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Monday, April 4, 2016

Trudeau downplays threat of Nuclear Terror Attack

Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, April 2, 2016 10:58AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, April 2, 2016 10:02PM EDT

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the threat of a nuclear terror attack on Canada is lower than it was five or six years ago, and that he sees it as a “modest success” that groups like ISIS haven’t gotten their hands on more dangerous weapons.

In an interview with CTV Atlantic’s Steve Murphy, the prime minister said the “concern level” of a nuclear attack remains high “because the consequences would be so devastating,” but that the threat level is “certainly lower than it has been in past years, because we’ve taken significant measures to secure dangerous materials.”

Trudeau just returned to Canada from a nuclear-safety summit hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama, who warned that al Qaeda has been actively pursuing nuclear material.

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PM announces $42M to safeguard nuclear materials

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks with children as he visits the Seaport Farmers' Market in Halifax on Saturday, April 2, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

Canada committed on Friday to spend $42 million to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism, in part by protecting materials in Peru, Jordan, Colombia, Ukraine, Thailand and Egypt.

“Because of meetings like the one we had in Washington,” Trudeau said Saturday, “it’s less of a threat than it was five or six years ago.”

Asked whether Canada is safer from terrorism in general than it was five years ago -- a time before ISIS’ devastating attacks – Trudeau noted that recent attacks have been “very conventional” using “pipe bombs” and “Kalashnikovs,” the Russian rifle used in the Paris attacks.

Trudeau added that such weapons had killed “dozens and even hundreds of people … but with how much they want to be able to do more, and how hard they’ve been trying to get their hands on more dangerous materials, the fact that they haven’t is a modest success.”

Peggy Mason, Canada’s former ambassador for nuclear disbarment, said she was stunned by Trudeau’s comments about the nuclear threat.

“I find it hard that we could say it has gone down,” she said, pointing to Pakistan and North Korea as sources of concern

“We have huge numbers of weapons still on hair-trigger alert,” she added.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel called the prime minister’s comments startling. “I think he’s being very uniformed and na├»ve about the situation,” she said.

Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, told CTV News Channel that he believes agreements made in Washington to better safeguard nuclear materials are a “good sign.”

However, he said Canada still has “quite a substantial amount of weapons-grade uranium here in Canada, mostly connected with isotope production, and it is a security risk.”

Part of the risk is transportation, he said. For example, Edwards said Canada is expected to send “hundreds of truckloads of liquid radioactive waste containing weapons-grade radioactive uranium down to the (U.S. government’s) Savannah River Site in South Carolina,” rather than dealing with it on-site in Chalk River, Ont.

Edwards added that, “if we really want to be serious, we have to stop producing these materials in the first place.”

The Prime Minister spoke to Steve Murphy at a farmer's market in Halifax, ahead of a meeting with Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil and an appearance at the Nova Scotia Liberal Party's annual general meeting.

With a report from CTV’s Richard Madan