Mr. Carrière: Thank you, senator, for the question. I would characterize it as a fluid relationship between our domestic obligations and our international obligations. Of course, implementing the obligations of the convention domestically is not optional. This is why we’re here today, to make sure the most recent changes to the convention are also applied in Canada. After that, it becomes a matter of will. One could simply adhere to the convention, enable domestic legislation and the basic obligations would be met.
Most of our funding and our work with the OPCW that goes beyond that is voluntary. It’s a policy decision that is made to support, as I mentioned earlier, stockpile destruction in other countries and, for instance, support other initiatives through the G7 global partnership and/or the Weapons Threat Reduction Program. This is based, clearly, on common interests.
I hope that answers your question, senator. If it doesn’t, I can come back.
Ms. Grant: On overall bilateral relations with Russia, it’s no secret that we have a difficult relationship with Russia. This doesn’t mean we’re not active bilaterally with Russia in terms of promoting and protecting Canadian interests when it comes to Russia. This is in areas, of course, where we have collaboration, like in the Arctic, but it also allows us to directly address issues where we vehemently disagree with Russian behaviour, calling out violations.
This is a case in point, too, as Mr. Costello said, in this case of the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. We did raise this directly with Russia through senior official channels as well, reiterating our condemnation of the attack and the use of chemical weapons and called for Russia’s cooperation at the OPCW.
This is the sort of activity that we do engage in regularly, and we do manage it despite the difficult relationship. We think those direct bilateral contacts on a range of issues with the Russian Federation are important. Thank you.
Senator Coyle: Thank you.
Senator Cormier: Thank you for your presentation, Mr. Costello. My thanks also go to my colleagues for their very appropriate questions.
My concerns are more about Canada. What impact will this legislation have on the processes of consultation and information, right here in Canada?
I recognize that it will no longer be necessary to amend the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act each time a change is made to the list of chemical products in the schedule. How does the government intend to consult Parliament and other stakeholders in order to inform them of those changes, because they will no longer be updated in the act?
Mr. Costello: Thank you very much for your question and for your very legitimate concerns. They are important and we share them.
I will ask Sébastien to add his comments afterwards.
I should note that the chemical products being added to the schedules in the convention have no legitimate use. Basically, they are chemical weapons. That’s why we see no impact for Canada, apart from our statement dealing with our obligations involving research for the Canadian Forces. Apart from that, there is no impact for Canadians on a daily basis.
Some chemical products listed in the schedule have different uses, such as chlorine, that is routinely used in swimming pools. Consequently, there are provisions dealing with its legitimate use. However, for Novichok, there is no legitimate use.
If I may, Mr. Chair, I will ask Sébastien to conclude.
Mr. Carrière: Thank you for the question, Senator Cormier.
Yes, Mr. Costello is quite right. The substances that have been added to the list are those that have no civilian and/or legitimate use.
The issue of future consultations is very appropriate as well. We have a team, represented by my colleagues Brendan and Andrew, that is in constant contact with officials in the chemical industry in Canada. In terms of the implementation of the convention in Canada, for example, inspections can happen once or twice a year. Reports are submitted to us and we have a small secretariat. Reports from the industry in Canada are sent to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and vice versa. So all technical notices and all communications from the organization’s experts are sent to everyone involved in Canada, so that they can make ongoing adjustments as needed.
Senator Cormier: I have a more general question. Actually, I was wondering what mechanism Canada uses to make sure that chemical weapons do not come into the country. That is a wide-ranging and open-ended question. But it is truly quite concerning to see the impact when these weapons are used.
How do we make sure that chemical weapons do not come into Canada?
Mr. Carrière: I will turn to my colleagues Andrew and Brendan to complete my answer, but, in a word, Senator Cormier, these substances are on the list of prohibited substances and are specifically monitored at the moment they enter Canada by our colleagues at the Canada Border Services Agency. They also go through all kinds of detection systems.
As for all the illicit entries into Canada by other means, of course, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service oversees those issues.
The Chair: Thank you. Would Mr. Murphy or Mr. Halliday wish to comment?
Andrew Halliday, Deputy National Coordinator, Canadian National Authority to the Chemical Weapons Convention, Global Affairs Canada: Thank you, senators. I’ll begin by noting that in addition to everything that Mr. Carrière has said, the import and export of Schedule 1 chemicals are extremely tightly regulated. In the rare situation where it might occur, which would be something like a proficiency test for a lab such as Suffield or collaboration across borders between Canada and allies on defensive research, the OPCW has to be notified. The exporting country and importing country provide a declaration to the OPCW a full 30 days before the export is planned, and then all appropriate licences are sought on top of that. That would be through Global Affairs Canada under the Export and Import Permits Act.
