Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.
I am pleased to join the debate today on Bill C-8, an act to amend the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. People watching at home might think this is something that does not really concern them, that it is an arcane piece of legislation that does not affect their daily lives. I want to emphasize to them that, in fact, this is something that affects Canadian jobs, Canadian consumers, and Canadian safety in our homes and in our communities.
In brief, the purpose of the bill is to strengthen the enforcement of copyright and trademark rights and to basically curtail counterfeit goods coming into Canada. Specifically, it would add two new criminal offences under the copyright act for the possession and export of infringing copies. It would create offences for selling and offering counterfeit goods on a commercial scale. It would create a prohibition against importing or exporting infringing copies and counterfeit goods.
It would introduce some balance to that prohibition by creating two new exemptions. One is personal use, and this is important. In other words, a person might have something in his or her personal possession, perhaps in personal baggage, that happens to be counterfeit and he or she does not know it. The second is for items that are in transit control.
It grants new ex officio powers to border officials to detain infringing copies or counterfeit goods. That is a significant policy shift, because until now, border officials required private rights holders to get a court order before seizing or infringing any copies or goods.
There are other measures as well, but let me, in the limited time I have, elaborate a bit on what this means for Canadians. Most of the counterfeit goods that come into Canada today are from China, but some come in from the U.S. and some other countries. How does this affect Canadian jobs? Companies that manufacture here in Canada, that trademark their name on the quality and value of the product people buy, become subject to cheap knock-offs that get sold at discount prices.
Let me give a very specific example. On a cold winter day, all across Canada, we can see many people wearing Canada Goose jackets and coats. Canada Goose jackets have a distinctive logo that is very clear to see. The coats are fairly expensive, but they are super warm and good quality and when people buy them, they know that they are getting that quality. These coats are made here in Canada. They are designed here. They are manufactured here under tight quality controls. Canadian workers make these coats. They do an excellent job and provide good value. For these cheap knock-offs that come in, we have no idea what the labour conditions are. They could be produced in very hazardous conditions. They could be produced by child labour. We have no idea of the conditions that these, or any counterfeit products, are produced under.
Consumers might think they are getting a heck of deal. These are expensive products, and if they can get them on sale online cheaply, why not do it?
Let me quote Canada Goose. It talks about counterfeits of its products that have come into Canada.
Made illegally in factories in Asia, the fake jackets are found on many rogue websites as well as in the flea markets of Shanghai, Beijing and Bangkok. Counterfeiting is illegal. It often funds organized crime and counterfeit factories in regions where labour standards are lax and often employ child labour.
Counterfeiting is not only illegal, but also dangerous.
After analyzing the content of counterfeit jackets, we know that instead of the sanitized, Canadian down used by Canada Goose, counterfeiters often use feather mulch or other fillers. These materials are often coated in bacteria, fungus or mildew, posing significant health risks to unsuspecting consumers. As well, raccoon, dog or other unknown animal hair may be used in place of our functional coyote fur ruff.
Even more frightening is that for a person in cold climate, an authentic Canada Goose parka could mean the difference between life and death. Without real down and fur, the chance of frostbite or freezing becomes a real possibility.
This is one very concrete example of what the proposed legislation is designed to combat.
We also have examples of counterfeit batteries that have exploded. There are a number of cases of children being burned by products that had counterfeit batteries in them. The bill is designed to combat that, and certainly New Democrats support the notion of dealing with counterfeiting.
For those who are concerned about what this might mean for the Internet, the proposed legislation does not deal with websites. It does not block content or take down websites. As I outlined earlier, infringement goods are limited to personal exemption in one's personal baggage.
New Democrats support taking on this issue and dealing with counterfeit goods. However, I will say that it is difficult to understand how a bill like this would be implemented when the Conservatives' 2012 budget cut $143 million in funding from border services. That means that the very border guards who would be required to enforce the legislation would have less resources to do that.
Those budget cuts in 2013-14 meant a loss of 549 full-time equivalent jobs between now and 2015. What is more, under the bill, customs officers would need special training because they would be asked to make highly complicated assessments of whether goods entering or exiting the country infringe on any copyright or trademark rights. This is an assessment that sometimes the courts themselves struggle with, yet we would ask border guards to adequately implement the bill and protect Canadians and our borders without a full complement of staff.
The NDP will be supporting the bill at third reading. We think it is important that we deal with copyright in order to protect Canadian jobs and consumers, and certainly for the health and safety aspects, where we have seen real problems in the past.
The bill speaks to the notion of labour rights and making sure that people have adequate protections in the workplace. However, we do not want to, through shoddy or weak enforcement of the bill, inadvertently be subsidizing counterfeit goods or organized crime that trades in counterfeit goods.