House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was bills.


Bill C-2—On the Order: Government Orders

February 5, 2004—The Minister of Industry—Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology of Bill C-2, an act to amend the Radiocommunication Act.

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec


Lucienne Robillard LiberalMinister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec


that Bill C-2, an act to amend the Radiocommunication Act, be immediately referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House this morning to introduce what I believe is an important piece of legislation, both for the broadcasting sector and for the Canadian consumer.

The government has made the creation of a 21st century economy one of its highest priorities for Canadians. This commitment emphasizes ensuring that the commercial context in this country is favourable, that is, that it fosters the entrepreneurial spirit and rewards ingenuity and diligent work.

Among other things, this means that the market regulation framework must protect intellectual property. This means having regulations that encourage risk-taking and support innovation. It also means having legislation that contributes to fair competition and penalizes—as it should—those who profit unduly from the labour and entrepreneurial spirit of other people.

This legislation deals with all those factors. The bill before us deals with the growing problem of pirated direct broadcast satellite signals, and is intended to strengthen our ability to protect one of our most important cultural sectors.

I am sure that most of the members of this House are aware of this illegal technique. Briefly, people engaged in this illicit business import and build equipment that can be used to decode program signals broadcast by satellite. They then sell this illegal equipment to consumers who are thus able to get satellite television free of charge.

I have heard some suggest that this is a victimless crime, that stealing from big, faceless companies is somehow much more acceptable in our society than stealing from our neighbours.

Let me assure the House that this is not a victimless crime. The theft of the satellite signals denies legitimate Canadian broadcasters, content producers and programmers millions of dollars a year. It robs money from an industry that supports thousands of jobs. It is not only morally and ethically wrong, it is illegal.

Such actions contravene the Radiocommunication Act. In fact, a Supreme Court decision in April 2002 determined that the unauthorized recording of any encrypted subscription programming signal is illegal, no matter where it originates.

Nevertheless, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the current legislation is simply inadequate for resolving the growing number of problems are we face. Law enforcement officials and broadcasters do not have the tools necessary to dissuade criminals who import, design and sell illegal technical devices. The purpose of this bill is to correct this situation.

Let me note right away that the government does not intend to target every home in Canada. We must put an end to pirating, but we will not succeed in doing so by filing lawsuits against the average citizen. We must instead target the businesses that make large profits from the sale of illegal material.

Make no mistake, satellite signal piracy is a very lucrative, black market activity in Canada. The broadcasting industry estimates that between 500,000 and 700,000 people in Canada receive unauthorized direct-to-home broadcasting services. Studies by the industry show that such activities result in the loss of some $400 million a year in subscription revenue.

This is a substantial sum of money, especially given the enormous investment required by this relatively new, direct satellite broadcasting. This industry also relies on innovation and new satellite technologies.

Some of the capital intensive investments are made to constantly improve security measures. For instance, direct-to-home companies regularly use electronic countermeasures. In other words, they send signals on their system to scramble or deactivate pirated receivers.

The industry is responsible for keeping security measures up to date. It is a responsibility they take seriously. For companies in this industry to get a return on their investment, they need a fair market.

The bill proposes to discourage satellite piracy in three ways.

First, we want to make it more difficult to obtain the hardware required to steal a satellite signal. The bill would give the Canada Border Services Agency an important tool to accomplish this.

Although the Radiocommunication Act prohibits the importation of illegal receivers, equipment continues to flow across the border. Customs officials have told us that it is difficult for them to determine which imported equipment may be used for illegal purposes and which will not.

The bill provides for better control at the border by requiring an import certificate issued by the Minister of Industry for anyone wishing to bring satellite signal decoding equipment in to Canada.

Second, the bill would increase the penalties prescribed in the act to a level that would provide a meaningful deterrent to that piracy. There are penalties under sections 9 and 10 of the current act but dealers clearly do not find these penalties to be daunting. In fact, increasingly they see them as an acceptable cost of doing business and factor them into their business planning.

If we are going to allocate law enforcement resources to address this issue, and the government believes we should since this clearly as criminal activity, we need to make sure that prosecution will in fact deter piracy. The punishment needs to fit the crime. We need to send a stronger message, both to industry and the courts, that Parliament regards signal piracy as a serious offence. The new penalties proposed in the legislation will do just that.

Finally, this bill reinforces the right to pursue civil remedies in court. It provides the broadcasting industry with the tools it needs to best defend its interests. This industry has attempted to slow the growth in pirated satellite services by launching civil proceedings against the main resellers in Canada, but such recourse is both expensive and ineffective.

It is difficult to prove the causal link between an illegal act and the extent of actual losses suffered by the broadcasting industry. This bill allows this industry to recover damages stipulated in the act instead of having to prove actual losses.

Under this bill, victims of commercial pirating will be able to claim legal damages of up to $100,000. This will compensate for the theft of their intellectual property and discourage illegal activity.

I must add that, in addition to measures to stop the theft of satellite signals, this bill also includes measures on public safety. The use of pirated receiver cards has been found to create signal interference with licensed radiocommunication systems of emergency and police services. This alone requires that the necessary measures be taken.

I realize that some fears persist. During earlier discussions on this issue, members of the House raised concern about programming content and the need to broaden the material available on Canadian airways. This is a very interesting and important discussion that needs to take place; however, it is a subject for a different debate. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted from the real issues here. This is satellite piracy.

We are not talking about limiting choices for Canadian consumers. We are talking about preventing the erosion of Canada's broadcasting system by stopping activities that are clearly illegal.

We do not want to target Canadians who watch television, but rather those individuals who profit from pirated signals.

This bill reinforces existing legislation in Canada. It has received broad support from all the stakeholders in Canadian broadcasting, as well as officials responsible for law enforcement and customs services. It will also ensure a fair chance for Canada's cultural sector and guarantee sustainable competition in broadcasting, which will benefit Canadian consumers.

For these reasons, I encourage members of this House to join me in supporting this bill.

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed with the way that the government is bringing forward this legislation. This received less than one day of debate as Bill C-52 in its original form and now it is being pushed through to second reading in less than half a day.

This is a complex subject. I think even the government would agree. We should have many days of debate before we push it on to committee.

Bill C-2, an act to amend the Radiocommunication Act, serves to increase the penalties and provide for civil remedies against those individuals and corporations who sell and use illegal radiocommunications equipment, specifically satellite television dishes to receive signals from satellite television program providers who are not licensed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The CRTC currently licenses two suppliers to provide direct to home satellite television services to Canadians: Bell ExpressVu, which is the largest of the two and has approximately one million customers; and Star Choice, which is owned by Shaw Communications Inc. and has approximately 700,000 customers.

In order to protect this programming, the signals are encrypted or scrambled by the broadcaster. To be received in intelligible form, the signal must be decoded or descrambled. I want to acknowledge that both Bell and Shaw have begun to aggressively take on satellite signal theft. They have been diligent in pursuing in-house technology that will allow them to block illegal users. I would like to recognize the efforts of these companies in trying to deal with this issue through the private sector. I would also like to thank them for taking the time to meet with us to discuss their systems and programming.

Before I get into the contents of the bill, I would like to outline the position of the Conservative Party as advocated in the past with respect to black market satellite users versus grey market users. This is a very important distinction for our party.

Industry Canada does not keep statistics on the number of black market or grey market users. The information I have is a best guess. Approximately 700,000 Canadians are using black and grey market satellites, enough to offer very significant competition to both Bell and Shaw.

A black market system occurs where a Canadian uses a satellite dish that allows him or her to access American, Canadian or foreign satellite programming through the use of an independently manufactured or pirated smart card purchased from a non-authorized dealer. There is no interaction with the service provider. For example, black market users could own a Bell ExpressVu dish but never pay a cent to Bell Canada for the service. The black market system allows virtually unlimited access to all channels with all profits going to the smart card dealer rather than the lawful service providers. Satellite and cable service providers and broadcasters on both sides of the border characterize black market as theft, and so do we in the Conservative Party of Canada.

There is another type of user, a grey market user. The grey market user pays the satellite company that provides the service. For instance, someone in Windsor, Ontario could be in possession of an American Direct TV dish and be paying Direct TV for the use of that dish by mail, credit card or other means. The problem is that Direct TV is not licensed in Canada by the CRTC, so there is a grey area. The company providing the service is being rightfully paid but Canadian regulations are not allowing access to that service.

With respect to the content of Bill C-2, the Conservative Party has a number of concerns with the proposed amendments to the Radiocommunication Act that relate both to the grey market and the black market.

I want to talk about border enforcement by highlighting the clauses and policies in this bill that we support. We support the importation initiatives outlined in this bill in principle but with certain provisos. We agree that the border is a good place to address the problem of distribution of satellite dishes that are currently considered illegal in Canada.

I understand that large shipments of dishes frequently cross the border for resale in Canada. The border is a good place to address this black market problem; however, we want to ensure that Canadians who also have residences in the United States are not unduly stopped or harassed at the border for travelling with their satellite dishes. I would like assurances from the Minister of Industry that so-called snowbirds will be allowed to store their American dishes in Canada and allowed to cross the border freely with their equipment. I have written to the Minister of Industry, and the past minister, to seek clarification on this issue. We have yet to receive a response and are looking forward to that.

This bill also gives Bell and Shaw the option to pursue cases in civil court. We support this idea and hope that this provision frees up police and government resources. However, I am also seeking clarification concerning what, if any, public resources would have to be employed to settle civil matters. Again, I have written to the Minister of Industry for clarification and am awaiting a response.

There are several sections of the bill with which we do have problems. The primary concern of our party is that precious police resources will not be diverted from crimes of a physical or violent nature toward neighbourhood satellite surveillance.

For instance, it is my understanding that one satellite case in Hamilton engaged 62 RCMP officers and 12 Industry Canada employees at one time. That is 62 officers who could have been working on other issues such as missing children or domestic violence, rather than patrolling our living rooms and controlling what we watch on television. Clearly, that is an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars.

Under Bill C-2, penalties and jail time have been increased for both individuals and corporations. For instance, for individuals convicted of decoding an encrypted signal or modifying equipment for this purpose, penalties would be increased from a maximum $10,000 fine and/or maximum of six months in jail to a $25,000 fine and/or a maximum of one year in jail. Licensed satellite programming providers would have the right to seek statutory damages of up to $100,000 against an individual or corporation committing signal theft for commercial gain. The fines have been increased to send a message to both the courts and to black market users that the government is serious in this undertaking.

I hope that we explore the issues of fines, penalties and civil action when the bill comes to committee as I would like to compare this legislation to similar legislation that assesses penalties and fines.

We are concerned that the inspection provisions have been broadened. While we recognize that other electronic devices, such as computers are linked to satellite piracy, the current clause that delegates the power to open any package or container that may be related to satellite piracy is too open.

One of the most important issues this bill raises is related to Canadian content and channel availability. I am somewhat confused as to the broader policy directions of the government when it comes to telecommunications. First, it does not want foreign ownership in the telecommunications sector, then it does. Now we have one government department working against satellite piracy and another government agency making decisions that support piracy.

I agree that the telecommunications file is confusing by nature. The division of the Radiocommunication Act and Telecommunications Act between industry and heritage is part of the problem. However, governments are elected to provide leadership and vision. Canadians have suffered under 10 years of Liberal rule with very little leadership in the area of telecommunications.

While we do support attempts by the federal government to stop the importation of large shipments of illegal satellite receiving equipment, we must recognize the growing demand for cultural and religious broadcasting in Canada.

Why do we not have access to such channels? It is because of the Canadian content restrictions in the CRTC. Let me give the House some examples. Sky Angel, a set of 36 Christian English and Spanish television and radio channels, is only available to EchoStar subscribers, a U.S. satellite service. Not one of the 36 Sky Angel channels is available on the CRTC's list of non-Canadian services that are authorized for distribution in Canada. Why? Because Sky Angel carries virtually no Canadian programming in the official sense.