I rarely see these as the person who fills out these exact declaration forms. At the end of the year, all imports and exports, and indeed all activities with Schedule 1 chemicals, are declared to the OPCW and are subject to inspections by the OPCW’s Technical Secretariat.
CFB Suffield receives such an inspection approximately every second year. Brendan and I attended the last one, which was in October 2019.
They are very thorough in making certain that everything that Canada does with these chemicals is very closely monitored and is consistent with the prohibitions of the Chemical Weapons Convention and therefore also with the Canadian legislation, the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act. Thank you.
Senator Dean: Thank you to our public service colleagues. It’s always a treat to hear from you.
I note that 193 states parties are signatories to the CWC and that only four UN member states haven’t ratified the treaty. I think you referred to those a few moments ago — Egypt, Israel, North Korea and South Sudan. What is the explanation for this, in your view? I’m thinking in particular about Canada’s close ally Israel but the others as well. How do these UN states justify this? Can we take from this in any way that some or all of these states may be reserving the right to maintain some sort of prohibited materials?
Mr. Costello: I’m going to ask Sébastien Carrière to speak to that. It’s a good question, but I’m afraid I don’t have the answer. I’m hoping my colleagues do.
Sébastien, do you have anything to say to that? I suppose we could return to the committee with a response if we don’t have it today.
Mr. Carrière: Thank you, senator, for the question. I wouldn’t dare, of course, to speak for other countries at this committee, but I can certainly share with senators our interpretation of their status.
Israel is signed but not ratified, which is different than not having signed at all, of course. Egypt has neither signed nor, of course, ratified. So in both of those cases — and, again, you would have to ask their representatives — I am not under any impression that these states reserve the right to use chemical weapons or develop chemical weapons in the future. I think it is probably more a matter of implementation and the costs associated with that.
In the case of DPRK, I am afraid that you’re correct, senator. This may be a case where they reserve the right to use chemical weapons. There was an incident, I think it was three years ago now — my colleagues could correct me — at Kuala Lumpur International Airport where a dissident, who was also a family member of the leader, was assassinated using a chemical weapon. So clearly I think the intentions there may be nefarious.
In the case of South Sudan, our understanding is that South Sudan is a fairly newly independent country, and this is a case of simply not having gotten around to it yet. So that’s our analysis. I hope this answers your question, senator.
Senator M. Deacon: Good morning. Thank you for being here. Mr. Costello, I do appreciate your opening remarks. They did dispel confusion for me, so I really appreciate that and the “so what” after the bill is worked through and passed.
I would like to ask questions that build on those of my colleagues around the area of enforcement, funding and substance bans. We’ve talked about countries that we know are signatories where things are still continuing to happen.
From the CWC, for signatories that break the agreement, besides condoning and speaking to it, what is there in the way of enforcements in these situations? I’d like it if you could speak to the enforcement piece first, but the other part of my question is this: Is it mostly left to countries to figure out multilaterally through different means what they need to do?
Mr. Costello: Thank you, senator, for your question. I think you have your finger on the issue with international legal regimes generally, which is the question of enforcement. I was actually having this conversation with my daughter, who is taking her first high school law class, about how, in Canada, when there’s a violation of the law and there’s due process, there is an enforcement regime. That’s the authority of the state. Whereas internationally, there is international law. There are agreed international treaty and treaty obligations. In the case of violations, in most cases, it’s then up to the international community to determine the best response.
I will ask my colleagues to comment specifically on the mandate of the OPCW and how far it goes in terms of monitoring verification and compliance because I learn from them every day. I hope you don’t mind if I ask them if they know who is best to comment.
Brendan Murphy, National Coordinator, Canadian National Authority to the Chemical Weapons Convention, Global Affairs Canada: Thank you, senator, for your question.
I would say this is a question that is still in the process of being answered by the international community. In the case of Syria, there is strong evidence that they have used chemical weapons, as Mr. Costello said in his opening remarks, at least seven times. The OPCW does not have a mandate to impose penalties or sanctions upon states that are found to be in violation, but the states parties in the OPCW are now grappling with that question.
In fact, Canada and our allies are supporting a decision which will hopefully be taken early in the new year by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to cause Syria to lose some of its rights and privileges at the organization. We see that as a first step in starting to hold Syria to account for its use of chemical weapons. It is definitely an issue that concerns us and Canada, along with our allies, are trying to play a leading role in holding some of these states to account.
