Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-56, which is important even though it has some problems and should be improved. We need to debate this today.
Government members need to recognize certain issues. I hope that they will do so in committee, and that they will agree to adopt some important amendments.
For example, there is the fact, as I mentioned to my hon. friend from Scarborough Southwest, that this bill does not cover goods in transit. I am sure that our American neighbours would not be impressed if, for example, a counterfeit shipment travelling from Asia to Vancouver and then on to Los Angeles was not seized here. We are saying that it is their problem and we are not going to take any responsibility for it. That is not what we would ask of them in return. That is something that needs to be fixed.
Additionally, as legislators, we should not simply be ramming through flawed legislation just because the government has a majority. What we see here is a bill that has sat on the order paper for three months now, since it was introduced. The government has not moved it an inch since then. It has not brought the bill forward until today, near the end of the session, when the government is bringing forward its 45th or 46th time allocation.
The government is trying to rush through a whole series of bills, having the House sit until midnight for the last four weeks of the session, and not really giving any of these bills the kind of consideration that they deserve. The government is not allowing for the possibility that any of them might really be improved in committee. As my hon. colleague said, when was the last time that we saw the government side actually accept an amendment from the opposition? That is worrisome.
There are also questions about who would bear the cost of seizure, storage and destruction, particularly when it comes to small businesses. They are concerned about products coming into the country that are counterfeits of what they produce or that affect their copyright. I hope that we will get some clarity on these issues and the legislation that is under consideration in the brief period we are going to have.
I have also heard concerns about the increased powers that would be given to border officers, without any oversight from the courts. We have to keep in mind, as my friend said, that last year the government cut $143 million from the Canada Border Services Agency. Therefore, there is less ability there to do those kinds of jobs, but the government is giving them more to do. They are trying to do the jobs they have and the government is giving them much greater responsibility, and a very complicated responsibility, in assessing which goods coming in may be counterfeit or in breach of copyright and which ones are not.
We need to make sure that this legislation does not result in illegal or illegitimate seizures and violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We also have to ensure that border officials receive the proper training to deal with these very complicated matters. Sometimes, it is a question of what is copyrighted and what is not. We know from the discussion we had on the copyright bill last year that it can sometimes be complex, even for the courts. To ask our border officials to do this without much training and without giving them decent resources to provide that training is unreasonable. How is it going to work effectively if we add to their workload on the one hand, while reducing their resources on the other? These officials do a tremendously important job and we need to give them the tools they need to be able to do that job.
People like Professor Michael Geist, who is an expert on these issues and the chair of Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, are raising copyright issues around this bill. Some voices—not a lot, I will admit, but some—even argue that this legislation may be a backdoor way of bringing back ACTA. I do not think that it is. There is very little in this bill that relates to it, but I appreciate those concerns and respect them. We should examine those concerns and hear from witnesses on topics like that at a thorough examination of this bill in committee.
It is clear that there are many issues, which we, as members of Parliament, have a duty to carefully examine in relation to this bill. That is why it will require the thorough assessment that I just spoke of when it goes to committee.
I hope the government does not simply employ its usual bullying tactics of ramming through another bill because it can. That is wrong and the government knows it.
I also hope we take the time to hear from many voices who support this so-called combating counterfeit products bill. Of course, we have to wait and see. The proof is in the pudding. When it actually gets into effect, we will see how well it does that. I think it will have some positive effect, but it will work better if we can improve it at committee.
Recently I met with members of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada and the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating, who want to discuss Bill C-56 as part of their Parliamentary Awareness Day. They made some very coherent arguments in favour of this legislation. I think most, if not all, members of this House would agree with them.
Bill C-56 amends the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act to add new civil and criminal remedies. It would add new border measures in both acts in order to strengthen enforcement of copyright and trademark rights, and to curtail commercial activity involving infringing copies and counterfeit trademark goods.
Whether it is hockey sweaters, radio parts, or the jackets my friend talked about, all kinds of things come in and look like the real thing, but they are not. That is why it is important to be aware of and to deal with this. It has an impact on our economy and our jobs in Canada. We ought be mindful of it.
This would also amend the Trade-marks Act to, among other things, expand the scope of what can be registered as a trademark, allow the Registrar of Trade-marks to correct errors that appear in the Trade-mark register, and to streamline and modernize the trade-mark application and opposition process, all of which is positive.
