Mr. Speaker, as I was saying earlier, the clock is ticking, and while this government is unravelling, mired in scandal, we have before us a bill introduced by the Minister of Industry. It is a great honour for me to speak this evening as the official opposition industry critic.
The Conservatives boast about being good economic managers and supporters of industry and economic growth, but they dragged their feet on the only bill in recent memory that affects industry and seeks to tackle problems related to counterfeiting.
Now they want to rush the bill through. What is the urgency? What do they have to hide? What are the real reasons behind this sudden interest in Bill C-56? Are they trying to change the channel, divert attention from this government's mismanagement, or did pressure from trade partners finally get to the Minister of Industry?
Canadians and the people of LaSalle—Émard have lost all confidence in this government. They do not believe that this government is fit to govern.
More and more Canadians mistrust the government. They feel it has something to hide. They feel that the Conservatives are not fit to govern.
As the industry critic for the official opposition and the representative of the people of LaSalle—Émard, I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-56, An Act to amend the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, which is also known as the Combating Counterfeit Products Act.
As soon as this bill was introduced on March 1, 2013, the NDP got to work. We met with many stakeholders. All of them recognized the importance of effectively combatting counterfeiting, and they all said that Canada has to have the tools to do it. They also raised a number of questions about the enforcement of the bill and expressed doubts as to whether the government was really willing to wage an effective war on counterfeiting.
Once again, the Conservatives used this bill in a misleading way. The wording of the bill is not misleading; rather, the government's actions are inconsistent with an effective fight against counterfeiting.
That is the first point I wanted to make. In order to combat counterfeiting at our borders and in Canadian ports, we need human and financial resources. We therefore find it difficult to understand how we will be able to enforce this ambitious bill when the Canada Border Services Agency is facing $143 million in cuts, not only to front-line services but also to intelligence services that are crucial to fighting illegal activities such as counterfeiting.
What is more, 549 full-time jobs will be lost between now and 2015. We have also learned that the Minister of Canadian Heritage wants to interfere in customs officers' legitimate collective bargaining process, once again, without understanding how that undermines labour relations.
The RCMP's budget and resources have also melted away like snow on a warm day. The government needs to put its money where its mouth is, as we say. The Conservatives rarely do that.
The NDP recognizes the importance of combatting counterfeit products, particularly those that could jeopardize the health and safety of Canadians.
Despite the lack of conclusive data, we recognize that this is having an impact on Canadian industries.
We condemn the cuts to the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP, which are our front-line defence against counterfeiting, as I mentioned.
The second point I want to talk about is the government's lack of action. Once again the Conservatives have dragged their feet. The cuts we condemn show that they are not serious about combatting counterfeiting.
The problem of counterfeiting has come up many times in recent decades. A report was tabled in 1998. The issue of counterfeiting has come up over the years, and we must acknowledge the impact this issue has had on Canadian industries and consumers.
I want to talk about what has been happening in recent years. In 2007, a report by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology entitled “Counterfeiting and Piracy are Theft” described the impact counterfeiting has on the Canadian economy. The report made 16 recommendations. In its supplementary opinion, the NDP made two recommendations. A number of these recommendations were ignored, even though industry stakeholders, trading partners and even Canadian consumers continued to raise the issue.
Furthermore, during the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology's study of intellectual property, which concluded in 2012-13, a number of stakeholders criticized the government's inaction.
Here is what Martin Lavoie, the director of policy for Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said in committee:
We have been advocating since 2006 for more resources for customs agents to stop the transit of counterfeit products...
The Minister of Industry introduced this bill in the House on March 1, 2013, after which we heard absolutely nothing. Now here he is as we are on the verge of adjourning for the summer. I am sorry. On May 30, 2013, at 12:26 a.m., we had a rather pathetic speech from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. She kept breaking into fits of laughter, which shows how seriously the government takes counterfeiting.
The third point I want to talk about is the lack of conclusive data regarding counterfeiting in Canada. I cannot help but denounce the cuts made to Statistics Canada, which continue to have an adverse effect. I am not the only one who feels that way. The stakeholders we heard from at the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology did as well.
Canadian industries, exporters, manufacturers and small and medium-sized businesses need these statistics, which are snapshots of our economy. They are not the only ones who need them. We, as parliamentarians, use them to make informed decisions. If we do not have hard data that show the trends in recent decades, we cannot predict future trends. These data give us an accurate picture of Canada's economic situation, employment, prosperity, innovation and so on.
Conclusive data allow parliamentarians, legislators and public servants to establish policies that are not based on anecdotal evidence, but on solid data and recognized scientific methods. That is what is happening here with counterfeiting. We know that there is problem, that goods have been seized and that the issue has been raised everywhere in the world. However, unfortunately, it is very difficult to grasp the magnitude of the problem and the best way to address it.