Senator M. Deacon: Maybe we will carry on with the topic of grappling instead. After the last four years, we’ve noticed our neighbours, the United States, which has historically bolstered multilateral institutions like the CWC, has turned more inward and began questioning and challenging many things, like the utility and advantages, about these types of arrangements. While I would honestly hope to see a change in that as we move forward in the new year, I’m wondering how the outgoing administration approached the CWC. Did it withdraw as it did in other cases that we can articulate? Did it stay on course?
I would like to know if there were any step-backs or regression in the implementation and enforcement of the CWC over the last couple of years.
Mr. Costello: Thank you. Again, I’ll ask my colleagues to comment. To my knowledge, the United States has always been a leader and a strong collaborator at the OPCW, certainly after the Skripal incident and since Navalny.
I think you’re absolutely right: we’ve all been grappling as the U.S. reflects on its international role and through the last four years of the current administration. But this is, I think, thankfully one area in which U.S. multilateral commitments and resources and diplomatic energies have in no way been diminished. I think with the incoming Biden administration we can expect that to be reinvigorated all the more.
Colleagues, do you want to speak to specific measures? I know we’ve worked with the U.S. in adding these specific chemicals, and I believe it was the U.S. and the Netherlands who were our closest partners in the diplomatic advocacy to see these changes to the annex.
Mr. Carrière: Thank you, senator, for the question.
I agree with everything Dan just said. We worked hand in hand with our U.S. colleagues on the initiative to ban Novichoks and on a whole series of issues at the OPCW. They’ve always been a very staunch supporter in terms of funding with us through the global partnership, which is a G7 initiative. So top marks on that front certainly.
Senator Ngo: Thank you, Mr. Costello, for your presentation.
The Conference of the States Parties under the CWC regime is now taking place, and Russia has informally indicated that it is prepared to reconsider its participation in the CWC treaty regime over the Navalny case.
Does Canada ultimately view punitive actions against Russia as a result of the Navalny poisoning as more important than Russia’s continued adherence to the CWC regime?
Mr. Costello: Thank you, senator, for your question. We would say they go together. As Alison Grant pointed out, we do have a difficult relationship with Russia, but Russia considers itself and publicly presents itself as a great defender of international norms, rules and laws, and is constantly trying to point out the transgressions of others. Therefore I think, through regimes like the Chemical Weapons Convention and its implementation body, the OPCW, we have an opportunity to point out that Russia is not meeting its own commitments and to underline that and to hold Russia to account.
Part of our swift and unprecedented diplomatic response with like-minded countries in expelling diplomats, in speaking out constantly, amending the treaty and in proceeding to look at all other measures, we are doing our best to make sure this does not pass by without consequences and that Russia is held to its obligations internationally because it is a signatory to the convention and it is expected to uphold its obligations that go with it.
Ms. Grant: To add to what Mr. Costello has said, they go hand in hand. On one hand, we need to continue to encourage Russia that its best interests are served by operating within international law. And, of course, this goes to the heart of the Chemical Weapons Convention. On the other hand, we need to raise the stakes for them and increase costs and consequences when there are violations. Mr. Costello has spelled out some of the ways that we do that. Thank you.
Senator Ngo: Are we prepared to see Russia outside of the CWC regime?
Mr. Costello: That’s the sovereign decision of the Russian Federation. I think it’s an interesting comment in the sense that you’re rightly pointing to the fact that, on the one hand, we want to insist upon consequences for this kind of outrageous behaviour, this flagrant violation of international law and international relations. At the same time, we want to encourage the most transgressive and difficult actors internationally to remain within the bounds of the norms and standards of international law and international treaties.
However, I do think it goes together. Again, that would be a sovereign decision of Russia but the convention itself is clear on the obligations of states. When there is scientific evidence that those obligations have been violated, the treaty process has to proceed and we have to hold adherence to account. Internationally, states must be taken at their word in terms of commitments they make, and when they don’t make those commitments there have to be consequences. If it comes to that it would be a sovereign decision of Russia that we would regret and condemn, but I’m not aware of any such movement on the part of Russia, although Russia has been a difficult partner at the OPCW and has questioned the credibility and the legitimacy of its work. It remains a member of the convention and the OPCW.
Senator Ngo: Minister Champagne has said that he would take Russia’s denial regarding the Novichok with a grain of salt. He labelled the Russian use of the chemical agent as abhorrent and despicable. Do you think there is any additional action that the government can contemplate to take in this case?
