Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member from Longueuil for sharing his time with me.
I rise to speak to Bill C-11. It is a complex and quite honestly dumbfounding piece of legislation. It attempts to strike a balance between the interests of consumers and stakeholders.
The need that the bill is meant to address has been lost in the haste of having legislation in place by an arbitrary date. However, it must not only answer immediate concerns but also future concerns of stakeholders. In its haste, the government is missing a golden opportunity to provide support for Canada's creators and in fact is abdicating its responsibility to them.
In this era of ever-evolving, growing and fluid digital integration of communications and entertainment, it is even more important that the bill strike a balance between the needs of Canadian consumers and their ability to access and enjoy artistic content and the undeniable rights of the creators of that content. It is imperative that a sound legal framework be established to protect the rights of creators and other stakeholders.
The works of artists can inspire, comfort, educate and on occasion help us express that which we are unable to express on our own. In addition, those works fuel the heart of a massive economic engine that drives $85 billion into the Canadian economy and provides 1.1 million jobs, yet those works still are grossly undervalued. The bill underlines that fact by putting business, consumer and user rights ahead of the rights of the creators of those works.
The nature of copyright is better expressed in the French language, “droits d'auteur”, meaning author's rights, the right of the author, the creator. That right gives artists the ability to determine how their works will be used. Sadly, this is conspicuously absent from this document, or at least is addressed minimally.
As an artist, and an advocate of the bill since its previous incarnation as Bill C-32 through to its present state, I have discussed the issue at length. When meeting with individuals and members of organizations in my constituency office as well as here in Ottawa I hear the same concern expressed. Although they agree that new copyright legislation is needed, they all ask why money is being taken out of the pockets of artists and why their needs are not being addressed.
Indeed we have entered new territory and, as with anything new, there is always adaptation required. For the first time in history the types of physical controls that copyright holders held in the past are gone. Entertainment and academic works are accessed more easily and therefore are less protected.
What protection mechanisms do artists have? There are a few cursory exemptions from prosecution or civil action for consumers and their advocates. In exchange a rather dizzy and confusing series of vague obligations are offered, one of which includes shredding their class notes. The artists and cultural communities are offered lip service with regard to the principle of equitable compensation for their creative works. They are also offered an inconsistent and frankly scary approach toward the protection of those works as well as compensation for them.
In its present form, Bill C-11 is an unequivocal failure. It outright fails to satisfy the two most important benchmarks we as parliamentarians use for evaluation. It fails to establish clear, universally understood rules for consumers. It also fails to ensure equitable enforceable compensation rules for those people who dedicate their lives to the creative enterprise.
Many of my colleagues have remarked on the many practical problems of this law, some of which we in the official opposition are committed to remedy through good faith dialogue at committee stage. I hope my colleagues across the way will work with us on this approach with purpose and in the spirit of openness.
After a long career in the arts, I came to Parliament as a voice for those artists and a voice for the constituents in my riding who are artists. From my perspective, this law's greatest weakness is its complete failure to extend or acknowledge the vital and current compensation framework upon which so many artists, writers, musicians and creators depend for their livelihood.
During the 2008 federal election, the Prime Minister made his feelings with regard to artists clear. We took exception to that, particularly in my home province of Quebec. The bill does little to show any change of heart regarding the Prime Minister's view. The images provoked by his words are misleading and undermine the artistic community, which contributes far more to this country than it receives.
Typically, today's Canadian artists continue to focus on their creative works more than where their next meal will come from. The typical artists in this country have a median income of under $13,000, yet the government sees fit to take $30 million a year out of their pockets.
That party's characteristic cynicism, for which it grows ever more famous, shows the value the members of the government have for artists.
I look at the discussion regarding digital access as a reminder of the Wild West days when our forefathers came to this country and were given pieces of sticks and told to go out and stake their claims. For some reason, many people feel that the Internet offers that same opportunity. However, like our forefathers who staked their claims, there are people who own the rights to works of art found on this worldwide entity called the Internet.
The Internet is a tool. It is a medium through which we can access all sorts of information. However, if we walk down Sparks Street and the HMV doors are open, that does not give us the right to walk into HMV, put a CD in our pocket and leave. We must provide compensation, which is what the bill fails to do.