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.


Radiocommunication Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.


Claude Duplain 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 Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.


Odina Desrochers 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 Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal 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 Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.


Réal Ménard 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 Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


Roy Cullen 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 Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey 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 Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.


Claude Bachand 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 Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney 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 Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.


Pierre Paquette 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 Act
Government 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.

Statements By Members

February 9th, 2004 / 1:55 p.m.


Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, in January following a period of record -40° weather, my wife Jill and I found ourselves driving in blizzard conditions. We were forced off the highway south of Saskatoon. With many others, we spent the night on the floor of Kenaston Place, the community centre of Kenaston, the aptly named “blizzard capital” of Saskatchewan.

We want to thank all those who helped stranded travellers during this emergency: the mayor, emergency preparedness people, teachers, restaurateurs, and pool hall operators.

To Kenaston, home of the super hockey draft and of the Blizzards hockey team, we storm survivors say thanks, and we join Kenaston in saying, “Go, Blizzard, go”.

Cultural Exchange
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is a group of 25 grade 11 and grade 12 students from Carihi, Campbell River High School, in Ottawa this week on a cultural exchange. In September, Hillcrest High School students from Ottawa had a highly successful visit to Campbell River. This week is the return engagement for the Campbell River students.

I am taking this opportunity to welcome the students to Ottawa. They are from a well ranked high school in the heart of Vancouver Island North. The school has an excellent scholastic and athletic program that represents the community well.

I am sure the students will greatly benefit from their visit this week. I am excited for them and I will be meeting them this afternoon as they are becoming familiar with the main Parliament Building and will attend the House of Commons question period.

I am sure they will pass on their impressions to me at the first opportunity, and I will let you know, Mr. Speaker.

Black History Month
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate the many achievements and contributions of black Canadians, who throughout history have done so much to make Canada the culturally diverse, compassionate and prosperous nation we know today.

This year is particularly special, marking the 25th annual celebration. Each year, Canadians from coast to coast to coast take part in festivities and events honouring the legacy of black Canadians, past and present. Exhibitions, awards dinners, discussions and film screenings present an ideal opportunity to learn about the experiences of black Canadians in our society and the vital role this community has played throughout our shared history.

I would encourage all Canadians to take part in the celebrations this month and to learn about the many sites, persons and events of national significance that are a hallmark of Canada's diverse but common heritage and identity.

Claude Ryan
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to express my condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Claude Ryan, one of Quebec's great political minds who helped shape the province's free and modern society of today.

We will remember Mr. Ryan as the leader of the provincial Liberals in Quebec from 1978 to 1982, but also especially as the leader of the “no” forces that defeated the 1980 referendum on Quebec sovereignty.

He stepped down as Liberal leader in 1982, but remained in government as a provincial cabinet minister from 1985 to his retirement in 1994.

Claude Ryan was a committed Canadian with an unshakeable faith in his country. He believed in a strong Quebec within a collaborative Canadian federation. He was always at the centre of great dialogues on ways to improve federal-provincial relations to the benefit of Quebeckers. For this, he has the appreciation of all Quebeckers and of their fellow citizens across the country.

Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Eugène Bellemare Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the occasion of the 26th edition of Winterlude in the Ottawa-Gatineau region, I would like to commend the National Capital Commission on the event's continued great success.

The NCC has had a great impact on the national capital region over the years and has brought a myriad of benefits to the region.

The chair of the NCC, Marcel Beaudry, and his staff continue to fulfill their mandate with great distinction.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Canada for providing much needed support to the NCC and its leadership over the years. Canadians can therefore take great pride in their capital.