Mr. Costello: Yes, absolutely, we are in close consultation with allies on what that might be.
Senator Ravalia: Thank you, guests. My question relates to the biological and radiation agents that are potentially used across the globe as well. Do these fall under your jurisdiction? If not, are you closely liaising with the divisions that deal with these potentially harmful agents?
Mr. Costello: Those agents do not fall under the Chemical Weapons Convention or the scope of the OPCW implementation of the convention. However, within Global Affairs Canada and the work that we described on the Weapons Threat Reduction Program, which is the continuation of the G7 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction in all forms, those biological and radiation threats are also very much included and we are very active in our work and programming in support of capacity building to address these threats.
Senator Ravalia: Thank you very much. Are the countries involved with chemical weapons also most likely the bad actors in these situations as well?
Mr. Costello: Sadly, I would say yes, but I’m reluctant to drill into the detail of our work without the team of experts who could speak to that here.
I can say that, among security analysts and threat-assessment experts, the COVID pandemic has brought to the fore the real concern of bioterrorism, biological threats and the possibility of future pandemics caused by biological agents used in various nefarious ways. This is something that has been a concern and it really does validate the good work of the Weapons Threat Reduction Program over many years, which started out focused on the post-Soviet space and the question of nuclear weapons but has expanded to the most dangerous weapons of mass destruction we know of across the board. I believe we’ve made considerable progress in our discussions with allies around the world and in our work to raise standards and build capacity to detect and prevent these kinds of threats.
Senator Ravalia: Thank you.
Senator Ataullahjan: Mr. Costello, are we actually prepared to sacrifice other interests in order to achieve the objectives of this legislation? How far are we willing to go?
Senator M. Deacon: I’m wondering how CWC gets funding to conduct investigations or inspections in signatory countries. If so, how much Canada does contribute relative to other countries in these investigations?
Mr. Costello: Thank you. It’s a very good question about sacrificing other interests. I think you know better than I that governing is always about trade-offs, and there are times when we have to take a stand on core values and interests, even if it does have consequences in other areas.
I don’t see any such grave trade-offs here. It seems to me that, when it comes to weapons of mass destruction and such outrageous threats — which the international community has condemned almost universally and set up quite a strong monitoring and verification regime — there have to be consequences for states that violate these norms and standards. If there is not, I wonder whether we can defend the rules-based international order and all of the peace and prosperity it has built for us in the postwar era in anything at all. Ultimately, it is a political question and it would depend on the context, I suppose. On this one, it’s a core value among allies and, more broadly, globally.
On the question of funding, Sébastien, perhaps you could be specific in terms of your earlier comments about our policy support, as well as what is required.
Mr. Carrière: Thank you for the question. With regard to funding of actual investigations, I would say it’s a mix of assessed contributions. As with every international organization that Canada is a member of, there are assessed contributions, like the UN system, and then there are voluntary contributions to a series of trust funds, special projects or specific investigations, such as the case with Syria.
I don’t have the exact figures in front of me, but those numbers are public. We can assemble them and send them to you via the clerk, if you are interested. I see you nodding, so we’ll do that for you.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I want to express my thanks to the witnesses today for their comprehensive responses, and thank my colleagues for their probing questions. I’m happy to see that the talent at Global Affairs Canada is still running strong and high, and I want to thank you for joining us today.
For the second part of our meeting, I’m pleased to welcome Dr. Heather Durham, Chair of the Biological and Chemical Defence Review Committee. Thank you for being with us today. We are happy and ready to hear your remarks, and we will have questions for you after. You now have the floor.
Dr. Heather Durham, Chair, Biological and Chemical Defence Review Committee: Thank you very much. Good morning senators and guests. Thank you for providing the Biological and Chemical Defence Review Committee with the opportunity to comment on Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act.
I will begin by providing background on the origin, composition and mandate of our committee; I will summarize our activities relevant to the Chemical Weapons Convention; and then I will provide comments on Bill S-2 — which, by the way, we’re approving.
First, allow me to provide some background on the Biological and Chemical Defence Review Committee. In the mid-1980s there was considerable concern in the public about what was going on at Suffield Research Centre, largely due to revelations about the mustard trials that had been carried out in World War II.
