Mr. Speaker, it is a real privilege to lead off the debate on Bill C-20 for the government in co-operation with the member for Ottawa Centre. This is a case where the government is standing aside to give some backbench MPs an opportunity to tell the House and the world that these backbench MPs have had a chance to introduce amendments to Bill C-20 that are of a substantial nature and which are going to have a very important impact on Canadian society.
I will now speak to my two amendments. Getting these amendments into the legislation was not easy as I had to convince the officials of the competition bureau and the justice department that amendments could be created to address the concerns I had. I had the encouragement of the industry minister throughout. When it came to committee my amendments and the amendments of the member for Ottawa Centre passed unanimously.
The first amendment to Bill C-20 changed the definition of business in the Competition Act to include the raising of funds for charitable or other non-profit businesses. This is a huge leap forward in addressing the terrible problem all across the country where various organizations are preying on Canadians, chiefly senior Canadians, by making all kinds of promises to raise money for charitable purposes.
Everyone has a horror story with respect to charitable and non-profit organizations and sometimes organizations that are neither. They get on the telephone or send out direct mail solicitations and ask for money in return for promises they cannot keep and sometimes promises they know are not truthful.
I will give just one example of the type of telemarketing pitch that seniors are being subjected to. I will condense the script from a telemarketer in Toronto called Univision Marketing Group.
The person calling whose name is whatever says “I am calling for the Children's Emergency Foundation. I will only keep you for a short minute or two. By the way, do you have children or grandchildren or your own? Well, our foundation was started by a group of Canadian mothers who wanted to do something about the state of child poverty and hunger right here in our own country and our province”.
The caller continues “We think as Canadians we have a responsibility to look after our children, so we started supporting child feeding programs in Ontario and across Canada. These take place in schools at breakfast or lunch, in community centres and in housing projects where some 5,000 are already being provided with hot nutritious meals each day”.
We wonder whether that is so, but this is the real catch. “In the light of the shocking facts of child poverty right here at home, would you pledge a one time gift of $75 to feed 75 Canadian school children?”
That is the essence of what my amendment addressed: when organizations promise that 100%, 80% or whatever of the money a person donates to a worthy cause actually gets to that cause, while it was never intended to and will never get to that cause.
I could only trace the Children's Emergency Foundation to an apartment building. It is a charity, however. As a result of this amendment a complaint to the competition bureau will enable it to undertake an investigation. If the investigation of this type of claim shows there has been a wilful misrepresentation, the organization or individual responsible for the misrepresentation will be subject to the penalties of the Competition Act. As an indictable offence that would involve five years in jail and an unlimited maximum fine. Bill C-20 also provides for summary conviction that could lead to a fine of some $200,000.
For the first time non-profit and charitable fundraising comes under legislation that provides for real penalty where there is a deliberate attempt to get money from the public through false representation.
It is amazing to think that non-profit organizations and charities have never been subject to the Competition Act but it is true. If we split hairs it is possible to say that the Competition Act could have been applied to charities and non-profit organizations but it never has been. As a result of this amendment I suggest that it will.
Let us not make any mistake. I am not only talking about charities and non-profit organizations. There are many organizations out there which are neither and are raising money by pitching all kinds of things to the Canadian public.
I will cite an example. The International Fund for Animal Welfare is an organization based offshore. I cannot trace it as a non-profit organization in Canada but it has an address in Ottawa. This organization specializes in misrepresenting an animal rights situation somewhere in the country, for example in our north with respect to the seal hunt. The scheme is to put out all this information saying that there are people out there beating and killing seal pups and to send out beautiful literature showing bleeding white coats. The reality is that it is against the law to kill white coats. We do not do that here in Canada.
However, they have no compunction. They are known worldwide. They do the same thing when it comes to elephants in Africa and their ivory. They have all kinds of other causes. All we know about them is that they get about $36 million U.S. in revenues from around the world by falsely raising these issues and then conducting a mail out fundraising campaign showing animals suffering and asking for donations. Their slogan is something like “Remember, 80 cents on the $1 of whatever you send in” will go toward saving the dog or the cat or whatever is in their literature.
I suggest that my first amendment will address wilful misrepresentation of facts in order to fundraise. We must remember that the operative word is wilful. Accidental is one thing but wilful is another. It does not matter whether it is a bona fide organization in Canada; it still applies. Even if an individual who misrepresents in order to raise funds from the public will be caught by the Competition Act.
The amendment will also address partly the terrible problem that has been in the news lately which has led to comments from the solicitor general where we know there are certain charitable organizations in the country that have become fronts for terrorist activities abroad. We do know that this is a growing problem and has been a problem for some time. Charitable organizations or non-profit organizations raise funds for one purpose in Canada and they turn out to be financing conflicts in other parts of the world.
General legislation is needed to address that problem but at the very least if organizations pitch one thing and then finances something else abroad like terrorism they would come under the Competition Act and would be subject to prosecution. If is a partial first step.
I cannot stress enough that this is the first tool for the government and the taxpayer to protect the consumer from people who would misrepresent the way the money they are raising will be spent abroad.
The second amendment deals with using foreign direct marketers and telemarketers to market into Canada. What the amendment states is that the act will include permitting a false representations to be made. It addresses a problem whereby hundreds of charities and other non-profit organizations in Canada use foreign for profit marketers abroad, usually in the United States, to do telemarketing or direct marketing in Canada.