Some Christian Canadian programming is available through Crossroads Television and the Miracle Channel. However, we can certainly understand why Christians, as well as Muslims, Jews and others who are looking for more religious programming would be frustrated. Sky Angel offers 36 channels of programming in the United States where the CRTC limits and restricts access to programs.

Let me also highlight the case of the Canadian Cable Television Association's recent application to the CRTC. The CCTA applied to add popular American channels, like HBO, Showtime and ESPN to its digital channel lineup. Currently HBO programs, such as The Sopranos and Six Feet Under are either aired on pay TV or by Canadian networks, months or years after they were originally broadcast in the U.S.

In November 2003 the CRTC refused the application. The CRTC argued that the cable operators did not have strong enough arguments to bring the channels to Canada. In its decision, the CRTC actually recognized that by blocking these channels it could in fact be contributing to an increase in both grey and black market users in Canada.

The Liberal approach to satellite television is, on the one hand, having a government agency, Industry Canada, introducing a bill to try to prevent satellite privacy, and at the same time and during the same period, we have another government agency, the CRTC, making decisions that will encourage satellite piracy. Where is the common sense here?

The Conservative Party agrees with the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recommendation that calls on the CRTC to permit Canadian broadcasting distribution undertakings to offer a wider range of international programming while being respectful of Canadian content regulations.

We also believe that a sound direct-to-home satellite policy represents an opportunity to support the ability of Canadians to develop an international market for their programs.

Our approach would be to negotiate a reciprocity agreement with the United States to create an open market in the licensing of television satellite distribution. We believe that a prudent and proactive response is to make Canadian programming available in the United States and allow foreign programming to be available here in Canada for the benefit of all Canadians.

To sum up the Conservative position, we agree with the importation restrictions created by Bill C-52, but we want better guarantees that snowbirds will not be stopped and harassed at the border. We believe the government should not be devoting precious police resources to patrolling neighbourhoods for satellite thieves. We encourage the CRTC to quickly and aggressively open up licensing restrictions.

I look forward to participating in the debate on the bill in committee.

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are examining Bill C-2. This enactment amends the Radiocommunication Act to add importcontrol measures in respect of radio apparatus or devices used fordecoding encrypted subscription programming signals. It makesimportation of them without an import certificate an offence andprovides for the issuance of the certificates and for ministerialexemptions from the requirement.

Finally, it provides measures tofacilitate compliance with and enforcement of the act, including addingcertain inspection powers, commonly called housekeeping measures, increasing penalties and providing theoption for a person who pursues a civil remedy to elect statutorydamages.

Theft of satellite signals originating in the United States is very common in Canada. A study has been prepared by a coalition of various broadcasting groups, the Coalition Against Satellite Signal Theft, which was created to fight piracy.

The coalition's president, Luc Perreault, has put a great deal of effort into the creation of this large coalition, and I wish to acknowledge that effort. He believes that somewhere between 500,000 and 700,000 households are receiving satellite services, mainly originating in the United States, through illegal means. The coalition estimates the cost to the Canadian broadcasting system at over $400 million per year, and $100 million for Quebec.

In April 2002, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that unauthorized decoding of signals from Canada or elsewhere is illegal. The bill we are examining today is a follow up to that decision, and that is why it should be improved. I will explain why shortly.

That decision acted as a trigger to actions aimed at strengthening the steps taken against those involved in this activity. We know that pirating signals undermines the competitiveness and cost-effectiveness of broadcasting, and threatens employment and investment. Signal theft deprives artists and broadcasters in Canada of millions of dollars in revenue and contributions to broadcast production funds.

The purpose of the bill is to deter dealers from importing and selling unauthorized equipment in Canada. The Bloc Quebecois supports the principle of Bill C-2, because it seeks to do more to fight satellite piracy. Satellite signal piracy deprives Canadian broadcasters and various funding agencies such as the Canadian Television Fund of millions of dollars. Piracy endangers thousands of jobs in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, and threatens the long-term viability of Canada's broadcasting system.

The Bloc Quebecois supports the principle of the bill for several reasons. In particular, the bill is intended to help the broadcasting system, and we are very sensitive to that. The system seeks stability and financial prosperity in order to assist television producers, among others.

Nevertheless, the Bloc Quebecois wishes to obtain guarantees on some elements of this bill. These elements may have to be modified because we think that amendments regarding so-called housekeeping measures can intrude too much into people's private lives. If unable to get the desired guarantees, the Bloc Quebecois might decide to vote against the bill at third reading.

We know that, during committee hearings, we will hear from people who are very much aware of this aspect of the bill and who will certainly want to enlighten all the members sitting on this committee. We are very concerned about finding out whether these changes will be made.

I would like to speak about what housekeeping measures are and tell you why the Bloc Quebecois is concerned about these measures found in clauses 5, 7, 8 and 9. We would like some of them amended, unless all our concerns are answered.

We have filed an appeal with the Privacy Commissioner to obtain clarification and comments on this issue. Our question concerns the meaning of clause 5 of the bill in the light of section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Section 8 states:

Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.

We will be in a better position to judge the scope of clause 5 of the bill once we have received the comments of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Obviously, the answer will be provided during committee hearings; that is what we were told by the representatives who will appear on behalf of the Privacy Commissioner.

Consequently, why are there so many concerns? One thing that raised concern initially was simply the meagre information we received, particularly on the importance of changes to clause 5 of the bill. Neither the press release from the ministers, nor the backgrounder, nor even the question and answer paper explain what changes will result.

Yet clause 5 is at the heart of the bill. Is the government afraid of how the various stakeholders will react? Why such silence on clause 5? When the Privacy Commissioner appears before the committee, the Bloc Quebecois will ask why we should be concerned. If we do not obtain the appropriate guarantees with regard to the scope of clause 5, we might have to vote against the bill. For this reason, we hope that all stakeholders, and the government in particular, will be open with regard to clause 5.

Clauses 5(1) and 5(2) grant enormous powers to the inspector entering a place for examination purposes. An inspector may, at any time, decide to examine any data contained in a computer, simply because he considers this reasonable. These powers mean that the inspector has access to everything belonging to the owner of the premises being inspected, as departmental officials confirmed during the technical briefing. All personal information will now belong to the public domain, and the inspector will be authorized to reproduce any records, seize them and copy them as many times as he wishes for use as evidence at trial.

Do we believe that satellite signal piracy is so serious that accused persons no longer have any right to privacy, and that everything they possess is liable to be used against them in court, regardless of the actual nature of the property seized? That is one of our concerns. Can we live with such a major intrusion upon privacy for a crime of this type. Does the severity of the crime, that is satellite signal piracy, justify this excessive intrusion into people's private lives? Those are questions that need to be asked and answered.

We know that satellite signal piracy has not, until now, been taken particularly seriously by the government. The Supreme Court had to show us the path to follow on this. By raising the penalties for dealers, the broadcasting industry will perhaps at last have access to more program funding, because of its increased profits. This would make it possible to provide more help to producers. There could be stable long-term funding for the cultural community, for instance the Canadian Television Fund. Hence our great interest in this bill.

Satellite signal piracy is serious. Quebec ran advertisements trying to get across the message that pirating satellite signals was as much theft as stealing a handbag. We know that this had an impact; a number of people became aware of what they were doing.

Satellite signal piracy is a serious crime and the penalties should reflect that. Stiffer penalties are therefore logical. Until now, the courts have been too soft on people pirating satellite signals. It is high time that the government got the message that broadcasting deserves help and that it will be encouraged by stiffer penalties for those who break the law.

The Bloc Quebecois is very keen on this bill. We are most anxious to have the opportunity to debate it in committee and to hear what all the witnesses there will have to contribute.

Can we continue to live with a crime such as this, when our privacy is threatened? That is one of the questions the Bloc Quebecois will be raising during the committee hearings.

With that, I will end my speech. It was only 10 minutes long, despite the importance of this issue.

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support Bill C-2, an act to amend the Radiocommunication Act. The problem of signal piracy is serious, and it is getting worse. It undermines the viability of the Canadian broadcasting system.

Many Canadian consumers who have bought unauthorized DTH, direct-to-home, equipment do not consider the consequences of their actions. They think they are getting television for free and perhaps they think that the broadcast industry can afford to lose a few dollars a month that these consumers might otherwise pay for their TV signal. However, the satellite television industry estimates that there could be from 500,00 up to 700,000 users of unauthorized DTH services in Canada. This means lost subscription revenues of about $400 million annually for the Canadian industry. This means of course lost jobs, lost ability to invest in innovation and a weaker Canadian broadcasting system in the face of very tough competition.

Simply put, we need to put an end to piracy, but the way to go about it is not to persecute and prosecute these individuals who are trying to cut corners by buying this pirated equipment. To be sure, their actions are illegal and unethical, but it would not be an efficient use of the police resources to go after “the little guy”. Instead, it makes more sense to go after the companies that are making the big profits by selling this illegal equipment. The bill does that by increasing the penalties for conviction and by enabling the victims of satellite piracy to obtain statutory fines from violators.

However, there is another way to deter signal piracy, and that is by making it much more difficult to obtain the hardware that is required to steal that satellite signal. The bill before us improves the import control to prevent illegal radio communication equipment from entering Canada. Both Star Choice and Bell ExpressVu, which are Canada's legitimate companies for satellite transmission, import DTH equipment from the United States for their legitimate customers, but the illegal DTH distributors import their equipment as well.

Under the current act, law enforcement can only seize illegal equipment after it has come across the border into Canada and has been distributed to the various unauthorized DTH dealers. That is something like trying to gather all the feathers together after a feather pillow has been ripped apart.

It is virtually impossible to find and seize all the illegal satellites and decoders once they have crossed the Canada-U.S. border. However, if we had a more effective import control, then we would be in a situation where the feather pillow does not get shredded and scattered to the wind. We know that much of this illegal equipment must cross the border and we have already in place an efficient and effective border control system under the Canada Border Services Agency. What we are really wishing to do through this bill is to give our border agents the power they need in order to stop this illegal activity.

Canada Customs and Revenue Agency has told us that it has difficulty implementing section 10(1)(b) of the current act. There is indeed a prohibition on the import of illegal satellite receivers, but it is difficult, as I am sure everyone will understand, for customs officials to establish if satellite receivers are being used for legal or illegal purposes. The section requires that customs must establish “a reasonable inference” that the decoding equipment, which is being imported, will be used for an illegal purpose.

The bill before us would prevent unauthorized radiocommunications equipment, including illegal satellite equipment, from entering Canada in the first place. The new provision prohibits the importation of satellite decoding equipment unless the importer has first obtained an import certificate issued by the Minister of Industry. Those who will be eligible for such an import certificate will include licensed Canadian satellite providers, such as Bell ExpressVu, Star Choice and their agents.

Import certificates will also be granted to foreign satellite service providers and manufacturers of decoding equipment who want to bring their equipment into Canada to have Canadian companies add value to the equipment before it is exported. Canadian companies will continue to excel in a recognized niche where our expertise and radiocommunications technology is recognized around the world.

Finally, import certificates will be available to Canadians who bring their satellite equipment with them when they return from vacations abroad. This is the case with many Canadians, of course, who spend their winter months south of the border and subscribe to an American satellite service while they are away. They often show up at the border with their dishes and satellite receivers in tow. These people will be able to bring their American television satellite receivers with them provided that they do not intend to use this equipment in Canada.

Individuals returning from abroad will be permitted to bring no more than one television satellite decoding system and they will not be permitted to use this equipment while they are in Canada.

By tightening up the border controls, by increasing the penalties for DTH piracy and by making available statutory damages in civil cases, the bill before us will help shut down the illegal practice that is undermining the broadcast industry in our country.