As an aside, I wish we could see similar kinds of measures to examine the question of official marks, which are very problematic. One can have a group within a province, an association of some type of profession, for example, an association of massage therapists. They were given an official mark for Canada. The idea of these marks is that they can apply all across the country. There could be two groups of massage therapists in Nova Scotia. If one of them gets approved by the people in Ontario and the other one does not, then only one of them gets to use certain phrases that go along with the official mark. That makes no sense at all when the first group was limited to one province. There is a need to examine and amend the official marks legislation as well.
Our caucus recognizes the health and safety risks to Canadians, as well as the detrimental effects to the economy posed by counterfeit goods entering Canada. We believe this bill needs to be amended, but with a little co-operation from the government we believe that can be achieved at committee. The Liberal Party recognizes the need to provide new enforcement tools to help strengthen Canada's existing enforcement regime for counterfeit goods.
My colleagues on the industry committee will recall seeing the counterfeit Canada Goose jackets we heard about a few minutes ago, and hearing about the horrible stuff that can be in these fake jackets. It certainly is not the kind of thing that is going to keep people warm in the deep-freeze of Canadian winters. We have all heard stories of counterfeit circuit breakers being installed in government buildings, or of faulty Christmas tree lights causing house fires. These are counterfeit products that are dangerous for Canadians.
To give an idea of how widespread this problem is, let us consider the fact that 1,800 cases of counterfeit electronic parts, apparently made in China, have been discovered in U.S. cargo planes, helicopters and other military aircraft. Yes, I said military aircraft. Imagine what that is like and how scary it would be for those operating one of them, particularly in a place of conflict or danger.
This is a very big issue for government, businesses and consumers. With regard to consumers, counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs can be an issue. The drugs are improper, and it could be that the doses are too low or it is the wrong material entirely. That is pretty scary as well.
In April, the RCMP, provincial and local police conducted an operation at a flea market in Hamilton, and they seized about $100,000 in counterfeit goods. That included designer purses, jeans, sunglasses and DVDs. We do not think of these as endangering public safety or health, but they certainly have an impact on jobs in Canada.
Overall, the retail value of counterfeit products seized by the RCMP has increased over fivefold from 2005 to 2012, from $7.6 million to $38 million. This is just the estimate, of course.
The Liberal Party believes that Canadian businesses must be protected to ensure the well-being of the domestic enterprises and the health and safety of Canadians. It is also important, of course, to protect the jobs of Canadians and the integrity of the Canadian economy as a whole.
We would like to see a robust public education program regarding the possession, production and distribution of counterfeit goods. We would like to investigate and further study the challenges that the Internet and e-commerce pose as a loophole to the seizure and reduction in the presence of counterfeit products. We are talking about seizing shipments at the borders. When things are coming in one at a time by mail, by UPS, or whatever, it is a much more difficult for our border services to deal with.
With the current government's ongoing deficits, we question how the Conservatives would fund this new prevention and investigative system, particularly with the $142 million cut to CBSA last year. Border officers are by no means copyright experts. They would be given new and increased powers that are not overseen by the courts, which may lead to illegitimate seizures and violations of the Charter of Rights. That is certainly a problem. We also believe that small businesses should be exempted from the costs that would be imposed by the bill.
Several areas of concerns, other than those I have mentioned, have been raised. With the increased number of seizures due to increased powers being given to border officers and the RCMP, how would the government fund such extensive investigative legal operations, particularly in view of the cuts I talked about? Should genuine or non-counterfeit products be seized and destroyed, how would the government compensate companies and individuals? How would the government determine whether importers of counterfeit products are aware that these products are counterfeit? Why are there no provisions for counterfeit goods being transshipped through Canada?
Bill C-56 does strive to reduce the presence of counterfeit trademark goods being sold and distributed in Canada by providing new enforcement tools. The bill would bolster Canada's enforcement regime at the border, and domestically, and would address negative impacts of counterfeit goods by giving border officers the authority to detain suspected commercial shipments and contact rights holders. It would allow Canadian businesses to file a request for assistance with the CBSA, in turn enabling border officers to share information with rights holders regarding suspect shipments. Those are valuable and worthwhile things, especially if people have the resources to do it.
The bill would provide new criminal offences for commercial possession, manufacturing or trafficking of counterfeit trademark goods. It would provide legitimate owners with new tools to protect their rights and take civil action against infringers. It would create new offences for a trademark counterfeiter. It would provide better tools to investigate commercial counterfeiting.
We support the intent of the legislation, and we will support it at second reading to have it sent to committee. We support where it wants to go. However, we think it needs to be improved, and I hope my hon. colleagues would be open to amending and improving the bill at committee.