Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to Bill C-8 this morning. I will start off with an example that I think people would be able to relate to on why it is important that we bring forward legislation of this nature.
As everyone knows, Winnipeg had the opportunity to have the Winnipeg Jets NHL franchise. That was just a couple of years ago now. At the time, there was a great deal of hype built around the Winnipeg Jets, what the new logo was going to look like, and so forth. It was kept secret until a certain release date when the new logo was announced.
When that business plan was developed, part of the business plan included the sale of merchandise, wanting to capitalize, no doubt, on the fresh, newly minted Winnipeg Jets. The NHL franchise came up with a very unique and, I suggest, wonderful logo. Within months of the release of that logo, NHL material was authorized, copyrighted, and so forth, and was up for sale. Many would argue the price was a little steep for these NHL freshly minted Winnipeg Jet jerseys, at well over $100 each, but it was the authentic jersey, the real thing, if I can put it that way.
Within weeks of the release of the logo, jerseys started appearing that were not authorized. They were infringements on the copyright. What ended up happening was that it caused quite a bit of a commotion, and I can appreciate why. The NHL and the Winnipeg Jets franchise were quite concerned about how this counterfeit product was being produced in such a quick fashion and being sold to the thousands of Manitobans and many others who were quite fascinated and wanted to purchase some of this merchandise. It had a fairly profound impact in terms of sales and the franchise would argue that, ultimately, it lost a great deal of revenue because of it.
I use that as just an example of why it is that, as a Parliament, we need to provide protections for the copyrights of entrepreneurs and others. That is, in essence, what Bill C-8 is really all about.
It would create new civil causes of action with respect to sustaining commercial activities in infringing copies and counterfeit trademarked goods. It would also create new criminal offences for trademark counterfeiting that are similar to existing offences in the Copyright Act. It would create new criminal offences prohibiting the possession or exporting of infringing copies or counterfeit trademarked goods, packaging or labels.
It would also enact new border enforcement measures enabling customs officers to detain goods that they suspect infringe copyright or trademark rights, and allowing them to share information relating to the detained goods with rights owners who have filed a request for assistance, in order to give the rights owners a reasonable opportunity to pursue a remedy in court. It would exempt the importation and exportation of copies and goods by an individual for his or her personal use from the application of the border measures.
It would also add the offence set out in the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act to the list of offences set out in the Criminal Code for the investigation of which police may seek judicial authorization to use a wiretap.
The enactment also amends the Trade-marks Act to, among other things, expand the scope of what can be registered as a trademark, allowing the Registrar of Trademarks to correct errors that appear in the trademark register, and streamline and modernize the trademark application and opposition process.
My colleague, the member for Toronto Centre, the Liberal Party critic, has done a wonderful job ensuring that the Liberal Party was well represented at the committee stage, getting and providing positive feedback. On occasion, she did propose amendments. Unfortunately, the government did not see the merits of the amendments, which were ultimately defeated. It is somewhat sad to see, given the importance of the legislation, that the government did not allow amendments to pass, whether Liberal or New Democratic.
Yesterday, I was talking about the importance of the committee stage and how we can improve legislation by bringing forward amendments. One of the things we have noticed with the majority Conservative government is that its attitude toward amendments in committee is not positive at all. The government seems to be of the opinion that unless an amendment originates from a Conservative member of Parliament, or more particularly, from the ministry or the Prime Minister's office, that amendment should not pass. That seems to be a general rule that applies to all pieces of legislation, which is most unfortunate given the importance of trying to pass good, solid legislation.
The idea and principle behind legislation going to the committee stage is one of allowing members to participate and be engaged in the process. If members feel they have something to contribute they can bring forward amendments, either on their behalf or behalf of their political party, as the Liberal Party critic attempted to do.
There are a number of things that are worthy of noting. In terms of the actual cost, the RCMP has increased, virtually fivefold since 2005 to 2012, the number of seizures that have taken place. As members can appreciate, we are talking about millions of dollars' worth of product. This really emphasizes the degree to which the RCMP, if they are engaged on the file, are finding that much more counterfeit product being recognized.
We know there is a great deal of counterfeit product coming in through the Internet. There are many different ways in which one could sell product over the Internet. At the end of the day, we suspect there is a great deal of counterfeit product being sold through the Internet. We challenge the government to be more proactive in regard to that particular issue. As an example, I made reference to the Winnipeg Jets. Once could also talk about other consumer products.
