Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their incredible support. It really is an honour to be part of the NDP.
We support this bill, but I am pleased that a gag order has not been imposed and that we now have the opportunity to express our opinions. Since the beginning of this Parliament, 76 gag orders have been imposed. That makes 76 bills that we have not been able to debate appropriately. That is deplorable. I am therefore pleased that no gag order has been imposed this time, although, at the same time, we are not too sure what is coming.
I also find it deplorable that the party opposite and the third party have not taken part at all in the debates that have been held in the evenings for several weeks. We sit until midnight and we are the only ones rising to speak. I want to take this opportunity to speak out against that situation. I find it particularly galling.
We support Bill C-8, An Act to amend the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, despite its imperfections. However, we still feel justified in questioning certain aspects of it. The government will therefore not be able to say that we are opposed to everything.
Bill C-8 is designed to strengthen the enforcement of copyright and trade-mark rights and to curtail commercial activity involving infringing copies and counterfeit trade-marked goods.
Clearly, we always support companies, consumers, authors and musicians—my colleague was talking about music earlier on—and the whole area of the intellectual property of scientists, for example. There is also considerable mention in this bill of the health and safety of Canadians. I feel that the bill has a lot of merit in this area.
When we talk about counterfeit medication, for example, it can be a serious matter. A person ordering medication online for some kind of problem could choose the wrong product. If the person is allergic to that product, problems arise. That is one of the reasons why we support this kind of measure, which will help to keep Canadians healthy and to protect them.
Bill C-8 creates two new criminal offences under the Copyright Act, prohibiting the possession or export of infringing copies; it also creates offences for selling, or engaging in commercial activity with, counterfeit products.
It also creates a criminal offence prohibiting the importing and exporting of infringing copies and counterfeit goods, while introducing some balance by creating two exemptions, one for personal use, that is, items that a person has in their possession or in their luggage, and another for items in customs transit control.
The bill also gives customs officers new powers to detain counterfeit goods and copies. That is an important policy change, since up until now, border officials required copyright holders to first get a court order before they would seize infringing copies or counterfeit goods.
The bill also gives the Minister of Health and border authorities new powers that allow them to share with rights owners information relating to the detained goods. These are meaningful and significant changes that needed to be made to fight the counterfeiting of all kinds of items that could harm the health and safety of our fellow citizens.
The bill has also expanded the scope of what can be registered as a trademark, as described within the broader definition of “signs”, including colours, shapes, scents and tastes.
What concerns me as I read this bill is the fact that several million dollars have been cut from the Canada Border Services Agency. The bill gives border authorities new powers. But how will everything be appropriately financed? How can they continue to be effective and to do their jobs? We agree that counterfeiting is a scourge and that something must be done about it. We also agree that they have other responsibilities as well. Are they going to be asked to work twice as much? I am not sure how it is all going to work. Are we going to clone them? I do not know. In short, this is something that really must be given particular attention. This is not the only situation where there have been budget cuts and increases in responsibility for the staff of an agency.
Take tax havens, for example. They say they want to fight against tax havens and allocate more resources to doing so. But the Canada Revenue Agency has undergone budget cuts. The same applies to Canada Post and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The number of inspectors has been cut but they are being asked to provide the same level of service. That is particularly worrisome to me. I am curious and I would really like to know how this is all going to be implemented.
Naturally, we support political and legal tools that will combat counterfeiting and copyright violation effectively. Such violations can have a negative impact on Canadian businesses and consumers. As I said earlier, that is especially the case when the health and safety of Canadians are at risk, which often happens when counterfeiting is involved. On the other hand, intellectual property calls for an approach that strikes a balance between the interests of rights holders and the interests of users and consumers. We have to strike a fair balance there too.
We also need better ways to share information about counterfeiting with people. We have to implement measures to ensure that border services agents use their new law enforcement powers appropriately. That also includes better information about the extent of the problem. We have to raise people's awareness about what counterfeiting, intellectual property and copyright are. We have to explain that in terms people can understand. These are things of importance to society that I think have been somewhat neglected over the past few years.
Bill C-8 does not feature the same lack of balance as other copyright bills this government has come up with. It is a good improvement even though it is not perfect. Nothing is perfect, after all.
As I said earlier, we still do not know how the bill will be enforced. We would like the Canada Border Services Agency to have enough resources to carry out this work without interfering with its priorities. Those people have a lot of work to do, and cuts will not help them do more work. If we overload them, it will not work.
It is in the interest of Canadian businesses and consumers to combat counterfeiting, especially, as I said earlier, when counterfeit goods can jeopardize the health and safety of Canadians. To do that, we have to give those involved the tools they need. There has to be money for that. I see no other way. It will not happen if the government puts some relevant provisions in a bill but continues to make cuts.
I would like one of my colleagues opposite to share some thoughts about this. That would be really interesting.