Our broadcasting system is built upon fair competition. The Radiocommunication Act serves as an integral part of the regulatory framework that governs broadcasting. When someone uses pirate technology to decode domestic and foreign satellite programming, the investments made by these broadcasters who play by the rules are devalued. They face unfair competition from companies that are not required to meet the commitments made to secure a licence from the CRTC. Unauthorized reception of satellite programming denies Canadian broadcasters, distributors, producers and artists millions of dollars each year.

The bill before us will help provide a framework whereby the satellite broadcasting companies can compete fairly with the other broadcasting distribution undertakings. They will be able to earn revenues they deserve from Canadians who use satellite as their preferred medium, and it will help put an end to the illegal and unethical activities on the part of consumers who cut corners by taking advantage of these pirated signals. Hopefully it will make it much more difficult for the unscrupulous businesses to profit from this illegal activity.

Accordingly, I urge all hon. members to join me in supporting the bill.

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

As we know, Mr. Speaker, this bill, numbered Bill C-52, was in the House when the House prorogued. We are now into the third session. The bill fundamentally remains the same. As the former vice-chair of the heritage committee of the Parliament of Canada, I stand opposed to Bill C-2 because it is exactly the same as Bill C-52.

I must say that I have a tremendous amount of sympathy, as my colleague from the Liberals has just pointed out, for the fact that the broadcasters who play by the rules are being put at a fundamental disadvantage. I understand and am very clear on that issue, so what we need to do, then, is take a look at the rules.

I am going to discuss the specific concerns I have about the bill in just a second, but I want to point out that there is a fundamental problem here. Canadians want choices. Canadians want to be able to make the choices of the entertainment that they are going to be viewing on the television sets in their homes.

One of the classic examples that comes up annually is with respect to the advertisements, which companies pay a tremendous amount of money for, exhibited during the Super Bowl. Many people in the U.S. actually watch the Super Bowl not for the football but for the advertisements, and certainly some of them are highly creative.

The fact that there is a restriction under the CRTC rules in this instance, where CanWest Global has bought the feed of the Super Bowl for distribution in Canada, basically means that CanWest Global can then realize the advertising revenue for the size of market that it has in Canada. I would have to guess that for every 100 million people who might be viewing the Super Bowl in the United States, one would think, theoretically at least, that there would be 10 million in Canada. Those numbers obviously do not apply although we are one-tenth of the market size. The fact of the matter is that people in the United States are overall more enamoured of the Super Bowl than people in Canada.

Nonetheless, CanWest Global will pay the producers, that is, the NFL and other owners of the rights that have been negotiated, with respect to that programming. They will pay for the privilege of being able to broadcast in Canada so that the advertisers who choose to advertise in Canada to the Canadian audience will then know that they have that captive audience.

Therein lies the problem. The problem is that the Canadian audience understandably wants to have the choice of whether it is going to see those commercials or not. As a matter of fact, I suppose it could be argued that in many instances Canadians will actually get some kind of zapper that will enable them to do away with commercials entirely with the exception of the Super Bowl. It comes down to a question of the rules and regulations made at the direction of this Liberal government; the CRTC then formulates the specific rules and makes sure that those rules are enforced.

Our position is that to put up some kind of an electronic wall or to attempt to put up some kind of an electronic wall is a facile and useless waste of time. It does not make any sense with the numbers of programs that are becoming more and more available as a result of technology. I am not just talking about television programs; I am also talking about things that are available on broadband Internet. It is only a matter of time until people in Canada are going to be able to get past the current restriction of satellite in any event.

This bill, which goes after the companies that are trying to bring in satellite equipment, would work if we were at a standstill in technology, but the fact of the matter is that we are not at a standstill in technology. As a matter of fact, technology is in an explosive state at this particular point.

According to the Liberals, Bill C-2 would prevent equipment from entering Canada. If the bill is to prevent the importation of satellite decoding equipment, satellite communication equipment and satellite receiving equipment, if it is to prevent those pieces of equipment coming into Canada, I wonder how the government is doing on the illegal importation of assault weapons, handguns and items of that type. How is it doing with the cigarettes that are coming across the border? How is it doing with the transportation of marijuana from British Columbia and the transportation of cocaine back into British Columbia?

The government is not doing very well, in spite of the fact that many resources are in place to try to interdict the importation of commodities like that which are seriously detrimental to our society and are not only costing our society money, but also costing our society in terms of lives and values of our country. We are not doing very well, because we do not have sufficient resources or sufficient technology to stop the importation of guns, drugs and other things of that nature. How in the world does the government believe it is going to be able to interdict the importation of the equipment that we are talking about in Bill C-2?

What it comes down to is this. We can have a theoretical big brother approach to this particular question, or we can be practical and pragmatic and realistic. Recognizing that Canadians want choices, we could work in concert with the United States regulator. The Canadian government could work with the U.S. government so that it could give direction to the CRTC and the U.S. government could give direction to the FCC. They could work out the technology of how this is going to end up working.

The beauty of that approach is that with United States viewers being ten times the number of Canadian viewers, we can imagine that if the CBC were to be broadcast not just in Canada but in wide distribution in the United States, we would be able to determine very quickly how many viewers would want to see the CBC. We would be able to determine how many viewers would want to see Canadian programming by Canadian writers.

I will ask the House to please bear with me as I go back to an example that does have some parallels. We had a totally protected wine industry in Canada. Quite frankly, the majority of the product was inferior. It was not a good product, period, full stop. And oh my, when the free trade agreement was negotiated and our wine producers were going to be subjected to the world market, they no longer had protection for their inferior product and people said the sky would fall.

But you know what, Mr. Speaker? Canadians are great at competition. If we give Canadians a level playing field, if we give them rational, reasonable rules to make sure it is a level playing field, whether it is France, the U.S., Australia or any other wine producing area, we will be superior because we are Canadians and we know how to do the job.

Basically that is what I am asking for instead of getting into more and more protection, just as we had the protection for wine producers who now without protection have a far superior product. As the heritage critic for the Conservative Party, I say that without protection we will end up with a far superior product in terms of the entertainment value that we can bring to the audience, not just the audience in Canada but ten times that audience, which we can have access to in the United States. We must have a broader vision, because I believe in Canada and I believe in Canadians' creativity.

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11:55 a.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the comments of my colleague across the way with regard to Bill C-2. I believe the issue here is one of preventing the erosion of the Canadian broadcasting system.

In 1936 the Conservatives, under former Prime Minister R. B. Bennett, established the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Why? Because of the impact of American feed coming into Canada: American radio, American magazines, et cetera. American thinking was obviously different than Canadian but it had a tremendous cultural effect on Canadians.

In order to have a Canadian voice and a Canadian view of our society, R. B. Bennett established the CBC. Obviously the establishment of the CBC has been extremely important as a cultural medium for Canadian actors, entertainers, writers, producers, directors, et cetera.

Bill C-2, an act to amend the Radiocommunication Act, is very timely and important given the situation we have. Section 9(1)(c) of the current act sets out a prohibition on the unauthorized decoding of encrypted subscription programming signals. Section 9(1)(d) prohibits unauthorized reception of unlawfully decoded subscription programming signals using radio equipment.

When we look at Bill C-2 we see that the transmission to the public of unlawfully decoded subscription programming signals has become a very important issue in the last few years. Section 10(1)(b) of the act makes it an offence to contravene section 9(1)(c) through activities such as importing, selling, distributing or possessing equipment in circumstances where it is reasonable to infer that the equipment is or was intended to be used for the purposes of contravention of that section.

The member across the way talked about what he did not like about the bill but I did not really hear his solution other than to work with the United States. I believe we must have a made in Canada solution, one which we have been working with the stakeholders on. Until last year there was really little effort to crack down on these direct to home satellite TVs or, as they are known, DTH piracy. There was no unanimity among the courts in this country whether unauthorized decoding of signals did indeed contravene the Radiocommunication Act.

As a result, there was a lack of court penalties against signal piracy. The RCMP's enforcement activities virtually came to a halt. As a result, black market dealers began to open and advertise their products.

In April 2002 the Supreme Court clarified the legal uncertainty. It determined that the unauthorized decoding of any encrypted subscription programming was illegal, period. Furthermore, it determined that reception of encrypted broadcasting programming must be authorized by a lawful distributor in this country, usually the Canadian DTH broadcaster.

Finally, the Supreme Court of Canada determined that subject to a very narrow exception, there was absolute prohibition on the decoding of encrypted broadcast programming from foreign distributors.

Once the law was clarified, the RCMP and customs significantly stepped up their enforcement activities. The member across the way talked about enforcement and compared it to guns and all sorts of other things. The fact is that the RCMP has developed an outreach strategy to provide provincial detachments with information on this issue. It is training its personnel to deal with enforcement.

In fact, a series of RCMP raids on black market dealers has resulted in several high profile seizures of illegal DTH equipment. However the fines imposed in recent judgments do not really impose much of a deterrent. This is very important. The current fines can be regarded by an illegal DTH dealer simply as the cost of doing business. I do not think anyone in the chamber wants to see that continue.

The House is well aware that the RCMP has many security and law enforcement priorities. We must ask ourselves whether it is a worthwhile use of time and resources to step up activities against illegal satellite pirates when there is little indication that prosecution will deter the piracy.

For that reason we must make sure that the punishment fits the crime, and this means increasing the penalties. That is the thrust of the bill. Although a higher level of fines in the act will not necessarily guarantee that the courts will impose stiffer penalties on dealers, it will send a strong message to the courts that Parliament sees this as an important issue.

The penalties contained in the bill are intended to send those messages. The maximum penalties for specified offences under section 10 have been increased from $5,000 to $25,000 or one year imprisonment or both for individuals; from $25,000 to $200,000 for corporations in the case of subsections 10(1) and 10(2.1).

Under subsection 10(2) the penalty has been increased from $5,000 to $10,000 for persons. Under subsection 10 (2.2) the penalty has increased for individuals from $20,000 to $50,000 or two years imprisonment or both; and for corporations from $200,000 to $500,000. Those are strong messages both to the illegal operators who are selling this equipment, the general public and the courts.

The bill also gives the Canada Border Services Agency an important tool. Although the Radiocommunication Act prohibits the importation of illegal receivers, equipment continues to flow across the border, as the hon. member across the way mentioned. Therefore it is difficult for customs to determine which imported equipment may be used for illegal purposes and which will not.

The bill would provide for better control at the border. I agree with the member that we need to deal with that issue at the border. The bill would do that by requiring an important certificate issued by the Minister of Industry for anyone wishing to bring satellite decoding equipment into Canada.

Finally, the bill would give the broadcast industry the tools it requires to protect its interests through civil action. Over the past five years Bell ExpressVu has launched nine civil actions against key dealers in the country. One of these actions resulted in the Supreme Court of Canada's decision of April 2002, as I mentioned, that clarified the legal uncertainties.

However the broadcast industry finds the pursuit of civil remedies under the current provisions to be costly and ineffective. It is difficult to prove a direct causal link between the illegal conduct of DTH pirate satellite dealers and the actual losses the broadcasters suffer. To reinforce their efforts to pursue civil action, the bill provides an option to seek statutorily prescribed damages rather than being forced to prove actual damages.

The bill includes three important provisions that would deter signal piracy in Canada. It provides tools for each of the three partners to enforce the existing law: the RCMP, whose efforts will be backed by stronger penalties; the customs officials, who will be able to stop illegal equipment at the border; and the broadcast industry, who will be supported by the option of statutory damages should it pursue civil action.

This is a good bill that would result in stronger cultural industries in Canada and use of the radio telecommunications spectrum that promotes safety and security.

I believe the bill reinforces and builds on the existing law in Canada. It is important for Canadians. I would urge members of the House to support the legislation.