I will give a little example. I have two fundraising letters in my hand. The first one is from the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the second one is from OXFAM. If we examine these letters we see that they are printed on exactly the same paper even though they are very different organizations, have the same type face and the same ink. We also see that the bulk mailing number on both envelopes is 05110874. In other words, they have the same account with Canada Post.
What is really happening is that the account is with a for profit marketer that is doing this service for them. The reason we have to make sure that the Competition Act catches organizations that use offshore direct marketers to fundraise in Canada is to make them responsible when these offshore fundraising organizations misrepresent into Canada. This again is an enormous step.
I will give an example of the problem. As is often with these organizations in Canada, they do a deal with a direct marketer in the United States for a profit. The idea is that the for profit company, in exchange for using the name of the organization, fundraises in Canada at no expense to the organization until it has created a donor list that is so large that a profit is created and all the expenses are met of the for profit fundraiser. Then the balance goes back to the charity or non-profit organization.
My first amendment will catch organizations that are doing fundraising by using telemarketers and direct mail services and are saying that the money is going to charity when in fact the deal is that 100% of the donated money for which they are getting tax receipts is going to the for profit organization in the United States. None goes to charity until the for profit direct marketer in the United States finally meets its expenses. Then a bit of money goes to charity.
It is another abuse that exists in the charitable sector which will be addressed by the first amendment and by the second amendment where the for profit marketers in the United States misrepresent in Canada, when they overstate how much money is going to charity and when they overstate the facts in any way. Again the operative word is wilful. Where an organization allows this to be done in its name wilfully in the United States, the Competition Act penalties will apply.
I do not want to be too long because I know the hon. member for Ottawa Centre wishes to speak. However, just to give an idea of the dimensions of the problem, I have here a list of organizations in Canada which are using a for profit direct marketer in the United States, which means they are getting telemarketing services and direct mail from the United States: $1000+ Lifetime Members of a TV Ministry representing 12,000 people, the Agnes McPhail Foundation, AIDS Committee of Toronto, the Alberta Lung Association, the Alzheimer's Society of Ontario, Amnesty International, the Animal Alliance of Canada, Arctic Society of Canada, Arthritis Society, Asthma Society of Canada, B'Nai B'rith, the Barbra Schlifer Clinic, BC Association for Community Living and the BC Lung Association.
We must remember that they are giving to for profit telemarketers and direct marketers in the United States the privilege and the opportunity to earn money selling the fundraising into Canada.
The list continues: Big Sisters of Ontario, the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League, Canadian Association for the Deaf, Canadian Blind Sports Association, Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, and Canadian Christian Heritage Donors involving 53,000 people. I am sure they would like to know the for profit marketer in the United States that has their names has to give them literature which at least is honest.
I will continue: the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Canadian Corporate Donors, Canadian Diabetes Association, Canadian Environmental Defence Fund, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, Canadian Hearing Foundation, Canadian Hemophelia Society, Canadian Hunger Foundation, Canadian Liver Foundation, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Canadian Paraplegic Association, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Canadian Peace Alliance, Canadian Wildlife Federation and Canadian Mental Health Association. Why in heck can they not do their own fundraising, for heaven's sake?
The list continues: Candlelighters Canada, Care Canada, Channel 17 Public Broadcasting, Child Find, CNIB, Council of Canadians, Covenant House, Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada, CUSO, Cystic Fibrosis, David Suzuki Foundation, Developing Countries Farm Radio Network, Doctors Without Borders, Earthroots, Elizabeth Fry Society, Energy Probe and Epilepsy Canada.
It does go on and on. There is nothing wrong with using these organizations but it is useful for members of the public to know that when they get this mail in their mailboxes it is coming from a for profit direct marketer in the United States. We can go on. Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. One would think they would be able to do it on their own. Greenpeace Canada, Heart and Stroke Foundation Ontario, Help the Aged, Homemakers magazine, Horizons of Friendship, the Humane Society of Canada, the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare. They do not even do their own work on their own. Interval House, Kidney Foundation, Kids' Help Foundation, learning disabilities, Leukaemia Research of Canada, Lupus Canada, Match International, McMichael Gallery, Media Watch, quite a group, Multiple Sclerosis Society, NAC, which I think is the National Action Committee for the Status of Women. I note it only has 5,000 members with this organization in the United States, which is a little bit different from what we are given to understand.
The National Association of Women and the Law, the National Gay and Lesbian Rights Supporters, North York Women's Shelter, Ontario Association for Community Living, Ontario March of Dimes, Ontario SPCA, Ontario Special Olympics, Osteoporosis, Outil de paix, OXFAM, the Pet Savers Foundation.
Planetary Society, Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada: Pollution Probe, Project Ploughshares, the Red Cross of Ontario, Ronald MacDonald House, Save the Children, Schizophrenia Society, Scouts Canada, select Canadian religious donors. That is not a charity. There are some 22,000 of them.
The Sierra Legal Defence Fund, Sistering, Ski Patrol, Society for Manitobans with Disabilities, SOS Childrens Village, Spina Bifida, St. John's Ambulance, St. Stephen's House, Toronto Dance Theatre, Toronto Disarmament Network.
Toronto Humane Society, TV Ontario, UNICEF, United Nations Association, United Way of B.C., United Way of Greater Toronto. It is interesting that only these two United Way organizations appear. I guess other United Way organizations deal with other direct marketers in the United States.
Voter Education South Africa
Canada, Whale Adoption Fund, the White Ribbon Campaign. We remember that. It was up here a few years ago. Wildlife Preservation Trust Canada. That is enough.