The Government of Canada commissioned the Barton Report to address these concerns and make recommendations going forward. A major recommendation of the 1988 report was to establish this committee of subject matter experts as a mechanism to ensure that research in chemical and biological defence carried out by the Department of National Defence is indeed defensive in nature, conforms to our international and treaty obligations, and is carried out safely with respect to the population and the environment. In addition, the government has an obligation to members of the Canadian Armed Forces to ensure that they are adequately equipped and trained to protect themselves from exposure to biological and chemical warfare agents.
The committee is arm’s length, reporting to the Minister of National Defence annually. The reports are published openly on the BCDRC website. The committee comprises three scientists with relevant expertise recommended by learned societies, plus an executive officer. The current members are myself, Heather Durham, a neuroscientist and toxicologist from McGill University; Dr. Jon Van Hamme, microbiologist, Thompson Rivers University; Dr. Bernie Kraatz, chemist, University of Toronto; and our Executive Officer, Brigadier-General James Selbie.
The members of the committee have the level of security clearance, Secret (Level II), to review R&D carried out by DND and preparedness of the Canadian Armed Forces, and thus are able to reassure the public or bring any issues to light.
Through our visits to the research centres and headquarters of Defence Research and Development Canada, Royal Military College, the CAF and other government establishments, the committee obtains a unique, big-picture view of the CB enterprise from early research to application to force protection, as well as policy and international commitments. It is largely because of the latter that I appear here today.
The CWC has provisions for declaration of the production, processing, consumption and transfer of scheduled chemicals and routine inspections. The BCDRC has been providing that function to DND Canada since our inception. The committee visits the DRDC research centres with CB activities on a routine basis, where we not only get a view of the R&D conducted in-house and through contracts, but inspect any holdings of chemical agents.
At Suffield Research Centre, this includes the Single Small-Scale Facility declared under the CWC, which is inspected by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the implementing body of the CWC, mentioned in the previous session.
The committee is briefed annually by Global Affairs Canada on both national and international activities related to the CWC and Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program, which is a major contributor to the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. For the threat perspective, we receive annual security and intelligence briefings from Canadian Forces Intelligence Command.
As far as we are aware, the BCDRC is the only national, independent committee in the world with this mandate. As such, we can be presented as a confidence-building measure in Canada’s reporting to the OPCW.
Here are our comments on Bill S-2. The BCDRC strongly supports the change to the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act to be effected by the adoption of Bill S-2. The amendment represents good governance. The change removes the requirement to amend the act whenever a schedule of chemicals is altered, all the work that goes along with it and any temporal discrepancy in versions of the schedules during that process, as well as any confusion about the schedules to be followed.
To avoid any confusion or reliance on assumptions, it will be important that the communication of this amendment and all documentation supporting the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act specify that the definition of the convention includes the Annex on Chemicals which provides the schedules of toxic chemicals and their precursors for the purpose of verification measures according to the provisions of the Verification Annex. In that respect, we have confidence that the National Authority will take the required actions.
Thank you for your attention, and I welcome your questions and comments.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Dr. Durham, for that comprehensive exposé. I will call on Senator Coyle, who is the sponsor of the bill, to begin the questioning.
Senator Coyle: Thank you very much, Dr. Durham, for your very clear outline this morning. You mentioned the visits that are taken on a regular basis. Could you tell us a little bit more about how regular they are? What’s entailed in those visits? What triggers a visit? What happens at the end of a visit? Can you give us a little more detail on what the process and procedure look like?
Dr. Durham: Thank you for the question. It’s my pleasure to inform the Senate of our committee’s activities. It is a good opportunity.
There are many places that we visit annually and some every two or three years. For example, we visit the Suffield Research Centre every year because that is where the majority of this kind of work is being done. That’s in Southern Alberta. There we receive briefings on the work they are doing and the framework under which they do the work. We visit the laboratories. We hear presentations from the scientists and contractors as well. As I mentioned, we do inspections of their holdings of chemical and biological agents.
Some of that is done by video because, of course, we can’t go into a Level 3 facility of a biological containment facility. At the end of that, we make a summary and we have discussions with the senior leadership.
Every year, we also visit one or two Canadian Forces bases to review their aspects of training and their knowledge about how they can be protected. As an aside, it’s been interesting to me on this committee because I was on it in the early 1990s as well, and we would hear about all the wonderful research being carried out at Suffield. Then we would go to the operations side and, of course, it hadn’t reached there yet. Over the years, I have been able to see how the work that’s been carried out by our basic scientists in DND ends up being translated not only to protection of our forces, but is contributing to the capabilities around the world. So that’s my little plug for the excellence of our science.