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12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Order, please. The hon. member for Rimouski—Neigette-et-la Mitis intended to speak, but she did not rise from her seat, which is why I recognized the hon. member for Peterborough. Since she is now on her feet, I will recognize her.

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12:05 p.m.


Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was told that, after the Liberal member, someone from the Conservative Party of Canada would speak, and only then would it be my turn.

Now that we have figured out how things will work, I want to thank the Chair for giving me this opportunity to speak on Bill C-2.

It is just amazing to see that this bill has now become an emergency. Usually, Bill C-2 is a piece of legislation designed to deal with a very well-defined emergency. However, all of a sudden, at 9:30 this morning, it was decided to put Bill C-2 up for debate today.

This bill is long overdue. When I was first elected to this House, in 1993, I was designated Canadian heritage critic for my party. One of the main problems we identified at the time was the whole black market issue surrounding broadcast signals. With DIRECTV in the picture, we asked that this be stopped, because it was costing us a lot of money and jobs throughout Canada and in Quebec.

However, as DIRECTV was owned by friends of the government, there was not a lot of interest in asking them to put a stop to their activities. The government was aware of the situation, but tolerated it.

Now that the former owners of DIRECTV have become the new owners—at least in part—of ExpressVu, not to name names, they are upset to lose all that business. So, these same friends are telling the government, “You should introduce a bill to make this a terrible thing, to make it illegal to import, steal or pirate the airwaves”.

This does not bode well at all for a new government that was supposed to be different. The report that the Auditor General will table tomorrow is going to give us an idea of what the former government was up to. It might a good thing for the new Prime Minister to read that report very carefully, to avoid being tempted to head in the same direction and protect his friends.

Bill C-2 poses some problems. There is no doubt that it will improve certain things. However, clause 5 creates huge problems. This provision gives great powers to an inspector and clause 5(1)( a ) reads as follows:

enter and inspect any place in which the inspector believes on reasonable grounds that there is any radio apparatus, interference-causing equipment or radio-sensitive equipment, any other thing related to such apparatus or equipment, or any record, book of account or other document or data relevant to the enforcement of this Act.

If we look at section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects us as regards private property, private rights and privacy, we wonder where the department is headed with clause 5. This clause will give sweeping powers to the inspector and, in many cases, these powers may well exceed the limit set by section 8.

Clause 5(1)( b ) reads as follows:

examine any radio apparatus, interference-causing equipment or radio-sensitive equipment found there, as well as any other thing related to such apparatus or equipment;

The government goes even further. Indeed, clause 5(1)( c ) reads:

examine any record, book of account or other document or data that the inspector believes on reasonable grounds contains information that is relevant to the enforcement of this Act and makes copies of any of them.

And then we have clause 5(1)( d ):

open or cause to be opened any package or container that the inspector believes on reasonable grounds contains anything referred to in paragraph (b) or (c).

We are interfering quite a bit with the privacy of citizens, and this seems to be an extremely dangerous element in this bill.

Another danger is all the authority being granted to the minister. The existing legislation already provides numerous powers to the minister, but this bill adds more. It is always very dangerous to give the minister an even greater discretionary authority when we know all the risks that are involved.

The minister will have the authority to decide who should get an import certificate. But we think the criteria the minister will have to use to make those decisions are not well enough defined.

We are willing to increase ministerial authority, but the government should be reassuring parliamentarians by setting out the criteria the minister will have to abide by. Criteria would be reassuring. We would be more aware of the situation, and we could debate those criteria and see whether they are reasonable. We could count on the minister to be able to apply those criteria. When you are kept in the dark, it is easy to have suspicions. Can the minister really be counted on to always be reasonable?

Earlier in her speech I heard the minister talk about the fines provided for under the legislation. She said that they would not be the major emphasis, but I am not sure what else can be done.

Then she goes on to say that the fines would be $200,000 for a company and $25,000 for an individual. There are limits. If these types of provisions are included in the legislation then there has to be the means to enforce them. There is no point in giving the impression that there will be penalties, if it is unclear how they will be enforced.

There is something quite extraordinary in one of the clauses of the bill. If, for instance, a $2,000 computer is seized and the fine happens to be $2,500 then the guilty party has only to pay back the difference between $2,500 and $2,000. There is no mention of what would happen if the fine were $2,500 and the value of the confiscated goods $10,000. Will the difference be paid out to the guilty party? That is out of the question.

Imposing heavier fines to make them more of a deterrent only works if we have the means to enforce these provisions. Otherwise, there is no point in leading people to believe that we are going to be able to put an end to this type of situation.

There is another element of the legislation that reinforces the broadcasting industry's current right to a civil remedy. There is the option under the legislation to receive statutory damages not to exceed a set amount. Clause 10 will replace subsection 18 of the Broadcasting Act. It is important to refer to subsection 18(1) of this act. This subsection states that anyone incurring a loss, or statutory damages, as the result of an offence, can pursue a civil remedy against the violator.

This bill has many problems. It is good in principle, but many questions need to be answered and this government also needs to agree to make changes if it wants the Bloc Quebecois to support it at third reading.

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12:15 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in support of Bill C-2, an act to amend the Radiocommunication Act to better combat illegal decoding of direct-to-home satellite television signals.

The bill deals with the growing problem of piracy of signals for direct-to-home satellite television. It aims to strengthen our ability to protect one of our most important cultural industries. I am particularly glad to speak on this because I, like many Canadians, love television and good movies. We are speaking particularly with respect to the cultural industry in Canada. Piracy of any sort of artists' work, of illegitimately taking the benefits of creative work, is something we should be trying to stop all around the world.

Having said that, I will not speak greatly about the penalties. One of my colleagues has said that in this case the penalties for this should fit the crime. As the crime is piracy, I want to be on the record as saying that although I agree the penalty should be commensurate with the crime, the normal penalties I have heard for piracy are keelhauling and hanging people from the yardarm. I do not support penalties of that type, but I do support severe penalties for those who pirate these signals.

The theft of such satellite signals denies legitimate Canadian broadcasters, content producers and programmers millions of dollars a year. It robs money from an industry that supports thousands of jobs. That, by the way, is the financial measure of what is going on. What is much more significant is that this piracy, by denying some income to artists, stultifies creativity. It is creativity of human beings, whether it be in the arts, business or wherever, that we as a government should be trying to nurture and encourage.

The existing legislation is simply inadequate to deal with the growing problems which we are seeing. Law enforcement officials in the industry lack the tools they need to deter the criminals who are importing, manufacturing and selling illegal technologies. We do not want to target individual Canadian viewers, but rather those men and women who are making piracy of signals a business.

The industry estimates that there could be from 500,000 to 700,000 users of unauthorized direct-to-home services in Canada. That is a shocking figure. I believe that many people who do this do not think of the true consequences to creativity in Canada.

Research in the industry concludes that these activities imply a loss of subscription revenues of about $400 million each year to the Canadian industry. These companies need a fair marketplace to recoup the considerable investments they are making.

There is also a public safety component to the bill. The use of pirated receiver cards has been found to create signal interference with communications systems used by search and rescue services and the police. By committing this illegal act of downloading the signals, these people are also putting at risk police, fire people and others. It is like someone who rings a fire alarm illegally. The fire engine and the fire crews go out to the non-existent fire while there is a fire occurring somewhere else.

The bill reinforces existing laws in Canada. It has received widespread support from all the actors in the Canadian broadcasting system as well as law enforcement and customs officials. The bill will help to provide a level playing field for Canada's cultural industries and ensure sustainable competition in broadcast programming to benefit all Canadian consumers.

The bill proposes to discourage satellite piracy in three ways.

First, it will make it more difficult to obtain the hardware required to steal a satellite signal. This will be done by providing for better control at the border by requiring an import certificate issued by the Minister of Industry for anyone who wishes to bring satellite signal decoding equipment into the country. That is a very appropriate action.

Second, the bill would increase the penalties prescribed in the act to a level that provides a meaningful deterrent to this type of piracy. I made the joke about it before. In our law I do not believe in keelhauling for this type of piracy, but I do believe in very strong penalties for it. It is a serious matter, not just a financial matter but something that goes to the heart of Canadian culture.

Third, the bill would strengthen the existing right of civil action. It is difficult to prove a direct causal link between illegal conduct and the extent of the losses they actually suffer. Under the bill, it would be provided that there is an option to seek statutory damages rather than being forced to prove actual damages.

We are talking about preventing the erosion of Canada's broadcasting system by stopping activities that are clearly illegal. We all agree Canada's broadcasting system is one of the bases of our nation. It is one of the important vehicles of culture in Canada.

I urge all members of the House to support Bill C-2.

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12:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Progressive Conservative Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-2, an act to amend the Radiocommunication Act. Before I begin to discuss the content of the bill, I would like to give the House an overview of this industry and its customers. It is impossible to discuss Bill C-2 without understanding two very different concepts and making a clear distinction between them.

The two concepts are the grey market and the black market.

The technology that allows consumers to view satellite signals is the key to the black and grey markets. To watch satellite television, we must buy a satellite receiver and an access card from the satellite company. We subscribe to channels we want by calling the satellite company--in Canada, that is either Bell or Shaw--choosing channels and giving them our credit card. Then the access card, which has a small chip on the back, is inserted into the receiver so that the channels that have been paid for can be watched. The access card will work only in the machine that it came with and the receiver will not work without the access card.

Once it is understood that one must subscribe to satellite channels and that an access card is required to confirm that subscription, it allows us to discuss the difference between the black market and the grey market.

The first is the black market. Thieves steal the satellite signal. Instead of paying a subscription and using an access card, the thieves replace the access card with an AVR board, or an HU or P4 card, to fool the receiver into thinking that a subscription has been paid. Every Canadian who uses this technology steals roughly $100 a month of TV programming from a satellite company.

What is worse, the cards that fool satellite receivers also emit radio signals that may interfere with military emergency radio equipment. Not only is it theft, it is dangerous. According to Industry Canada, the interference caused by these hacked signals has caused search and rescue officials to think aircraft have crashed when they have not. Hacked signals have also interfered with military operations in Cold Lake, Alberta.

While no one can provide us with the exact numbers as to the size of the black market, a recent Léger Marketing survey showed that fully 20% of the people receiving Bell ExpressVu signals were not paying for the service.

I want to be clear that the Conservative Party and the vast majority of Canadians are firmly opposed to the black market.

Now let us look at the grey market, in which a Canadian subscribes to a satellite service provider that is not licensed by the CRTC, such as Dish Network or DirecTV, for access to TV channels. In every case in the grey market the viewer is lawfully paying for the signal and he is paying the company that owns the satellite from which the signal is being distributed. He is respecting copyright by paying the owner of the satellite, who in turn pays the TV networks that produce the programs.

In the grey market, the client pays the full price for what he or she watches. Clients pay a service charge to the dealer. The satellite company bills the client's credit card every month. The client sees the satellite company's bill on his credit card statement and watches only those channels to which he or she has subscribed.

So why do we go to the United States and beyond for television? To access cultural and religious broadcasting that is not available in Canada.

For example, I understand that Latino Canadians subscribe to Dish Latino, which offers 20 Spanish language channels from Mexico, Chile, Spain and the U.S., as well as a news channel that features local news from virtually every Spanish speaking country in the Americas. The price is roughly $30 Canadian per month. Currently some Canadian satellite channels carry blocks of weekly Spanish programming, seven hours here and three hours there.

Arab Canadians typically subscribe to Dish Network's Arabic elite pack, offering 10 channels from Dubai, Egypt, Lebanon and Qatar for roughly $40 Canadian.

Many Canadian Christians who are looking for faith based family broadcasting subscribe to Sky Angel, a satellite service company offering roughly 36 channels.

