Canadians can't get away with committing crimes in space any more

Canadians can’t get away with committing crimes in space any more

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Astronaut Dave Williams performs a spacewalk during Shuttle Mission STS-118 (Credits: Nasa)

Canadian astronauts won’t be able to get away with any space-based illegality following a new law the country has passed.

We don’t imagine there’s too much lawlessness in the deep, dark void of space as it is, but the Canadians are making doubly sure.

As part of the 433-page document for the federal budget, Canadian law now stipulates:

‘A Canadian crew member who, during a space flight, commits an act or omission Canada that if committed in Canada would constitute an indictable offence is deemed to have committed that act or omission in Canada.’

So, any Canadian astronaut thinking they’ll take the helm of the ISS after a few too many beers or getting into a scrap with a Russian cosmonaut may find an arrest warrant and a pair of handcuffs waiting for them when they return to Earth.

Which presumably means that, up until now, Canadian astronauts could do whatever they liked up there without fear of repercussion or punishment.

The new law comes as Canada looks to participate in an ongoing Nasa mission to build a Lunar Gateway in space.

What is the law in space?

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield saluting during the Canadian national anthem while flying over Newfoundland during Canada's first spacewalk, April 22, 2001. (Credit: Nasa)

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield saluting during the Canadian national anthem while flying over Newfoundland during Canada’s first spacewalk, April 22, 2001. (Credit: Nasa)

There is actually a series of treaties that comprise ‘law’ in outer space.

Overseen by the United Nations, they deal with a variety of issues.

This could include things like arms control, the freedom of exploration, liability for damage caused by space objects, the safety and rescue of spacecraft and astronauts, the prevention of harmful interference with space activities and the environment, the notification and registration of space activities, scientific investigation and the exploitation of natural resources in outer space and the settlement of disputes.

Here are the underlying principles for space exploration:

  • Space activities are for the benefit of all nations, and any country is free to explore orbit and beyond.
  • There is no claim for sovereignty in space; no nation can ‘own’ space, the Moon or any other body.
  • Weapons of mass destruction are forbidden in orbit and beyond, and the Moon, the planets, and other celestial bodies can only be used for peaceful purposes.
  • Any astronaut from any nation is an “envoy of mankind,” and signatory states must provide all possible help to astronauts when needed, including emergency landing in a foreign country or at sea.
  • Signatory states are each responsible for their space activities, including private commercial endeavors, and must provide authorization and continuing supervision.
  • Nations are responsible for damage caused by their space objects and must avoid contaminating space and celestial bodies.

This would be a permanent space station in lunar orbit around the moon.

‘When fully assembled, the Gateway will include modules for scientific research and living quarters for crews of four astronauts,’ explains the Canadian Space Agency.

‘They will be able to live and work on the Gateway for up to three months at a time, occasionally travelling to the lunar surface to conduct science and test new technologies. Eventually, these missions could last longer in order to prepare for the deeper-space missions of the future.’

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