We also visit training establishments. We go to Borden where the basic training in force protection occurs. We go to Trenton where a response team is located, but I can’t think of its acronym right now. We go to Royal Military College because they have some research going on there. We go every three years to Valcartier. After our work in the field, we have almost a whole week of meetings in Ottawa. We visit DRDC headquarters and Global Affairs Canada. We hold intelligence briefings. We go to DND headquarters. Through that, we get this amazing view of the whole program from the research that’s being carried out, to the international cooperations that are going on, to the need to have this kind of work going on through what you just heard in the previous session.
Then we write our report and we submit it to the Minister of National Defence for review. The review is just to make sure that there is nothing in there that they would consider sensitive to the public, but it’s our own report, and then we publish it on the website for public distribution.
I hope that answers your question. It was a rather lengthy answer, but we have rather lengthy visits.
Senator Coyle: I appreciate that lengthy answer. It helped me understand the whole mechanism. You did explain it well at first, but that detail helped. You have mentioned, first of all, that this change with Bill S-2 represents good governance. I’m glad to hear that. You have also mentioned how impressed you have been with the excellence of Canada’s work in this area. I am just curious, because you have been in a very good position to understand the big picture here, are there things that you anticipate on the horizon that cause you any concern? Is there anything at all that you have seen or experienced that causes you concern? Is there something on the horizon that we should be aware of that you would like to share with us today?
Dr. Durham: Just to clarify, do you mean in the context of the risk, or activities that Canada is actually carrying out?
Senator Coyle: The risk.
Dr. Durham: Okay. I think it’s the news, and it’s what you heard about from Global Affairs in the previous session. It’s absolutely mandatory that we keep our activities going and not let them slip because the risk is really out there in the world.
Another aspect of contributions to eliminating chemical weapons and their destruction is they reduce the chances of non-state parties accessing them. That’s where many of our risks are in this world now. There are a few states parties but there are also people who have their own agendas and who commit terrorist acts. It’s very important for us to be able to respond to that.
In that light, it’s also important for us to realize that this defence is not just the Department of National Defence or Health Canada or Global Affairs or any of the other government departments. We have to look at our response capability in this combined way. A lot of activity goes on amongst the government departments to do that, particularly after 9/11. It’s also important for Canada to do our part. We could say, oh, we have better ways to spend money; there is COVID-19 and this and that. We could think that we can skip the funding of these kinds of programs that may not show immediate importance. But, boy, when something happens, we have got to be ready. Training our defence scientists takes decades to be really on top of their game. We can’t just let them say, well, we’ll ramp up if we need to. It doesn’t work that way.
Senator Coyle: Thank you very much.
Senator Ataullahjan: Dr. Durham, my question is about the fact that Canada does not have any facilities to produce chemical weapons, nor do we produce them. Are there any chemicals that we would be allowed to produce? Would there be a limit on the quantity?
Dr. Durham: The Schedules of the CWC specify limits on the amounts of chemicals that one has to declare. I couldn’t give you those numbers or chemicals off the top of my head. The Global Affairs people could answer that for you. So we are allowed to have small quantities for research purposes. And that’s our job, to make sure that anything that’s retained at a place like Suffield is used for defensive purposes only, within amounts that are reasonable to do that. That’s one of the checks: How much do you have? Well, if it’s this much, you are not going to do much with it. Does that answer your question?
Senator Ataullahjan: Kind of.
Dr. Durham: Not really, okay.
Senator Ataullahjan: Let’s take it to the next level. Would there be any fear of these chemicals being used domestically? I’m thinking of sometimes when there is a particularly rowdy crowd after a game or something else that happens. Have we ever used them and is there any fear that we might use them in the future?
Dr. Durham: As a nation using them against people? No, we wouldn’t. There are provisions for riot control gases and those kinds of things, which are across the board for everybody. But I have no indication that Canada would ever use anything of that nature — warfare agents — on our people. Also, the security surrounding where even small amounts might be kept is strong. But you can never rule out that some — I’m trying to think of a polite word — unbalanced person or someone with a political agenda different from ours might obtain some chemicals such as these and use them for their purposes. That’s where the vigilance is required in terms of our borders and police and that mutual responsibility aspect.
There are bacterial agents that can be isolated from the soil. People will sprinkle things on salad bars. These will be very contained types of activities, but I have no concerns about us as a nation ever using this.
Senator Ataullahjan: Going back to the Salisbury attack, would we be prepared to handle and identify an attack like that if it ever happened in Canada?
Dr. Durham: Yes.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you.