One of the problems with Bill C-2 is that it ignores the bigger issue. Access to programming has been restricted by the CRTC and Canadian content rules. This bill is not just about breaking the law but about allowing Canadians the freedom to watch what they want regardless of Canadian content restrictions.

The Conservative Party agrees with the June 2003 recommendation of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage:

...that the CRTC permit Canadian broadcasting distribution undertakings to offer a wider range of international programming, while being respectful of Canadian content regulations.

There are other issues raised by the bill that have caused the Conservative Party concern. First, we need clarification as to how and if precious RCMP and local police resources will be used. While the bill does allow for civil procedures, we are still not clear as to whether or not RCMP resources will be used. As my colleagues have mentioned, a recent satellite investigation in Hamilton engaged 69 RCMP officers and 12 Industry Canada employees. Clearly this is an inappropriate use of taxpayer resources.

Second, we are concerned that the inspection provisions have been broadened. While we recognize that other electronic devices such as computers are linked with satellite piracy, the power to open any package or container that may be related to satellite piracy is an issue we would like to explore in committee.

I would like to close on a positive note. There are aspects of this bill we support. We support the importation initiatives, with provisions. We agree that the border is a good place to address the problem of distribution of satellite dishes that are currently considered illegal in Canada. However, we hope this initiative does not stop the grey market viewer who legitimately pays for a service and programming currently unavailable in Canada.

We would also like better assurances from the Minister of Industry that snowbirds will not be harassed or charged when they bring their dishes across the border for summer storage.

We support the idea that Bell and Shaw can take action against some of these providers through civil court rather than criminal court.

I would like to close by saying that the Conservative Party has concerns about Bill C-2, but we are looking forward to reviewing this legislation in committee to see if we can tighten it up and address the cultural issue the bill raises.

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12:30 p.m.


Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today in the House to support Bill C-2, an act to amend the Radiocommunication Act.

Bill C-2 would amend the Radiocommunication Act to add import control measures in respect of radio apparatus or devices used for decoding encrypted subscription programming signals. It would make importation of them without an import certificate an offence and would provide for the issuance of the certificates, as well as for ministerial exemptions from the requirement.

Finally, it would provide measures to facilitate compliance with and enforcement of the act, including adding certain inspection powers, increasing penalties, and providing the option for a person who pursues a civil remedy to elect statutory damages.

Let me begin by commending the Minister of Industry for immediately proceeding with this legislation. In June 2003, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage tabled its report after a two year study of the Canadian broadcasting system. I had the opportunity to participate in that study, first as a parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and then as a member of the committee.

The issue of the black and grey satellite markets was extensively reviewed and the issues in fact discussed in chapter 16 of that report, which is entitled “Our Cultural Sovereignty: The Second Century of Canadian Broadcasting”. I am pleased to say that in fact this study is now being used throughout Canada at Canadian universities as the textbook, the must read text, for the study of broadcasting in Canada.

As noted in the heritage committee's report, satellite distributors in Canada account for 1.7 million of the total 2.8 million--or over 60%--of all digital television subscribers. The CRTC currently licenses two suppliers to provide direct to home, or DTH, satellite television services to Canadians. One is Bell ExpressVu and the other is Star Choice, which is owned by Shaw Communications. What is important for all members of the House to know, and for Canadians to know, is that no other North American company is licensed to provide satellite signals to Canadians.

It is also important to understand how this technology works. Satellite and broadcasting technology allows a television broadcaster to send a signal to a satellite which is located in orbit above the earth. That satellite will send back the same signal, covering a portion of the earth's surface, which is known as a signal's footprint. The technology thus allows a signal to be sent directly to any place that has a device for receiving the signal, hence the term direct to home, or DTH, television.

In order to protect the commercial value of satellite television services, the signals are encrypted or scrambled by the broadcaster. To be received in intelligible form, the signal must be decoded or descrambled. If viewers wish to receive these signals, they must subscribe to the channel or channels providing the signals. Upon purchasing the necessary hardware and paying a fee, the broadcaster will supply viewers with some form of authorization unique to the subscriber's decoder, allowing them to receive the signals.

However, as we have heard today and as we all know, our satellite programming services and signals are being stolen--and I cannot help but emphasize the word stolen--by various means designed to circumvent the proper operation of the authorization system.

Again, let me remind the House of what is actually taking place here. Satellite programming signals are encrypted. Authorized subscribers are provided with a control access module or a smart card and decoder by the DTH distributor, but it is possible for hackers to develop technology to decode the encryption. Periodically, therefore, the distributors change the encryption of their signals as a means of eliminating users who have gained unauthorized access to their programming and thus are stealing it. The hackers respond again by building technology to break this new code.

So what we have here is a cat and mouse game, where the companies are always trying to stay one step ahead of the signal pirates and the pirates are equally resourceful in finding ways of breaking the signal.

Signal theft is illegal and the RCMP has stepped up its enforcement of the law. The bill before us supports its efforts by providing penalties that will act as a deterrent once a violator has been prosecuted. This is the remedy for criminal action.

There is another way to deter signal piracy and that is through civil action on the part of the DTH distributors. The bill before us will help encourage legitimate satellite companies to pursue civil action thereby helping reduce the cost of police enforcement of the law.

Let me first explain that under the current civil law regime, victims of satellite piracy, that is, the legitimate satellite companies, are required to show what their losses are. However, pirating is an underground activity. It is very difficult to provide accurate evidence of the real damage.

Under this bill the victims of piracy will be able to opt for statutory damages that will help compensate them for the theft of their intellectual property. Again I have to remind everyone we are talking about theft. We are talking about stealing.

Where pirates are engaged in signal theft for commercial gain, the courts will be able to impose a statutory fine of a maximum of $100,000. Yes, this is a substantial fine but it is designed to be more than simply a cost of doing business for the signal pirates.

For individuals convicted of signal theft, the amount of damages remains the same, capped at $1,000. This is still a significant amount for an individual. It should remain as a deterrent when the satellite companies pursue civil action against individuals.

I do want to emphasize that the focus of the bill before us is not on the individuals who violate the act so much as those who in fact establish businesses that violate the act for commercial gain. We want to deter their trafficking in illegal satellite equipment.

Nor is the focus of Bill C-2 on the hackers who develop the pirate technology. Hackers are individuals who normally are not business people. They are usually motivated by the challenge of hacking encrypted systems, not by profits. They are not likely to be deterred by the threat of financial loss. Once again we can make sure that the businesses that buy their products and use their products for commercial gain are penalized. That is in fact what the bill does, both through the criminal fines and through the statutory fines in the event of a successful civil action.

Businesses that provide television programs need to recover the investment they make in their businesses. When they suffer losses due to piracy, their business viability is threatened. The result is lost jobs and investment in the broadcasting industry and most important, investment in Canadian programming. The satellite and cable companies want fair competition. They cannot compete with free TV and neither should they.

Bill C-2 will not only act as a deterrent to those who would compete unfairly through illegal means, it also gives the victims of piracy a chance to recover some of the revenues they have lost through illegal activities. It will help create an open and fair marketplace for television broadcasting in Canada. That is good for the industry and in the long run for Canadian viewers.

In conclusion, I hope hon. members will join me in supporting this bill.

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12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to participate in the debate on Bill C-2, formerly Bill C-52 which was introduced in the House a while ago.

I believe that Bill C-2 is an overreaction to a problem that is quite a bit smaller than the government would have us believe.

Many of my constituents have large satellite dishes. They receive programming from the United States that they currently cannot get in Canada without their satellite dishes. I see a huge difference between the grey market and the black market.

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Not according to the Supreme Court.

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12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has said not according to the Supreme Court. I and many of my constituents see it differently.

The reason I see it differently is this product is not available in Canada. People bought their dishes a long time ago to receive a product and they continue to be serviced.

There are two companies that have licences and property rights in Canada to service the Canadian market through a product they have developed and paid good money for with regard to programming. Those two companies are Bell ExpressVu and Shaw Star Choice. I have one of them in my home.

I have quite a few neighbours who have other satellite dishes that do not receive and do not pirate product from Shaw Star Choice or Bell ExpressVu. They only receive the product that comes to them from the United States and which they currently cannot get in Canada. They made huge investments some 20 years ago. I see that as being different. I see it somewhat like a radio signal.

Bill C-2 would amend the Radiocommunication Act. We have always had radio waves coming through the air and often we listen to international programming from different parts of the world. In fact, Canada does that itself; Radio Canada International broadcasts to other countries in eastern Europe and to the United States. I often hear listeners from the United States phoning in during CBC radio programs.

That is the way we should develop this industry. Instead of trying to build borders around Canada as the Liberal government has done in several areas, we should be looking for openings and opportunities to service the whole big world out there. We do it with radio. Where do the people who develop radio programs get their money? They get it from advertisers who are looking for a market. They are not concerned if somebody in the United States listens to a Canadian radio station and vice versa. We should treat television in the same way.

I would look for some kind of international agreement between us and the United States that would open up that market to us. There are almost 300 million people living in the United States. We have a product to sell and we need to sell it on the basis of quality. We should not build protective walls and borders around our country, which is difficult to do anyway.

The member who spoke before me talked about people trying to develop ways to hack into the system and technology companies having to figure out ways to block them. It would be far better for us to receive those signals and let the United States receive signals from Canada based on a reciprocity agreement.

As the critic for international trade, I see this as a growth area, not something we should be trying to build barriers against and looking for restrictive markets as the government has done in areas like supply management for example. There is a whole broad world out there that we need to service. Canada has good programming and it will get even better with better actors and better people to service that industry as a result of that big market.

That is where I see the difference between our party and the Liberal Party. We look at this as an opportunity and not as a big problem as the Liberals would have us believe.

If people are stealing the encryption, that is a problem, but a lot of people are not doing that. What they are doing instead is they are listening to and watching a product that they currently cannot get in Canada.

What does the bill essentially do about it? The penalties have been raised pretty high, doubling the amount of jail time up to a year. I heard the minister say earlier in debate that the government is not going after the little guy, just the companies. How soon will it be until the next move will be to go after the little guy?

Our police forces will not be out there just trying to enforce gun regulation which is completely out of sync with what people are talking about. They will be out there going door to door, checking to see if people have large satellite dishes and trying to shut them down. That is the next step. I think this is a total overreaction.

The solution is not police enforcement, not a lot of people dedicated to driving around spying to see if people have satellite dishes. The solution is to open up the market and have a larger vision of where Canada needs to go in the future. Yes, 30 million people is a nice market, but think of the 300 million people next door that we could service with a quality product, if we had that opportunity.

How would we do that, because the United States has restrictions as well. We have to take advantage of opportunities with the United States to talk about issues that are important to us. We have an industry on the telecommunications side that is saying we should open it up so that we can get investment from the United States and other places. I was the industry critic for some time. The government says that no, we have to restrict investment in those industries. The industries themselves are asking for it to be opened up because they see a wider market available to them. They see the opportunity.

Where the government sees a problem, the Conservative Party sees an opportunity. Let us exploit that opportunity to our benefit. Let us not go around trying to plug the dam with a finger every time there is a leak. Let us tap into the energy that is the technology that is going to enable us to enhance our market share and provide opportunities for our people to develop quality product and programming that people will buy no matter where they live. That opportunity is there if we would just let Canadians respond to the innovation. I know they are capable of it.

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Claude Duplain Liberal Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to express my support for Bill C-2, an act to amend the Radiocommunication Act.

Let me remind members of this assembly what this bill deals with. Signals that are transmitted via direct communication satellite, which are called DCS, are encoded. Authorized users receive “an access control module” or a memory card, as well as a decoder, which are provided to them by the DCS signal distributor.