A lot of data have been provided but, as I said earlier, it is difficult to evaluate the methods used to gather those data. In addition, data are not always collected using scientific methods that would help us understand the magnitude of the problem.
The data provided have been of more of an anecdotal nature, and they do not give us an idea of how widespread the problem is internationally. That is why it is important that Canada and the rest of the world have access to these data. This has been brought up many times.
I have some data here that I can share with those who are watching. In Canada, much of the information comes from statistics on actual seizures. For example, Industry Canada reports that:
The retail value of counterfeit goods seized by the RCMP increased from $7.6 million in 2005 to $38 million in 2012.
Still, more details would be useful. In 2009, the OECD estimated that international trade in counterfeit goods and pirated copies could be worth as much as $250 billion. In the same study, the OECD renewed calls for better access to information, saying once again that there are not enough data.
Moreover, anecdotal evidence suggests that counterfeit goods can threaten consumer health and safety. Counterfeit electrical components—I believe someone mentioned this already—and toxic stuffing in a goose-down jacket are two examples of that. I can confirm that because a Canada Goose company representative testified before the committee and I had the opportunity to see the jacket and the material inside it.
Again, the NDP will support Bill C-56 because counterfeit goods can threaten Canadians' health and safety and tarnish the name and reputation of Canadian companies like Canada Goose. A company with a name like that could not be more Canadian. We recognize how important it is to fight counterfeiting effectively.
In its 2007 report, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology called on the Government of Canada to establish an annual reporting system to provide statistics on the efficacy of the Canadian intellectual property enforcement system. The committee went on to list what it wanted to see in the report: the number of investigations, the number of charges laid against counterfeiters and pirates, the number of criminal sentences obtained, the number of counterfeit and pirated shipments seized by the Canada Border Services Agency and the country of origin and approximate value.
My question for my colleague is this: did the government act on that recommendation? That would give us some data to work with.
The lack of conclusive data makes things harder for everyone—the investigators, officers and legislators studying the issue—when the time comes to find ways to fight counterfeiting effectively. We believe that having good data and an accurate picture of what is going on would enable us to implement effective measures.
Bill C-56, the combating counterfeit products act, would amend both the Copyright Act and the Trademark Act. Its purpose is to strengthen enforcement of copyright and trademark rights and to curtail commercial activity involving infringing copies of counterfeit trademarked goods. This bill would add two new criminal offences under the Copyright Act for possession and exportation of infringing copies and would create offences for selling or offering counterfeit goods on a commercial scale. I want to stress that because it is an important point in the bill. It would create a prohibition against importing or exporting infringing copies and counterfeit goods, and would introduce some balance to that prohibition by creating two exceptions.
The first exception would be for personal use. If someone crosses the border with something in his or her possession or baggage, which the person bought and did not know was counterfeit, that would be for personal use. However, we want to ensure that we study that closely at committee to ensure the exception would be solid.
The second exception, and it is an important one, would be for items in transit control. That would be items that would be transiting in Canada but not passing the border. They are not necessarily in Canada, but in transit control.
Another point is that it would grant new ex officio powers to border officials to detain infringing copies or counterfeit goods. That would be a significant policy shift. Until now, border officials required the private rights holders to obtain a court order before seizing infringing copies or goods. Therefore, that would be an important change. It would grant new ex officio powers to the Minister of Public Safety and border officials to share information on detained goods with rights holders. Also, it would widen the scope of what can be trademarked to the features found in the broad definition of “sign”, including colour, shape, scent, taste, et cetera.
While the granting of ex officio powers to customs officials has been a recommendation of the counterfeit report of 2007 and reiterated by stakeholders, two main issues were raised with this provision in Bill C-56. First, the Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network's first recommendation in one of its reports stated, “provide the RCMP and the Department of Justice [or border official]”, which it did not mention, but I think is what it meant, “with adequate financial and human resources to effectively address counterfeiting”. These were industry representatives who were stating that.
On the other hand, Dr. Michael Geist, from University of Ottawa, raised the issue of the complexity, and my colleagues from heritage and ethics, who studied Bill C-11 extensively, can attest to that. He discussed the complexity of detecting copyright infringement and also raised the question of changes in court oversight. Dr. Geist said, “While officials are not intellectual property experts, the assessment includes consideration of whether any of the Copyright Act's exceptions may be applied. These determinations are complex--courts often struggle with this issue...”, and so on.
While meeting with them in consultation with my NDP colleagues, Dr. Geist, industry, and stakeholders, raised a lot of issues regarding this bill.
In closing, I would like to reiterate that the NDP recognizes the importance of controlling counterfeit goods, especially those that could pose a risk to the health and safety of Canadians.
We recognize that counterfeiting hurts Canadian industries. We condemn the cuts that affect front-line workers who fight counterfeiting.
I sincerely hope that the government will appreciate the importance of studying this significant bill in committee and the resulting recommendations.