Dr. Durham: I could say that in the case of Salisbury, our scientists collaborated with those around the world in identifying and getting evidence for that. It’s very much a global effort of collaboration amongst our allies, particularly the Three Eyes, Four Eyes and Five Eyes.
We can’t fund the kind of research that has to be done on this alone. What we do is we have our particular expertise and we will contribute that to the global effort, just like we do with the space station; it’s the same idea. There is a lot of collaboration, whether it be for basic research, testing of equipment or a response to these kinds of horrible incidents.
Senator M. Deacon: Thank you so much for being here. This is very informative.
Dr. Durham: Thank you.
Senator M. Deacon: I listened at the beginning to you describing the excellence of our science. You described the committee makeup. I wondered first, in listening to that and then your description of the work and some of the things you are doing on an annual basis, as you evolve — frankly, we have disruptions all over — are you finding as you move forward that, for your committee to actually do the work to address gaps, you may have to look at expertise that is not on your committee but drawing it into your committee based on the evolution of the work you are doing?
Dr. Durham: I think we have the basic requirements in terms of our expertise. We could always draw on consultation outside of the committee if that were required. We are very experienced scientists so we can ramp up pretty quickly on new stuff. That’s the world these days. So far that hasn’t been an issue within the mandate that we have. If the government wanted to increase our mandate, then that would, of course, have to be looked at.
Senator M. Deacon: You used the word “substances,” and it’s tied to our first hour also. That’s where I’m trying to better understand, number one, from your work and leadership, can you make recommendations to the government? Are you having — I’m going to call it a pipeline — an influence on the banning of chemicals and substances that could be banned? Or are you also in a situation where, as a country, there are substances that you wish the CWC was banning but has not?
Dr. Durham: You raise an important point that I failed to mention, which is that the committee does make recommendations in our reports. Those recommendations stay on the books until they have been answered by whatever department or authority until it’s revolved. You can see those all in our reports and might find it interesting reading, if you’re keen to go to sleep, maybe.
In terms of making recommendations as to what should be on the schedule, no, we haven’t done that. What went on those schedules was a really huge amount of work by many experts. What needs to go on now is like the Novichoks: we need to have the intelligence of what those might be. We need to have some indication of their use, and that would be way beyond our purview.
Senator Ravalia: Thank you, Dr. Durham. My question pertains to Canadians who may have inadvertently been exposed to noxious chemicals while on duty, for example, in the Middle East arena. Do we maintain a register of individuals who have had this type of exposure and the potential health outcomes that may have come as a result of these exposures?
Dr. Durham: I can’t answer your question directly. I will write that down as a question to ask when we go to Canadian Forces Health Services next spring. I believe that’s the case as a matter of course, but I wouldn’t want to make a judgment on it. It certainly would be appropriate.
Senator Ravalia: Thank you for that, Dr. Durham.
The Chair: I too have a question. I can’t say that I’m an expert on any of this. I know that the BCDRC mandate is to ensure that any biological and chemical defence or development of training activities by the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are done for the sole purpose of maintaining only a defensive capability in the field of chemical warfare. It’s also mandated to ensure these activities are undertaken in a safe manner. To my knowledge, much about Novichok agents remain unknown. Researchers have made assumptions about its plausible chemical structure while there isn’t really any reliable or exact data on these particular agents.
That being said, how is the BCDRC able to make determinations? Is it through international cooperation in addition to the expertise that you, of course, have? How does that work when you’re still dealing with some unknowns here, Dr. Durham?
Dr. Durham: Well, first of all, it’s probably less unknown than you might think. The chemical structures are known and that’s how they can be put into the new schedules. One of our members is a chemist who understands chemical structure and knows what adding and subtracting certain different aspects to or from a structure will do.
Our main source of information, particularly in the early stages when people are learning about these things, is through our intelligence briefings that we get. We have Level 2 briefings at Suffield as well, where the scientists are present. We get two kinds of intelligence briefings: the scientific one and the broader one from intelligence command.
Does that answer your question?
The Chair: I think so.
Dr. Durham: Yes, the structures are actually published, I believe.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you. Just out of curiosity, you said that gases are being used in riot control. Would you classify those as chemicals?
Dr. Durham: Yes, but generally chemicals are chemicals. My sugar is a chemical that I put in my coffee. It’s a question of what they do and their properties. They all have different properties. They have beneficial aspects and toxic aspects. Does that help? I’m not sure I’m really answering you.