The other day someone brought this issue to my attention with regard to purses. If one were to go into some of the more upscale commercial facilities, purses sell in the neighbourhood of $400 to $600. They can be very expensive. Copies provided by someone who is prepared to infringe on copyright and provide a duplicate that is incredibly close to the original are sold for a fraction of the cost. There might be a retail value on a certain type of purse at the upper end, somewhere around $450 to $500, but through unethical organizations or business individuals, they can produce that purse at a substantially lower cost and then undersell the retailer. Instead of $450, they might be able to sell that same look-alike purse for $30 to $40 and still make a substantial profit. These are the types of things we need to be aware of. As more and more consumers look to the Internet to acquire goods, I suspect this is going to be a larger problem going forward.
Today through our border officers and customs agents, we get a great deal of commercial activity. One of the areas that is really growing is the Internet. This is something the government has fallen short on in terms of providing some sort of assurance or protection for copyrighted material.
It is also important for us to recognize that even though the legislation is a step forward in the right direction, as I have tried to emphasize, it could have done so much more. One of the things I want to emphasize is that even though there is more power going to our Canada border control, we need to put that into perspective in terms of what the government has done in recent budgets in terms of cutbacks to border control and customs offices.
On the one hand, we recognize there is a problem with copyright and trademark infringements. A major aspect of that problem comes from international borders where product comes in or is leaving, which is growing every day. On the other hand, we have a government that is reducing the resources that are being allocated at our borders.
I have a difficult time with that. There is a larger problem and it continues to grow. The government responds by saying it has legislation, Bill C-8, which is its attempt to deal with the problem. Conservatives present it and try to appease the different stakeholders by saying they brought in the legislation to deal with this issue, but on the other hand, they did not provide the proper resources for our customs officers and border control people to provide the types of assurances through checks, and so forth, that show we are serious about dealing with it, that we are compensating product and ensuring there is a consequence to those who are trying to illegally bring in material for resale purposes.
Yes, it is great to see that we have legislation before us today and it is a step in the right direction, but we should not try to give false impressions because the legislation is only one aspect of this. The other aspect is to ensure that we provide additional resources to our law enforcement agencies. This is where the government has really fallen short.
As I indicated, the Liberal Party has some concerns with regard to the legislation. We recognize the need to provide new enforcement tools to help strengthen Canada's existing enforcement regime for counterfeit goods. We believe that the Canadian business and industry associations must be protected to ensure the well-being of those domestic businesses and the health and safety of Canadians, as well as the integrity of the Canadian economy as a whole. When we make reference to the issue of health and safety, this is something that quite often gets overlooked.
Whether it is medication or something that might be used for prescriptions, there are many products being brought into Canada, and we do not know if those products are safe for use.
I have emphasized that the Liberal Party would like to investigate how e-commerce may provide a loophole for counterfeit products. That is why I have suggested that the government has missed an opportunity where there may be great deal of potential abuse. I suggest that the government might want to reconsider.
Border officers are not copyright experts. They do their best, and we must compliment them on the fantastic job they do. Having said that, they would be given new and increased powers that are not overseen by courts, which may lead to some illegitimate seizures and violations of the Charter of Rights. To what degree has that been taken into consideration?
There are several further concerns that have been raised. If there are more seizures due to increased powers for border officers and the RCMP, how will the government fund these extensive investigative operations? Should genuine non-counterfeit products be seized and destroyed, how will the government compensate companies and individuals that might have been exploited? Moreover, how will the government protect the information of legitimate importers from potential misuse of the request-for-assistance mechanism? How will the government determine whether importers of counterfeit products are aware that products are counterfeit? These are the types of questions that have been raised. We have found that the government has been wanting in terms of providing the answers.
Why are there no provisions for counterfeit goods being shipped through Canada? That is a bit of a surprise. The legislation does not seem to deal with that issue. We know that counterfeit products will come into Canada and ultimately leave Canada. How big the problem is, it is hard to say. To what degree do we have products coming into Canada, being labelled as coming from Canada, and being sent to other regions? These are legitimate concerns.
There is so much one could say about this particular bill. However, at the end of the day, it is about protecting Canada's economy and ensuring that we bring in legislation that enhances our economic activity. This is something that is important to the Liberal Party as we strive to ensure that the middle class is given the opportunity to grow and prosper. Legislation of this nature, if it is done properly, will actually protect jobs. It will ensure that Canadians are healthy and that the products they are acquiring are legitimate products from the original manufacturers.
If I pay a price believing that I have acquired something that is under trademark or copyright, I would like to think that this is what I am receiving. The Government of Canada has a role to play in that.