Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, which includes 6 of the 11 venues for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and Paralympic Games, it gives me great pleasure to rise in support of Bill C-47, an Act respecting the protection of marks related to the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games and protection against certain misleading business associations and making a related amendment to the Trade-marks Act.
I am very proud to speak to the bill today. The Olympic Games are more than just a sporting and cultural event. They will show to the world and to ourselves what Canadians can do. In less than three years, Vancouver, Whistler and the whole Sea to Sky corridor will host the world's largest event.
More than 20,000 employees and volunteers will put on the games. We will welcome more than 6,000 athletes and officials and more than 80 countries, and the competition will be covered by 10,000 members of the media and witnessed by more than three billion people worldwide.
The 2010 games will showcase our province, our culture and our people to the planet. They will create a lasting legacy of facilities for our athletes and immeasurable goodwill around the globe. They are Vancouver and Canada's time to shine.
Vanoc has delivered a business plan that will give us the games on time and on budget, despite being hit with skyrocketing construction costs and facing massive logistical, strategic and diplomatic challenges. Vanoc's accomplishment is a tremendous testament to Canadian know-how and business savvy and will not pass unnoticed abroad.
This sort of project requires a great deal of fiscal management. For Vanoc, this means that it has to be as careful as possible about the Olympic and Paralympic brands. There is no better branding than the Olympic brand and, without appropriate safeguards, many would try to take advantage of the goodwill created by the games.
We need to protect the words and symbols of the Olympic brand with special legislation to ensure that Vanoc has the tools it needs to prevent abuse. The confidence created by strong protection for the Olympic brand will improve Vanoc's ability to negotiate sponsorship agreements with businesses interested in associating themselves with the Olympic brand and provide important funding for the games.
This protection also will create the confidence which will ensure that sponsors are committed to the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic movement for years and years to come.
The Liberal Party support for the Olympics has been longstanding. The Liberal government of the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien was there at the very beginning and we championed the bid from its earliest stages. We supported the games with our words and, unlike the Conservative foot-dragging, Liberal governments have always provided the resources that were required on the federal side to support our athletes and support these games.
Long before I was a candidate for the Liberal Party, I took a leadership role in securing the Olympics for Canada by organizing the 2010 rally on Robson Street. Working directly with Mr. John Furlong and the 2010 bid committee, we organized a grassroots movement rally on the streets of Vancouver that was attended by over 50,000 Vancouverites in support of our bid and, as everyone knows now, we were lucky enough to secure it.
Providing enhanced protection for the Olympics has become a standard part of hosting the Olympic Games. The United States, Australia, Greece and Italy all have strengthened the legal protection for Olympics-related intellectual property rights. The upcoming games in Beijing and London are already the subject of such protection in those host countries.
Although existing intellectual property law in Canada arguably could be used to protect Olympic symbols and marks, the sheer volume of possible violations within the short period of the games creates a need for extra protection.
Ambush marketing, which has been spoken of here in the House, is a major concern for the host of any international sporting event. It is simply too easy to take advantage of the goodwill created by the games and mislead consumers into thinking that a company has a business association with the games when in fact it has nothing of the sort.
Bill C-47 would prohibit persons from using the Olympic and Paralympic marks for anything that could be mistaken for those marks in connection with a business without the permission of Vanoc or, after the games are over, the consent of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic committees. It would also prohibit people from promoting or advertising their business in a way that misleads the public into believing that they are officially associated with the games.
With normal trademarks, the courts apply a three-part test in order to allow an interim or interlocutory injunction against a suspected offender. The plaintiff must establish, first, that there is a serious issue to be tried, second, that it will suffer irreparable harm if the offending conduct continues pending a trial, and finally, that the balance of convenience is in its favour.
Bill C-47 waives the onus on Vanoc to prove the most difficult part of the legal test, that of proving irreparable harm. This will allow Vanoc to act quickly and effectively to stop abuse of its brand. John Furlong and his team have emphasized that this speed is essential because the impact of ambush marketing is immediate and the response has to be immediate as well.
I believe that there is widespread support in the House for the aims of this bill. The devil, of course, is in the details. My colleagues and I have examined the bill see if it meets the critical test of basic common sense and fairness. Let me speak to several points on fairness.
The bill grants specific and clear exemptions to allow for freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of commentary. Some news reports have suggested that it would be used to crack down on dissent. These reports are wrong. Bill C-47 specifically exempts news, criticism and parody from the restrictions.
The aim of this bill is limited, of course, to commercial uses. Bill C-47 will not affect the non-profit community at all.
It is also particularly important that the bill not adversely affect our athletes. I welcome an amendment by the committee which ensures that companies sponsoring our Olympic athletes are able to advertise that fact. Being an Olympic athlete is part of who one is and the amendment ensures that these athletes will be able to say who they are, even in the commercial context. Former Olympian Jeff Bean testified before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology that the spirit of the bill does not impede the rights of athletes.
The bill also has a grandfathering provision to prevent existing businesses that use an Olympic or Paralympic mark from being unfairly disrupted. Anyone who adopted and began using such a mark before March 2, 2007, will be able to continue using that mark for the same purpose and will not have to change the name of the business, but if someone wants to open a business today and use that mark, that individual would have to come up with a new name.
The terms safeguarded are well chosen in that they are limited to terms that refer directly to the games. There has been some confusion over whether words like “winter” or “Vancouver” are prohibited, but this is not in fact the case.
Bill C-47 also contains a number of safeguards that will protect the legitimate use of the Olympic or Paralympic mark in a business context. For instance, businesses will be able to use geographic names to describe their market or to explain their services.
The Intellectual Property Institute of Canada has expressed concern that the bill gives sponsors the right to sue independently, arguing that Vanoc or the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee are the ones that grant sponsorship and so they should be the ones to control access to the courts. The institute worries that this will lead to inconsistent applications of the bill. This is an issue that will have to be monitored closely as time goes by.
With these sensible features, Bill C-47 has found widespread support. Vanoc, the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee support it. So do the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Own the Podium, Athletes CAN, and others.
It is time for the House to stand up for our athletes and champion and support the tremendous efforts of the Vancouver Olympic Committee to get this bill passed. It will protect the Olympic and Paralympic brands for Vancouver and the revenues that will benefit all hard-working Canadian families.
Let us make these the best winter games the world has ever seen.