Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the members of the House for giving their unanimous consent to allow me to speak this morning. It is greatly appreciated. I would also like to commend my colleague on her very intelligent and well-presented comments.
I want to speak to Bill C-8 today because it is an important measure for combating counterfeit products in Canada. I will begin by saying that we intend to support the bill at this stage because we believe it will greatly benefit Canada in terms of combating counterfeiting and piracy.
As my colleague mentioned, according to the OECD, the estimated cost of counterfeiting is $250 billion. That is a lot of money. It is quite troubling to know that all that money is going into the hands of people with questionable practices. When we talk about counterfeit products we immediately think of fake Louis Vuitton bags because they are everywhere. I see them every day. However, counterfeiting is much more than that.
Prescription drugs can be counterfeit and pose a serious risk to the health of Canadians. Electronic devices can also cause problems, especially small devices used on airplanes, for example. If a counterfeit device is used on a plane, it can cause serious problems and put the lives of Canadians in jeopardy. This is quite troubling.
I want to say a few words about a company in my riding that tests electronic components to see if they are counterfeit. I had the opportunity to visit that company roughly a year ago and I learned a lot of things, including that there are a lot counterfeit components. Honestly, I was surprised to see to what extent the components we buy from other countries are not always authentic. The people at this company explained to me the procedure they follow to test these components. It is quite an involved process and not something that everyone could do. I commend them for their work, which is essential. Thanks to them, a number of companies in Canada and in the United States can be 100% certain that the component they purchased is authentic and will work properly, especially when we are talking about aircraft equipment. Their work is quite impressive. I just wanted to take a bit of time to talk about a personal experience.
Back to Bill C-8, which proposes a number of different things that I would like to discuss in detail.
The bill adds two new criminal offences under the Copyright Act for possessing or exporting counterfeit copies and creates offences for selling counterfeit goods or offering them for sale on a commercial scale. It prohibits the import or export of counterfeit copies and counterfeit goods and ensures a balanced approach to this prohibition by creating two exceptions: personal use and copies in customs transit control.
The bill also gives customs officers new powers to detain counterfeit goods and copies. It gives the Minister of Public Safety and border authorities new powers enabling them to share information relating to the detained goods with rights owners. Lastly, it expands the scope of what can be registered as a trade-mark, as described within the broader definition of a certain term.
Basically, these are good measures, and the NDP supports them. However, there is one big problem, and I believe my colleagues talked about it. CBSA's funding has been reduced by $143 million. Officers are being asked to get more training and spend more of their time fighting counterfeiting. In principle, that is a good thing, but given the budget cuts, it is hard to imagine that they will be able to perform those additional duties.
We are seriously questioning the idea of giving our border agents more responsibility when we do not necessarily have the financial means to do so.
In that regard, I would like to quote Jean-Pierre Fortin, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, who commented on the budget cuts as follows:
These proposed budget cuts would have a direct and real impact on Canadians and our communities across the country: more child pornography entering the country, more weapons and illegal drugs will pass through our borders, not to mention terrorists, sexual predators and hardened criminals.
Clearly, these budget cuts could have serious repercussions. The government should seriously consider that when asking border agents to take on more responsibilities as part of their job.
I would like to make another point. I asked this question during question period when the bill was introduced in the House. Does Bill C-8 signify that the government is planning on ratifying ACTA in its entirety? That is a very important question. ACTA has attracted widespread criticism on the international stage. The European Union rejected many clauses in the agreement, and I would like to take a few moments to highlight the most problematic ones.
For example, there are clauses that would criminalize certain individuals. There were concerns about the use of shell corporations, the role of Internet service providers, and potential interruptions in the generic drug supply. Those clauses were rejected by the international community.
I would like to reassure those who are fighting for an open Internet environment and who are speaking out against the idea of the government being able to block websites, that this bill does not seem to include those troubling clauses.
I want to congratulate the government on that, because introducing those clauses here in Canada could cause problems regarding Canadians' access to an open Internet environment.
Obviously, we will have more to say, but this seems to be relatively balanced in terms of our intention to ratify ACTA. I would encourage the government to think twice—or even three or four times—before it proposes such measures, if it intends to do so in the future, because this comes with a great deal of risk.
I want to support another aspect of this bill, and that is the exception for personal use. Naturally, when we see a bill on counterfeiting, certain questions come to mind. Will someone crossing the border who bought a knock-off of a Louis Vuitton bag be arrested? Will her bag be seized? That would be going a little too far, so I am glad an exception has been included for personal use, to avoid those kinds of situations.
We can also consider people who go through customs with a laptop and would be forced to turn it on to determine whether there are any pirated programs or illegally downloaded songs on it. Having to go through all of someone's software could cause a problem. I am therefore happy to see the exception for personal use, but that provision needs to be examined further to make sure that it will not cause any such problems.
Since my time is almost up, I would just like to reiterate our support for this bill. Fighting counterfeiting is an issue that is very important to the NDP. We are prepared to work with the government in order to find ways to strike a balance between the law, copyright holders and consumers. That is what really matters.