However, hackers are able to develop a technology that allows them to decode signals. Thus, distributors regularly change their signal code to keep away users who are illegally accessing their programming. But hackers respond to this by continually creating new technologies that allow them to thwart the new code. We find ourselves in a cat and mouse situation, where distributors are constantly trying to keep ahead of hackers, while the latter find ever more creative ways to access the new code.

Stealing signals is illegal. The RCMP is now stepping up enforcement measures. The bill before us supports these efforts by suggesting penalties that would discourage repeat offenders. This is the remedy for criminal activities.

There is another way of discouraging DTH signal piracy. It is to encourage distributors themselves to take civil action. The bill before us will help us to encourage authorized distributors of DTH signals to take such action, which will help reduce law enforcement costs.

Let me first explain that, under the current civil law system, victims of DTH signal piracy, that is authorized distributors, must prove they have incurred losses. However, satellite piracy is an underground activity. Thus, it is difficult to prove the actual harm done.

In the context of this bill, victims of commercial hacking can be awarded statutory damages that will help to compensate them for the loss of their intellectual property.

In the case of hackers who steal signals for commercial gain, the courts will have the option of imposing statutory penalties of up to $100,000. This is a huge fine and the idea is to ensure that this penalty is not viewed as a mere cost of doing business by those who pirate DTH signals.

However, in the case of individuals who are found guilty of stealing signals, the amount of damages remains the same, with a maximum penalty of $1,000. This is a significant amount for an individual. This penalty must continue to be a deterrent if distributors of DTH signals decide to take civil action against an individual.

I stress the fact that the bill before us does not put the emphasis on individuals who break the law but, rather, on those who start a business that contravenes the act for commercial gain. We want to deter the sale of illegal devices to decode satellite signals.

Nor does this legislation put the accent on the pirates that develop the pirating technology. Pirates are individuals who are usually not business people. More often than not, they are motivated by the challenge of decoding a secret encoding system, rather than by profits. They are unlikely to be deterred by the threat of a financial loss.

Again, we can make sure that the businesses that buy the products of these individuals and use them for commercial gain are fined. This is what the bill proposes to do by providing for criminal convictions and for damages when a civil action ends up with a guilty verdict.

The businesses that provide television programming must be able to make a profit on their investments. When they suffer losses because of pirating, their profitability is threatened, which results in the loss of jobs and investments in the broadcasting sector.

Signal distribution companies and cable companies want fair competition.

They cannot compete against free television.

This bill will not only deter those who would compete unfairly through illegal means, but also allow the victims of piracy to recover part of what they lost because of illegal activities.

This bill will create an open and fair market in one sector of the broadcasting industry in Canada, which will be good for the industry and, in the long run, for Canadian viewers.

I hope members of this House will support this bill which, I repeat, deals with the growing problem of piracy of direct-to-home satellite broadcast signals. It aims at enhancing our ability to protect one of the most important components in our cultural industry. God knows how much money is invested in this sector and, if our broadcasting services cannot be profitable, culture will be dealt a hard blow.

The theft of satellite signals deprives broadcasters, program producers and authorized Canadian programmers of millions of dollars annually. Money is being stolen from an industry that provides thousands of jobs. Anyone who steals signals is destroying jobs.

The existing legislation is simply not adequate to solve the growing number of problems we now have. Broadcasters and those in charge of enforcing the law lack the means they need to deter criminals from importing, designing and selling illegal equipment.

This bill will counter this illegal activity. We do not want to target the Canadian inspectors, as has been said, but business people who are guilty of piracy. They are the ones we should go after.

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to Bill C-2. Once again, this is a bill about problems which force us to deal with a situation in the quickly changing world of communications and computer technology.

Before getting into Bill C-2, let me say that signal theft is nothing new. In the early eighties, when pay television was introduced in Quebec and Canada, some people immediately started making and selling decoders so that viewers could receive pay television channels. Who out there has not tried to rig the cable wire to hook up one and then two televisions, or the radio set?

Such behaviour has taken root over the last twenty years. However, the lawmaker never introduced legislation to make people understand that, whenever they steal signals, be it cable or satellite signals which we are discussing today, many companies are losing substantial revenues. As I said, satellite piracy takes millions away from Canadian broadcasters and various funds like the Canadian Television Fund.

This bill was first introduced in the House in October 2003. Members know that our agenda was seriously disrupted by the changes on the other side. Parliament was prorogued and a new Prime Minister came into office. As a result, they are once again playing catch up on the legislative agenda, that is, they are trying to show that at least some of the bills are being reinstated. This one was called C-52 before prorogation and was considered to be as priority. It is being reintroduced today as Bill C-2, but no bona fide solution to the satellite piracy issue has yet been found.

Recently, print and television ads have been broadcast widely to raise public awareness of people who buy decoders. However, things go so fast that, as soon as companies like Star Choice or Bell ExpressVu put new products on the market, decoders are immediately put on the market to allow their customers to steal the signals.

In Canada, it is estimated that between 500,000 and 700,000 households engage in this kind of theft. According to the coalition formed to fight piracy, this is causing the Canadian broadcasting system to lose an estimated $400 million per year.

Often, our colleagues rise in the House to ask that Star Choice or Bell ExpressVu provide better services to the regions. Every time broadcasters have to make cuts, the regions are always the hardest hit. We are receiving signals from the United States, but have difficulty finding out what is going on in certain regions of Quebec. We have the same satellite and are charged the same price, but the regions are always the ones penalized.

Not only must the bill deter dealers from importing and selling unauthorized equipment in Canada, but a change in attitudes must also be brought about. In the last 20 years, this has become normal practice, not only with respect to cable and television. We know of the many artists from Quebec and Canada whose CDs are being copied, which is very costly to them in lost earnings. We are also aware that the artist's share of the profits on the sale of CDs and DVDs is extremely small. With the little money they get out of this big production machine, artists find themselves in financial difficulty.

Also, performance fees are based on official ratings and do not take into account stolen signals. In fact, sweeps are carried out using the devices installed, to monitor media penetration. But when signals are stolen, sweeps become unreliable. If a many decoder users tune in to Canada-wide television programs showcasing artists from Quebec or Canada, they alter or distort the results.

I do hope we will be able to tackle this issue head on. We have, however, to rely on accepted standards. We should not go overboard and have inspectors or investigators enter houses to see if there are decoders or not.

The right to enter dwellings is important, but I think investigators and inspectors should rather target those who sell the products. We could work in cooperation with the sales representatives of Star Choice and Bell ExpressVu, who certainly know where the decoders end up. I think the legislation should focus more on those who manufacture and sell the products than on officials entering dwellings to determine whether homeowners are in possession of decoders.

More specifically, clause 5 of the bill would allow inspectors to enter a home and examine any computer they might find. As we know, with today's technology and computer science, decoders are often found within computer software. Also, in our households, the computer is where much of our private and confidential information is stored. People often use computers to file their income tax returns. They use them to do the record keeping for their farms or small and medium businesses, as the people in Lotbinière—L'Érable do.

This bill would give inspectors the authority to seize computers. Not only could they search for software, but they would have access to any private or confidential information stored in the computers. We cannot, on the one hand, make it possible to eliminate the scourge of piracy and, on the other, give investigators the authority to invade people's privacy.

The privacy commissioner should come to testify and guarantee that Bill C-2 is consistent with existing legislation. For some time now in this Parliament, especially since the events of September 11, 2001, we have been quick to allow investigations and detailed inspections. We are losing sight of what is important: protecting the public.

I hope the government will take the time to focus on the possible danger with respect to clause 5 in Bill C-2. In our efforts to eliminate piracy, it is important that we have tools that are consistent with existing legislation and that will, together with what already exists for protecting privacy under the Civil Code or the Criminal Code, provide a real solution to this problem.

Above all, people need to change their behaviour. The trend toward stealing cable signals, and now satellite signals, started some 20 years ago. Where will it all end? I do not know, but I hope everyone is well aware of what this bill involves.

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to debate Bill C-2, the Radiocommunication Act, regarding satellite TV piracy.

The bill was introduced in the House in the second session and it was called Bill C-52 at that time. It did not proceed beyond first reading. Now we are getting less than a day to rush it through. I do not approve of the manner in which the government House leader is rushing the bill through by giving us less than one day to debate it at second reading.

The main purpose of the bill is to stop piracy and the illegal utilization of satellite signals.

Bill C-2 would increase the penalties and would provide for civil remedies against those individuals or corporations who sell and use illegal radiocommunication equipment, specifically satellite dishes that receive signals from satellite television stations who do not get licences from the CRTC.

In addition, Bill C-2 would strengthen inspection powers and would make the importation of unlicensed equipment without an import certificate an offence. That is what Bill C-2 is supposed to do, stop piracy and the illegal utilization of satellite signals. It is important because there are two types of illegal activities that are going on.

The first one is called the grey market. This is where Canadians subscribe to U.S. satellite services with the bill sent to a U.S. address. They give an address in the U.S. by credit card or by other means. They pay their bills but outside Canada.

In April 2002 the Supreme Court confirmed that federal broadcasting law prohibits Canadians from receiving direct to home satellite TV programs from providers other than Bell ExpressVu and Star Choice Communications Inc. That decision followed several court battles in which grey market dealers argued that the broadcasting laws were unconstitutional under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the government was directing Canadians on what they could watch on their TVs. There were some court battles and the determination by the court was that grey market was illegal in Canada.

The other type of illegal activity is the black market. In the black market, Canadians who are subscribing to those services are not paying anything. They are using equipment by illegal means to decode signals and use or receive the satellite signals without using the usual subscriber's way of paying. It is actually a theft of the signals.

The industry argues that the illegal receipt of satellite signals reduces the revenue of so-called legitimate providers by $400 million. It is also estimated that about 750,000 Canadian households currently receive unauthorized signals.

In my opinion, both of these activities, whether it is the grey market or the black market, break the law; however, the degree of breaking the law is different. Theft is one thing, but paying it outside the system, in the U.S., is another thing.

I would like to argue why this activity is illegal in the first place.

Canadians should have the ability to watch any television signal they want. They should not be restricted in their choices. I believe that limiting Canadians to watching certain signals would not be appropriate. I have objections to some of the Canadian signals we get on television. However, people have a choice. If they want to have those signals available, they have a choice. I may or may not like certain subjects shown on television. It may be restrictive as far as my ideology is concerned, but other people need some choice. Canadians deserve to have choice.

Some people think that American signals should not be allowed in the Canadian market, probably to restrict or to ensure that Canadian culture is not affected. I believe that our Canadian culture is not that fragile. We should not only look with tunnel vision; we should have a broader perspective of other cultures and other contents. Canadians should have the choice to subscribe to the signals they want to have.

Canadians can do better when they are given fair competition in the market. For example, in the wine industry, Canadians have done very well when the market was fair and open. Canadians love competition and they can survive competition.

We are very proud of the high level of technology that we have. On the other hand, there are certain satellite providers for some specific programs and they are not available to Canadians in the Canadian market, other than through foreign programs, for example, ethnic programs.

Ethnic producers are scattered all around. They may not have enough resources to put their own television programs together. So if one channel is broadcasting those ethnic programs, people should have the ability to subscribe to those specialized ethnic television programs. They could be scientific or educational programs.

In ethnic communities, for example, there are Spanish television programs. I am not aware of any Spanish television programs in Canadian content nor of Indo-Canadian, Chinese or Korean programs. If they can broadcast and the signals can be received in Canada, I think people should have the choice to subscribe to those signals.

We know that technology is evolving very fast. Canadians have access to the Internet. We know that broad spectrum Internet services could be available. We can access the broadcasting system by Internet, listen to the radio frequency and receive newspapers and magazines. We can buy CDs, DVDs and those kinds of things. Why is there a restriction on television signals?

That is a serious concern. Canadians should be given more choice in order that we can provide better services to Canadians.

