Mr. Speaker, after a serious study of Bill C-47 in committee and after hearing stakeholders including companies, athletes and lawyers, we are here to debate Bill C-47, the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act, for the last time.
This new legislation meets the International Olympic Committee's requirements and will be the responsibility of VANOC, which from our first meetings in February promised to make judicious and sparing use of the legal remedies at its disposal. No one wants this new legislative tool to hamper anyone who wants to be part of this common effort.
After all our work, I still have some slight reservations about using the criminal courts to punish small businesspeople who inadvertently violate the law. I wish that, during her testimony before the committee, Susan Bincoletto, director general of Industry Canada's marketplace framework policy branch, had been able to tell me how many small businesspeople in other countries had been prosecuted using legislation similar to Bill C-47. Ms. Bincoletto was unable to say, and that concerns me a little.
However, as the CEO of VANOC, John Furlong, explained when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, 85% of businesses that want to get involved in the events around the Vancouver and Whistler Olympics do not have malicious intentions.
Ultimately what we must realize is that the vast majority of businesses that believe in the Olympic values are motivated by the desire to do something constructive for athletes, communities and youth in general. We presume that there will be no lawsuits launched. After all, what advantage would there be to sacrificing one's reputation for the passing satisfaction of being fraudulently associated with the Olympic Games? Talk about this with athletes who have lost their medals after a positive drug test: would they not do otherwise if they had it to do over again?
We must also realize that VANOC's reputation is at stake when legal action is taken. Consequently the image of the Olympic movement must not be tarnished by unwarranted legal action. It is all a question of balance.
That is why it is up to VANOC, to the Canadian Olympic committee or the Canadian Paralympic committee, to take legal action, and not up to businesses that may feel they are harmed by the unauthorized use of Olympic marks. These businesses will have to apply in writing to VANOC, which will have 10 days to render a ruling, determine whether or not there was harm and if there is cause for legal action, and inform the business. If, and only if, VANOC does not reply within 10 days, the business may take legal action itself.
Important clarifications and additions were made to the bill in committee and I would now like to point them out.
First, the bill does not apply to an artistic work. The work of creation must be able to be carried out with peace of mind as indicated in clause three of the bill:
For greater certainty, the inclusion of an Olympic or Paralympic mark or a translation of it in any language in an artistic work, within the meaning of the Copyright Act, by the author of that work, is not in itself a use in connection with a business if the work is not reproduced on a commercial scale.
The second important point is that athletes with sponsors other than the official sponsors may maintain their relationships with these businesses that contributed in no small way to their success. Athletes were concerned about this aspect of the original bill. However, VANOC officials reassured them by stating that their intention was not to compromise their personal sponsors. The legislator included in the new version of Bill C-47 an explicit guarantee modelled after that found in the Australian legislation passed for the Sydney Olympic Games.
Long-term relationships between sponsors and athletes make it possible for athletes to develop their talents every day. Sponsoring athletes gives them the means to achieve their goals and also helps to give people positive and inspiring role models. It is important not to discourage sponsors who, without being official Olympic partners, have participated in the development of Olympic athletes.
It is important to remember that athletes who are members of a federation are often economically vulnerable and unfortunately do not all benefit from sufficient financial support. Support from sponsors enables young people to concentrate on what they have to do rather than scrounging around for funding between training sessions or competitions.
The support provided by the sponsor enables athletes to pay for training and travel expenses. What is more, it is quite often both partners of the agreement, and not just the sponsoring company, that benefit from increased visibility.
Members will recall that at the Olympics in Athens, McDonald's, sponsor of Alexandre Despaties, launched an advertising campaign which no doubt greatly contributed to making him a household name. He has since become a favourite and has found his way to the big screen.
A relationship between a sponsor and an athlete can extend over a number of years, and may even continue after the athlete retires from competition. This is important, since we know that for many athletes, the transition into retirement can be difficult to manage. Sylvie Fréchette, Olympic champion synchronized swimmer, was sponsored for a number of years by the National Bank, which even offered her a job after her sports career ended. Just one year ago she once again participated in an activity organized by the National Bank as part of its diversity week, which shows the extent of the relationship still maintained between the institution and the Olympic champion.
However, the National Bank has not sponsored any athletes directly since 1998. Instead, it decided to create a scholarship program to help promising young athletes and to help athletes return to their studies when they are ready to retire from sports. This is another way, and one that is just as praiseworthy, I think, to contribute to the development of organized sports.
Closer to home, RONA, which is one of the official partners of the Vancouver Games, has also established the “growing with our athletes” program, through which the company will provide financial support for five years to 100 Olympians and Paralympians, including Meaghan Benfeito, Roseline Filion and Émilie Heymans, all divers who are Quebec's Olympic hopefuls for the upcoming summer games in Beijing.
