Crime may not be something very common in space, but Canada is now prepared for it whenever it happens. The North American nation is now looking forward to amending its criminal code to make it possible to prosecute crimes that astronauts may have committed on the Moon and during the journey.
The proposal was submitted as part of Canada’s 2022 federal budget implementation bill, which was presented to the House of Commons in late May of the same year. Hence, any crime that may have been committed on the Moon or on space flight will be prosecuted as if it had been committed in Canadian territory.
This bill suggests that Canadian astronauts may have committed crimes while being on the International Space Station (ISS) without legal consequences. So, any astronaut could have gotten away with any crime, including homicide.
The discussion regarding lawlessness in outer space is not new. In 2019, American astronaut Anne McClain was charged with the first-ever space crime after she allegedly accessed the banking records of her estranged partner via the ISS computer. The allegations were eventually confirmed to be false, but the event suggested the possibility of crimes being committed in space.
Professor Ram S. Jakhu from McGill University in Canada and one of the leading international space law experts in the world said that this situation was “an important and urgent wakeup call” to start establishing legal rules of extra-territorial law.
Recently, Canada joined NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) after signing up for the Lunar Gateway project, which plans to launch a space station that travels around the Moon in lunar orbit.
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