If this illegal activity has to be stopped, the border is a good place to address the problem of distribution of satellite dishes that are currently considered illegal in Canada. At the same time, we want assurances from the Minister of Industry that snowbirds will not be harassed or charged. Snowbirds are those people who winter some place in the U.S. and come back in the summer along with their satellite dishes. They should not be penalized.

We also support the clause that allows Bell and Shaw to take action against some of the black market providers through civil court rather than through the criminal court. However, we are unclear as to whether any police resources will be used in this type of action.

We should not tie up our RCMP resources. For example, in Hamilton, 69 RCMP officers and 12 individuals from Industry Canada were tied up by one satellite dish case. That should not be the case. Broad inspection provisions as outlined in the bill should be in place. We also recognize that other electronic devises such as computers and other things are linked to satellite piracy.

Finally, the issue is not just about breaking the law. It is about allowing Canadians the freedom to watch what they want to watch.

I would like to conclude that it will not be possible for me to support the bill as it is. We need these assurances. Of course theft should be prevented, but the liberty to have choices in what we watch should also be there.

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise for the first time since we came back to the House. The debate today is on Bill C-2, which, obviously, is the second bill introduced after the throne speech.

Of course this is an important bill, but we would have preferred that the second bill before the House deal with the issue of health and the need to restore funding to 1994-95 levels, as requested by the premiers.

That said, it is still the case that the bill on broadcasting, or cable television, is important. The Bloc Quebecois, whose sense of responsibility is known to this House, has made it known through its heritage critic, the hon. member for Québec, that our members will support this bill.

Earlier, I was listening to my friend, the hon. member for Lotbinière—L'Érable, who made some very pertinent remarks. He comes from the cultural sector himself, having been a radio host for nearly a decade, I believe, at a station in his riding.

It came to me that this bill is to culture what tax invasion is to the government. Like anyone who has watched television from time to time, I have seen the advertising campaigns done by the artists. We may tend to forget the fact, but this bill concerns more than the industry; it also affects the creators—the broadcasters and the artists—because, when there is piracy, when consumers receive music or programs they have not paid for, then royalty payments are smaller and it is the creators who are penalized.

We know that the creative genius of artists is very significant, vibrant and dynamic in Quebec and—I will not argue—in the rest of Canada, even though these two cultural agendas may conflict once in a while. As you know, Quebec has chosen the path of a common public culture, while the rest of Canada has chosen the path of multiculturalism. But this is not the time to discuss that.

So, Bill C-2 deals in a rather appropriate way—and this is why the Bloc Quebecois will support the principle of this legislation—with the issue of piracy, specifically as regards satellite signals.

This is not a minor issue considering that a coalition set up to deal with the theft of satellite signals or, in other words, to fight the pirating of these signals, estimates that, and this is unfortunate, between 500,000 and 700,000 homes in Canada are receiving satellite signals without proper authorization.

The bill proposes increased monitoring mechanisms that will, I believe, be twofold.

The overall responsibility will be given to the new Minister of Industry, the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie, who, as we know, has fulfilled major duties in this House. When she was first elected, in 1997 if I am not mistaken, she was appointed minister of Labour. Then, the Prime Minister gave her the Immigration portfolio. At the time, I was our party critic on immigration issues and I hope the minister has fond memories of those days. Later on, she became the President of the Treasury Board, where she played a more discreet role. Now, she is the Minister of Industry.

Under clause 5, the Minister of Industry will have very important powers, because she will be the one who will issue the certificates authorizing the import of satellite signals. She will have to take into consideration a number of factors before issuing such certificates.

Up to this point, we support the bill. We fully realize that this is the role of the legislator and we do not question the fact that radio broadcasting and telecommunications are a federal jurisdiction.

The problem is that the line between the right of the legislator to enforce a law concerning satellite broadcasting and programming and the right to privacy is not all that clearly defined.

The Bloc Quebecois, through our industry critic, the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, who also happens to be an experienced parliamentarian, will be asking for the privacy commissioner to appear before the committee.

Why is it so important to hear what the privacy commissioner has to say? First, as we know, for the last five, six or seven years, personal and identifiable information has become a matter of great concern for legislators.

I would like to digress for a moment. As we all remember, the government erred when it proposed setting up a megafile. In cooperation with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the former minister of Human Resources Development wanted to establish a megafile that would have greatly invaded people's privacy. At the time, the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, leader of the Bloc Quebecois, called for the megafile to be dismantled. The privacy commissioner supported the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, who warned the public about this. Therefore, confidential, personal and identifiable information is a matter of great concern.

The problem with this bill is that it will create an inspection program. Under the authority of the industry minister, inspectors would be able to enter dwellings. If there is a presumption or evidence of piracy, searches as defined under criminal law will be carried out.

That can be risky. As the member for Lotbinière—L'Érable has said, the systems for signal theft may be part of a computer program. As my friend, the hon. member for Portneuf is aware, when a computer search is carried out, other more general information may be found as well. There may be personal information about dating, family photos and the like, but there may also be financial or medical information, or accounting details.

When a computer search is carried out, how can we be sure people's rights will not be encroached upon, and the information gathering will not infringe on people's right to privacy? This is why the Bloc Quebecois will introduce amendments in committee that will enable us to place wiser and more appropriate limits on inspection powers.

Unfortunately, I am obliged to say that this is not the first time in this House that powers have been assigned to inspectors which would allow them to go beyond reasonable limits. I must add that the Minister of Industry—and everyone knows, moreover, what friends we are—did nothing to reassure us when she rose to speak. She did not tell us what sort of intervention is planned, and how the power of the inspectors will be kept within wise limits.

There is one other thing, and this will conclude my remarks. We are also concerned by the fact that the costs of the seizure could be borne by consumers. This is another thing that must be verified. This could violate individual rights to privacy.

In short, this is not a bad bill. We recognize that the lawmaker must intervene in all matters relating to the illegal decoding of satellite signals. There is recognition here for our creators, artists and everyone else making their living from the cultural industry. However, we believe that this goal, as noble as it is, must not lead to actions that would violate the right to privacy. The powers relating to search and seizure as set out in the bill do cause some concern.

As a result, the Bloc Quebecois will ask the Privacy Commissioner to appear before the committee.

As members know, committees are no place for partisanship. Parliamentarians do not always give the best of themselves in this House. All parties give the best of themselves in committee, when public hearings are held, when people are heard and when we manage to improve a bill.

Naturally, the government must be prepared to listen. We have great hopes that this will be the case.

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak on Bill C-2, an act to amend the Radiocommunication Act to better combat illegal decoding of direct-to-home satellite television signals. The bill deals with the growing problem of piracy of signals for direct-to-home satellite television, or DTH. It aims to strengthen our ability to protect one of our important cultural industries.

I am reminded of a television ad that is quite poignant on this topic. It depicts a young boy who I think shoplifts something. At home his father lectures him about the fact that he has been caught stealing and that this clearly is something which cannot be tolerated. The young boy turns to his father and says “Well, Dad, you steal”. The father says “What do you mean? Of course I do not steal”. The young chap says “Well you do, with the satellite signal that you are picking up illegally”.

The word piracy itself of course means stealing. Pirates used to sail the seas and when they would come across a ship that was carrying goods, they would board the ship, perhaps kill everybody on board, and steal all the goods. Even today we have piracy. We have piracy off the coast of Asia. We have piracy off the coast of Africa. We may have piracy off the coast of North America, I do not know. However, this is a different type of piracy where people take telecommunication signals that do not belong to them and make a profit from it.

Our government does not want to target individual Canadian viewers, but rather the men and women who make piracy a lucrative business.

The bill is not targeted at individual Canadian viewers, but rather on those individuals who make piracy a business. The theft of satellite signals denies legitimate Canadian broadcasters, content producers and programmers millions of dollars a year. It robs money from an industry that supports thousands of jobs.

Like a lot of our legislation, the current legislation has not kept pace with our rapidly changing world, a world of telecommunications that has changed geometrically in the last few decades. We continually have to update our legislation to ensure that it reflects these new realities. What we have on the books today is simply inadequate to deal with the growing problems we are currently seeing. Law enforcement officials and industry lack the tools they need to deter the criminals who are importing, manufacturing and selling illegal signals.

How much of this is going on? The industry estimates that there could be up to 500,000 to 700,000 users of unauthorized DTH, or direct-to-home, services in Canada. These activities result in a loss of subscription revenues of about $400 million annually for the Canadian industry. The bill is about creating a fair marketplace for these companies to recoup the considerable investments they make.

I should note also that there is a public safety component to the bill before us. The use of pirated-receiver cards has been found to create signal interference with communications systems used by search and rescue services and by the police. The bill would reinforce existing laws in Canada. It has received widespread support from all actors and the Canadian Broadcasting System as well as law enforcement and customs officials.

Bill C-2 will also create a level playing field for Canada's cultural industries and ensure sustainable competition in broadcasting, for the benefit of Canadian consumers.

The bill, basically, is about creating a level playing field for Canada's cultural industries and ensuring sustainable competition in broadcast programming to the benefit of Canadian consumers.

Let me describe the ways in which the bill deals with satellite piracy. First, the government wants to make it more difficult to obtain the hardware required to steal a satellite signal. I know many of us go around to friends' homes where they sometimes have satellite dishes. Frankly, I never know what is legal and what is illegal. They are everywhere. Some of the satellite signals are legal and some are not. I think we need to make sure we know what is and what is not legal.

The bill would provide for better control at the border by requiring an import certificate issued by the Minister of Industry for anyone wishing to bring satellite signal decoding equipment into Canada.

Second, the bill would increase the penalties prescribed in the act to a level that would provide a meaningful deterrent to direct to home piracy.

Third, the bill would strengthen the existing right of civil action. It is difficult to prove a direct causal link between illegal conduct and the extent of the losses that they actually suffer. The bill would provide an option to seek statutory damages rather than being forced to prove actual damages.

The issue here is to prevent the erosion of the Canadian broadcasting system by preventing blatantly illegal activities.

The bill is much needed. It is about protecting those companies that have invested large amounts of money in legal programming. It protects actors, producers and those involved in this very important industry in Canada. It says that it is not acceptable to steal these goods, and these signals are goods. Even though they happen to be going through the sky, they are goods and they cannot be stolen. We need to be clear that whether someone robs something in a store or one robs a signal, these acts are equally not acceptable. We need to protect those who are making a living from the legal activities of this type of work.

I encourage all members to support this important bill, Bill C-2. It is a bill to amend the Radiocommunication Act to better combat illegal decoding of direct to home satellite television signals. It is much needed because our legislation is out of date and has not kept pace with the changes in this sector.

I urge all members of the House to support the bill when it comes to a vote.

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the bill is an attempt to defy the geography of our nation. This cannot be done. The geography of a nation is set.

One of the advantages of being a little older than some of the members in the House is that I remember when people drove model A cars, although some were a little newer than others, and turning the thing on to determine who had a 50¢ licence to operate a radio. If a person were caught without a licence I believe the fine was $2. That was the first attempt and it failed dismally.

Where I live, even today, if I want to get an up to date weather forecast I go a few miles south. It is quite legal. It is an FM station. Eighty per cent of Canadians live closer to the United States than they do to the capital of their neighbouring province.This is a fact of life. It is just like Saturday night when I was getting ready to return to Ottawa on the flight on Sunday. I saw on CTV, I believe, an excellent program about how seniors were being treated in nursing homes. If that program had not caught my eye I would have shut it off.

Are we talking about robbery, piracy and so on, or are we talking about protection of our productions? There are many Canadians who do not like what they get on our television stations so they turn to the American stations. Many people in the United States will turn to Canadian programming. The government simply cannot make the bill work.

