Mr. Speaker, the current government has chosen to table a piece of copyright legislation, Bill C-60, which ignores the fact that the legal copyright framework for Internet use in the classroom or for educational instruction is not addressed. It is silent on the rights and use of the Internet in schools. This silence reaches right into the classrooms and has far-reaching ramifications for our students.
The absence of an educational amendment to Bill C-60 will have devastating consequences for both educators and students in my riding of Kildonan--St. Paul and all across Canada. Schools cannot afford this added cost of paying for otherwise free materials from the Internet.
I rose in the House and asked the minister opposite to support an amendment to the legislation. The minister replied:
--we introduced Bill C-60 to amend the Copyright Act as promised. The bill will help clarify the scope of copyright, and it makes it possible for Canada to join other countries. We are taking this issue very seriously. We want to have material available to students, but we also want to protect the rights of those who are giving that material. We are taking this issue and putting it aside because it needs some discussion and clarification.
Should we put it aside? This issue needs to be addressed today to ensure that this bill does not find its way to a vote without going to committee, where teachers and educators will have a chance to voice their concerns. Does it need some discussion and clarification? Educators and parents are ready to discuss and clarify.
Last year, concerned ministers of education, school superintendents, principals and teachers in every province met to make their voices heard at the federal level. These are voices that have to be listened to in this bill, and that is evident by the people who have joined us in the gallery this evening.
It is mandatory that the educational needs of students and teachers across our nation be recognized in this new digital copyright law. It is mandatory that schools be exempt from paying every time they surf the Internet for valuable research materials. This law does not have to penalize students who are trying to study and learn.
The deferment of this issue in this bill exasperates the current reality that has students and teachers breaking the law to use Internet materials in the classroom. With the growing cost of education and the challenges school boards are facing, avoiding an educational amendment for the use of Internet in schools and educational institutions is not only irresponsible but damaging to the education of our children.
Canadian Teachers' Federation President Terry Price said:
It took eight long years for the federal government to provide a very limited education amendment providing teachers with restricted rights to photocopy materials and video tape programs for educational purposes. How many more years must Canadian students wait to have legal permission to access use of publicly available Internet materials.
The Canadian educational system cannot afford the luxury of waiting another eight long years for the amendment to the copyright legislation. This minister has said on record that the current government will have public consultation. Let that consultation be in committee. Let us not delay.
This evening a petition is being launched across this nation, one that stands up for our Canadian school system. It states: “We, the undersigned, support an educational amendment that will free teachers and students from the worry of breaking the law under the new government regulations outlined in Bill C-60, the copyright law”.
Even today, as we speak, the Globe and Mail outlines the rise of e-classrooms. This is an important issue and it has to be addressed today.