Alcan and wheelchair racing champion Chantal Petitclerc are another example of a lasting partnership. Alcan has been Chantal Petitclerc's sponsor since 1998 and has contributed significantly to her success. In exchange, Chantal Petitclerc has paid many visits to the employees of Alcan and represented the company at numerous public events. In 2001, when the company renewed its commitment to the champion until 2005, that is, one year after the Athens Games, Chantal Petitclerc stated:
It's unusual for a company to have such a long-standing association with one athlete. But even more remarkable is a sponsorship agreement signed so far in advance of the Olympics. Athletes must have access to financial assistance for years, not just during the six months prior to the Games, in order to train well enough to be competitive.
Chantal Petitclerc made it abundantly clear: a long-term relationship between an athlete and a sponsor is a precious thing. As such, it is important to reiterate that Bill C-47 does not call into question that kind of relationship, even if it involves a sponsor other than the official partners of the Vancouver-Whistler games, as clarified in this clause, which the committee added:
Nothing in subsection (1) or (2) prevents [among other things,] the use by an individual who has been selected by the COC or the CPC to compete, or has competed, in an Olympic Games or Paralympic Games, or another person with that individual's consent, of the mark “Olympian”, “Olympic”, “Olympien” or “Olympique”, or “Paralympian”, “Paralympic”, “Paralympien” or “Paralympique”, as the case may be, in reference to the individual's participation in, or selection for, those Games.
When building a society, we need citizens to get involved. Of course, volunteers and individuals help our society move forward, but businesses also have an essential role to play. We must encourage them to participate in sporting events because events like these have a positive impact on participation in sports and good lifestyle habits.
We have to create the kinds of conditions that facilitate this. As I have already said in this House, it is not enough to put the ball in an individual's court and expect him or her to find long-term solutions to problems of poor physical fitness and obesity. It is high time we took action right in people's environments, and that means that we have to encourage businesses to get involved. Sponsorship is not the only way for businesses to contribute.
From a broader perspective, in order to remedy the harmful effects of physical unfitness, we have to make sure that the companies that want to adopt good practices and put in place conditions enabling their employees to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives are not discouraged.
I am thinking here about the good practices adopted by many employers to help their employees acquire healthy lifestyles. Employers are now aware of their responsibilities and many of them are proposing concrete solutions.
I am thinking, for example, of Sainte-Justine hospital, which since 2002 has been making gymnasiums available to its employees for the modest fee of $10 a year, offering them very affordable classes and organizing activities for them. According to the head of health and safety at the hospital, these measures have done a lot towards improving the work atmosphere and decreased the stress levels felt by employees.
Likewise, all Mouvement Desjardins divisions now offer sports and physical activity programs for their employees, and those who join athletic clubs or sign up for physical activities can count on their employer’s financial support. These measures have notable positive effects on the staff turnover rate, absenteeism and smoking.
Ubisoft offers a voucher worth up to $500 a year to its employees to help them purchase sports equipment, in addition to providing them with free access to a gymnasium. Employees who are in better shape work better and the action taken by Ubisoft also works to the company’s advantage.
Louis Garneau Sport, a well-known Quebec company headed by the former cycling champion, also stands out for its sense of initiative. A few days before Environment Week, Louis Garneau Sport held an activity to encourage its employees to bike to work, thus contributing to an improvement in their physical fitness and to conservation of the environment.
I will end my list of inspiring examples here since, although work may continue until 10 o’clock tonight, your role, Mr. Speaker, is also to remind me that I only have a few minutes to state my point of view, and I would also like to have the time to talk about the third major aspect of the bill, pertaining to freedom of expression.
As clause 3 of the bill now states, following the passing of a motion moved in committee, and I quote:
For greater certainty, the use of an Olympic or Paralympic mark or a translation of it in any language in the publication or broadcasting of a news report relating to Olympic Games or Paralympic Games, including by means of electronic media, or for the purposes of criticism or parody relating to Olympic Games or Paralympic Games, is not a use in connection with a business.
However, I must point out that when I asked in the standing committee whether special editions of certain magazines that run during the Olympic Games could fall under the new legislation, no one was able to give me a clear answer. On that matter, it seems we have to look at this on a case by case basis and editors will have to remain vigilant, as always.
In closing, I would like to come back to some of the concerns I have already expressed in this House during debate at second reading. I am talking about respecting bilingualism. Last May, I referred to some of the findings in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Official Languages, entitled, Reflecting Canada's Linguistic Duality at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games: A Golden Opportunity.
According to members of the committee, there is still a lot of work to do to make sure we fully and equally take into account both official languages in organizing the 2010 Games. During the June 4 meeting of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, the hon. member for Trois-Rivières referred to the same findings and asked John Furlong, the CEO of VANOC, whether any progress had been made. Mr. Furlong told her that for now, 25% of the employees working on the Games spoke French and that a significant effort was being made to ensure bilingualism. What areas of VANOC do these employees work in? Is there francophone or bilingual staff in every one of the divisions that take part in the Olympic adventure, in the offices, and in the stadiums?
Sometimes time runs out before we can get answers to all our questions. However, we will remain vigilant and lend our support to VANOC and wish it all the best in realizing this colossal project and pulling off the Olympic Games.