The reason we cannot make it work is that we live on a continent that shares everything. Even in the cattle dispute we recognize that it is a North American problem. For Canada to attempt to license those areas in Canada where the best signal and the only signal some can get is from the U.S., the bill would make those pockets illegal. The bill would make it illegal to receive those signals. There are pockets in B.C., in my province and in northern Ontario.

What the government is trying to do is to legislate against geography. We tried this before. There is a huge difference between the grey market and the black market.

In other continental industries we compete. In other continentals with a cattle industry we can compete. We have shown that we can compete in the automobile industry. We can compete in this industry as well. By putting the bill into effect the government is not allowing competition to take place and it may be hindering the betterment of Canadian progress.

Let us just think about this for a moment. The government says that a certain percentage of the programs must be Canadian. It will aim to get that certain per cent of the market and maybe not go beyond. In aiming for a low level, we may end up producing an inferior content and inferior programs.

I do not know the origin of the bill. Is it the CRTC? Let Canadians have the right, as Americans have the right. If they want to turn to a Canadian station they can turn to it, and many do. When Canadians wish to turn to an American station they do. It is a competitive market.

However what the bill attempts to do is kill that competition in a very important industry. I believe we have Canadians who have conquered this and who have gone into the United States and have done very well. However we should not limit the right of Canadians to a wider source of programming and, in turn, limit the U.S. because we then would not put out signals to their stations.

The bill is counterproductive and it could hurt our industry. It should be considered in committee where I would hope the committee would find a way not to pass the bill. It is not in the best interests of the receivers nor the Canadian telecommunication industry.

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to respond to the remarks by the two hon. members who spoke before me. My Liberal friend spoke of piracy on the high seas, off Asia and on the world's seven seas.

I share his perspective; piracy is unacceptable. He could also have said something about the piracy of the employment insurance fund, which we have been denouncing for seven years.

Piracy is stealing someone else's property. In my opinion, piracy is not acceptable in any jurisdiction.

As for what my colleague from the Conservative Party of Canada said, I think he is partially right. Anyone can get access to a station, on condition that they pay for it.

The bill before us is designed to prevent this problem, the problem of people stealing signals that should not, normally, be coming into their houses, because they have not paid for them. If we open the door this that today, allowing anyone to pirate whatever they want, we are headed for trouble.

As lawmakers, it is our responsibility to ensure that what personally belongs to individuals remains their property.

If stealing signals or stealing from a store or from an employment insurance fund is considered acceptable these days, then there will be no limits anymore and we will lose control over society.

There are two memorable ads on signal theft. My colleague mentioned one earlier. It shows a young kid who steals from a store and is arrested by the police. The officers take him home to his parents. His father lectures him, and the son answers, “But, Dad, I am no different from you. You steal too. You steal satellite signals”. There is something that lawmakers can do to correct this situation.

There is also another, even darker, ad. There is a man hiding in a alley about to steal something. We watch him walk past an old woman carrying her purse, and we think she is going to get mugged. But he continues. He then passes a beautiful luxury car. We think he is going to steal the car, but no. In the end, he sits down in his chair and steals satellite signals.

We must correct this situation. The bill before us today addresses this problem. There are between 500,000 and 700,00 households that allegedly steal satellite signals. This means that broadcasters are losing revenues. Radio and television broadcasting and telecommunications are interrelated.

Artists are also victims. Everyone knows how to steal songs off the Internet using a CD burner. With what result? Stealing is on the rise, and there are artists whose creativity and talent goes unrecognized. Instead of selling one million CDs, they sell only 500,000, because 500,000 copies are being pirated.

This bill is justified, and it is extremely important. However, changes must be made to it, as it stands.

Clearly, all equipment used to reproduce these signals will be banned, unless an individual has an import certificate. The Minister of Industry will determine if such and such individual or company can import the type of signal or feed or equipment used to capture those signals.

In my opinion, and in the opinion of the Bloc Quebecois, the minister has a great deal of power with this bill. It is set out in such a way as to indicate that the minister will need to be convinced of the usefulness of the procedure, and that it is not illegal. This means a great deal of ministerial power.

This is not the first bill to give this power to a minister or a governor in council, that is the cabinet, and we find it is excessive power.

For a minister, it is even worse because the minister is the one who will make the decision. The factors would have to be clearly set out. The minister's decision would have to be based on a set of predetermined factors, without any partisanship or undue advantage to others, whether friends of the party or not.

In this government we have seen instances of people who have benefited from extraordinary advantages because of party connections. This makes us rather skeptical about this bill.

Then there is the whole matter of housekeeping measures, which we feel go a bit far. We have, moreover, objected to a number of bills in the past for the same reason, including the antiterrorism bill. In fact, you were the chair of that committee, Mr. Speaker. We voiced objections because we felt that people's rights and freedoms were in danger.

In the bill now before us, clause 5 is somewhat contradictory to section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure. Yet clause 5 allows these inspectors to enter homes and search computers, or anything else. We feel that this is going too far.

We feel this is a good bill, but if no changes are made to it we will most certainly be bringing in amendments to ensure that it complies fully with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As it is worded at present, it does not.

We are, overall, in favour of the bill, but with some changes. We will be pleased to propose those changes as the various committees meet on it.

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, first, I agree with the concerns expressed by my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois with respect to Bill C-2.

Bill C-2 would amend the Radiocommunication Act and substantially increase penalties for those who import, attempt to import, or operate equipment that receives unauthorized, non-licensed satellite signals.

I and my colleagues in the official opposition agree that it ought to be a criminal offence to illicitly intercept private satellite signals. These are copyrighted signals. For us to allow people to pirate them, disturbs the proper economic exchange between producers and owners of these signals. I agree that we ought to deal with the black market in satellite signal reception very seriously, and I support the elements of the bill which seek to do so.

I am concerned about the provisions which would permit police to enter the homes of Canadians and search through their possessions and the contents of their computer hard drives, et cetera, to discover evidence of satellite piracy. This is a draconian measure which is not a balanced approach to maintaining historic civil rights while at the same time prosecuting the law against piracy.

I am most concerned with the provisions in the bill as they relate to the so-called grey market satellite reception technology. Several hundred thousand Canadians purchased, in good faith, technology from dealers operating in Canada over the course of several years so they could receive satellite signals broadcast out of the United States. They did so in large part because those signals were offering a product which was unavailable in Canada thanks to the over-regulation of the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission.

The CRTC over the course of several years has effectively banned the broadcast of hundreds of channels and video services. One area that I am particularly aware of is with respect to religious broadcasting.

Until quite recently, the CRTC had an outrageous policy which completely violated our tradition of freedoms of expression and religion, which prohibited so-called single faith broadcasters from being licensed in Canada. There are several single faith satellite broadcast services which are broadcast out of the United States. I know of a constituent who acquired a so-called grey market satellite service from the United States, with the bill being sent to her son's address in Montana, in order to receive a 24 hour Roman Catholic network out of the United States called EWTN. Essentially this is a harmless broadcast that offers programming related to the Catholic faith for Roman Catholics. It does not attempt to diminish other religions. It is simply an expression of religion.

The CRTC ruled repeatedly, after various applications through the 1990s, that EWTN could not receive a licence in Canada to broadcast either on cable or through satellite. Ironically, many of those who were advocates of freedom of expression and religion pointed out that on the same day the CRTC granted a licence to the 24 hour Playboy channel, it denied one to the Catholic EWTN network. Many people found it difficult to understand that the CRTC was maintaining Canadian values by licensing pornography but prohibiting religious broadcasting. If we believe in freedom of expression, then both applicants should have been given the same consideration.

For several years there is one example of an American satellite service which thousands of Canadians would have liked to subscribe to, but have effectively been prohibited in law from doing so by the mandarins at the CRTC. That is why these honest, law-abiding taxpaying Canadians in good faith contracted with Canadian dealers to receive an American signal. By so doing, they in no way jeopardized the economic position of licensed Canadian satellite broadcasters who were unable to provide the same service. Therefore, they were not put at any kind of competitive disadvantage.

We need to recognize the reality of modern communications technology. The advances in the Internet will mean that it is inevitable within a few years that people will be able to receive anything broadcast in real time over Internet signals. This raises several problems pertaining to copyright law which producers and broadcasters are experiencing in the music field right now. They will have to find solutions to deal, perhaps with civil remedies as the music industry has attempted to employ, with piracy of copyrighted materials on the Internet.

However, for us to believe that the CRTC can somehow seal off Canada from the reception of satellite signals broadcast from abroad is, I think, grossly naive.

Another aspect of the bill which I find troublesome is that it would actually assign the enforcement of the bill to police agencies. We know that many police agencies are understaffed and underfunded, that the RCMP has suffered cuts and that we simply do not even have enough mounted police officers to properly staff the intelligence and counterterrorism divisions. They are not even able to operate their coastal patrol vessels or aircraft. The budget for training at the Regina training depot has been diminished significantly. Yet the government wants to assign the task of inspecting black and grey market satellite technology in people's private homes to the RCMP and other police services.

I do not understand the government's skewed priorities. Why do we not give the resources to our police services to fight real crime, to make our streets and communities safer, rather than chase after honest law-abiding taxpaying Canadians who are simply contracting a service to receive a legal satellite signal broadcast, say from the United States. It makes no sense. It is reminiscent of the government's policy of employing hundreds of police officers and thousands of bureaucrats to maintain the long arm firearm registry which will not reduce crime, which will not prosecute a single criminal, but which merely criminalizes otherwise law-abiding Canadian duck hunters.

I believe the bill places the wrong emphasis with respect to law enforcement.

In closing, we would support certain provisions of the bill as they relate to cracking down on the black market, as long as there is adequate protection for civil rights, which is not clear in the bill, and as long as important police resources are not diverted from fighting real crime.

I believe that the CRTC itself should be restructured to reduce the outrageous power this agency has, and which it has so often abused, to violate the fundamental rights of Canadians to receive information which the CRTC designates arbitrarily to be somehow un-Canadian. The bill ought to give us an opportunity to consider that.

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to speak to Bill C-2, an act to amend the Radiocommunication Act.

I would like to begin by saying that the Bloc Quebecois agrees with the principle behind this legislation. I think everyone would agree that we must find more ways to fight satellite piracy. Satellite signal piracy takes millions of dollars away from companies and is a threat to jobs that are extremely important both to the economy and to technology.

For many weeks, if not months, particularly through our member for Québec, the Bloc Quebecois has been working to have the Canadian Television Fund increased to $100 million, the amount it initially was intended to be, to ensure quality programming production in Canada and Quebec.

The Bloc Quebecois certainly does not condone piracy, a practice that is often misinterpreted by some people and that takes money away from extremely important broadcasting production.

As I said, we agree in principle. However, it is clear that we find some of the provisions in this bill, in particular the housekeeping measures, somewhat dangerous. We believe the amendments put forward in Bill C-2 go way too far, would invade privacy and could lead to abuses that go against the charter.

We agree in principle but we realize that a lot of work needs to be done on some of the provisions in Bill C-2. That work will have to be done in committee. Only then will we take a final stand on this issue. Obviously, if the amendments we expect to see are not made in committee, the Bloc Quebecois will not be supporting the bill at third reading.

However, as I said earlier, at this point, we wholeheartedly agree with the principle of the bill. We support the idea of implementing import control measures and providing for an import certificate to ban the importation of devices used for decoding satellite programming signals, unless the importer has previously acquired an import certificate issued by the industry minister.

As set out in the bill, we will have to ensure that, in accordance with the import certificate, the imported devices will not be used for purposes that would violate the Radiocommunication Act. This is extremely important.

Once again, although we support the bill in principle, the Bloc Quebecois will wait to see what amendments are made in committee. At that point--

Radiocommunication ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but when consideration of this bill resumes, he will have six and a half minutes to complete his speech.

It being 2 p.m., we will proceed to statements by members.

The hon. member for Peterborough.