Senator Ataullahjan: Yes. We just had that discussion about Canada having chemical weapons or production and the quantities that they’re allowed to keep. You mentioned we would have gases for riot control. Just out of curiosity, I wanted to know that those would be chemicals, wouldn’t they? Thank you, chair.
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator M. Deacon: I’d like to jump in with a quick question. It’s almost more about marketing the great work that you’re doing. How do Canadians know about this work?
Dr. Durham: That’s a very good question. We discuss this in our meetings about how to promote the committee and how much we should promote the committee. It always gets into that. Several of us have made presentations to our learned societies and written articles. We advertise our visits to the local citizenry, should anyone want to come and visit with us. We had a lot more of that in the beginning, as you can imagine, with Science for Peace and various groups. I think over the years that has quieted down. We come up in searches if people are looking for information.
It would be interesting to have your point of view too about how we might do that and how much we should do it.
Senator M. Deacon: Thank you for addressing it right on the QT. I recognize and respect it’s a fine line, but it’s an important line, and I’m glad it’s a conversation and a question that you’re asking each other, because you don’t want to be distracted. I’m being very candid. I think it’s looking at all of those areas, but I’m thankful you’re giving it some thought around your table. Thank you.
Senator Coyle: Thank you very much, Dr. Durham. I’d like to probe a little deeper on an issue, though it may not be appropriate to probe with you on the issue that was raised by my colleague Senator Ataullahjan. We know that Canada produces and retains chemicals for domestic riot control purposes. We also know that your work, as I understand it, is largely tied into the Department of National Defence, and that those chemicals that are used for riot control purposes may not be used exclusively by the Department of National Defence but rather by municipal or provincial or national police forces such as the RCMP.
If you could tell us, does your committee have anything at all to do with those chemicals? If not, who does provide oversight of those?
Dr. Durham: Thank you for the question. Actually, you’re correct in that it’s the police, the RCMP, that would use those agents, not DND. We do not review those.
Senator Coyle: I assumed you didn’t because you report to DND. If you do not, then who does? Do you know?
Dr. Durham: I do not know. I assume a certain aspect of this is limited by need and desire to have those things around, but I don’t know otherwise.
Senator Coyle: I just wanted to say thank you to Dr. Durham. I didn’t expect that she knew, given her description of her work and the work of the committee, but it is a question that was raised by Senator Ataullahjan and one that we will seek an answer to because we do know that we have permission in our country to both produce and retain and use certain chemicals, which may not be considered chemical weapons, per se, because they may not be lethal in this case. It’s a question that, as we look at the fine details of this bill and this whole area, is one that we will pursue. Thank you. I really appreciate your presentation today.
Dr. Durham: If I may make a comment, what is the definition of “weapon?” It depends on the use. A chemical can be used for a peaceful purpose in our natural environment. We use it every day to make plastics or whatever, but if the intent of its use is to do harm to other people, now it’s a weapon.
I also want to say that because it’s not controversial about the amendment, it’s giving us an opportunity to discuss these larger areas of concern, the function of our committee, your concerns and your role, as well, so I’m quite enjoying this.
The Chair: Well, thank you very much, Dr. Durham. I want to, on behalf of the committee, thank you for being with us today and providing these detailed answers. If this hearing can help in a little way to give some publicity to the great work that you do, then it will have been a very successful meeting.
Thank you for joining us, and we will continue our deliberations.
Dr. Durham: Thank you very much. It’s been my pleasure. Have a good day.
The Chair: Thank you, you too.
Colleagues, before we adjourn the meeting, I just wanted to inform you of some future business of the committee.
First off, we have our next meeting this Wednesday, December 16, at 10 a.m. We will have some more witnesses, including one that we’re trying to get from the OPCW in The Hague, so the 10 o’clock time slot works well for that. That will be our next meeting.
My plan, as agreed with steering as well, is then to go to clause by clause, but if you’ve looked at the bill, there are three clauses in it, so it shouldn’t be too onerous of a task for us to conclude Bill S-2 and send it back to the other place.
I wanted to also thank all of you who have submitted study suggestions for this committee by the deadline, which was last Friday. Judging by the number and the scope of the proposals that we’ve received, I can only conclude that we have here an enthusiastic and future-looking group of very interested people in terms of what Canada can do on the international stage, both in foreign policy terms but also in international trade and international development. Your suggestions are currently at the translation stage, and we will meet sometime within the next few weeks, as steering, to examine the submissions in some detail, and then we’ll meet again in full committee — obviously this will be in the new year — to discuss and to make decisions as a group.
So if that’s agreeable, and unless anyone else wants to take the floor, thank you.