The Canadian government is amending its criminal law to include any crime committed by citizens who one day go to the moon.
While the move seems far-fetched, experts say that due to the growing interest and viability in space tourism, countries should start thinking about how crimes committed in space will be judged, and they suggest Canadian law could become a model for others. Country.
Legal procedures already exist to deal with crimes committed on the International Space Station, which is divided into different sections controlled by different countries.
If two Americans in the US portion of the station were involved in a crime, it would be prosecutable under US law. If an astronaut of one nationality was charged with a crime against one of a different nationality, the two countries would have to negotiate which would prosecute or possibly extradite the suspect.
Now Canada is looking beyond the laws governing low Earth orbit and considering legal scenarios on another celestial object – in this case, the Moon. Language buried within 443 pages of this year’s budget implementation bill stipulates that any Canadian crew member who has committed a crime in space is believed to have committed it in Canada.
Steven Freeland, an honorary professor of international law at the University of Western Sydney in Australia, says current laws on the space station will not work for something more complex, such as a lunar settlement.
Freeland, which has been extensively involved with space law for many years, told the VOA that Canada’s action has raised interesting questions about rights and obligations because space travel now allows tourists to orbit and — a day – possibly includes living on the moon.
He says there is a need for new laws that will apply to every person, regardless of their worldly nationality.
“And it’s not just about murder,” Freeland says. “It’s about, you know, those people wanting to get married. (under) what law they got married under? Those guys wanted to have kids. You know, what nationality, you know, kids What is the nationality of and etc, etc… as those quote-unquoted ‘settlements’ become more and more sophisticated?”
Professor Ram Jakhoo, acting director of the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University in Montreal, says that as technological advances make space travel more common, the laws should reflect that reality.
“The technology is being tested. It’s becoming safer. I think five, six years, and here you have many people going into space for all kinds of things — for tourism, you know. Have lunch or dinner somewhere, have honeymoon or manufacture some products,” he said.
“And those things are going to happen. And this isn’t any more science fiction. That’s for sure.”
Michelle Hanlon, co-director of the Center for Air and Space Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law, says the original international treaties relating to outer space were designed in the 1950s and were less about human spaceflight than assets such as satellites. She was The Canadian Amendment is a reminder to space-dwelling humans that earthly laws obey them, she says.
“And so, to reinforce the fact that as a Canadian, and soon Americans will probably do the same thing, and then join the Lunar Gateway it will probably be a necessity,” said an American A space station in lunar orbit that could serve as a launching pad for exploration of the Moon and deep space.
“You know, just a reminder, you’re human, but all these laws still apply to you. Your laws will follow you in space,” Hanlon said.
Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti was unavailable for an interview, but in a written statement, his office called the new amendment a response to a bilateral memorandum of understanding between Canada and the United States on the Civil Lunar Gateway Initiative. It said the amendment is necessary to ensure that Canada’s criminal jurisdiction can also apply to the country’s Lunar Gateway crew members.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is working toward an unmanned Orion capsule that will be carried to the Moon this summer atop an Artemis 1 rocket. The first crewed mission is scheduled for May 2024.
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