Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.
We are now switching from the situation in Congo, but I want to finish pleading with my colleagues across the way to really consider that issue. If there is one issue that is not partisan, it is this one about what is happening in Congo. I think we can somehow find a way to agree on how to stem the violence in Congo.
The bill that I am now addressing is Bill C-8. Members will know that this legislation has quite a lengthy history. I do not mean just Bill C-8, but the whole issue of copyright and the Trade-marks Act and making consequential amendments to other acts.
This issue requires caution. It requires an understanding of not just the law but enforcement of the law as well.
Many people are concerned about how international treaties and copyright interplay. They are concerned about the fact that we are in the midst of finishing negotiations on CETA and how that agreement would relate to copyright. It is important to note that the international agreement dealing with counterfeiting also comes into play here. Many have noted that while a treaty to combat counterfeiting presently exists, not many countries have signed on to it, about which there is some concern. It is this international context, and how it would apply to this legislation, that we are dealing with.
If we abide by certain rules made by legislation such as this and there are trade deals or other treaties we have to contend with, it is important that we understand what those trade deals and treaties mean. In the case of CETA, it is important to understand how it would apply.
I am pleading with the government yet again to at least tell us what is going on with respect to CETA, because it would affect trademark and copyright legislation. My understanding is that there could be consequences from the CETA deal for copyright and trademarks. I would like to hear about what action the government is taking. I would like to know what success, or lack thereof, the government has had with respect to CETA, and the sooner the better.
Here we are trying to find a way to help people create in an unhindered and legal way, while also making sure that the creative class will be able to access technology and ideas and material and will not be suppressed. The law has to find a balance. By the same token, we want to make sure that what we are creating and what we have copyright protection for will not be usurped or be taken and used without the creators benefiting from their work. It is obviously a delicate balance.
I would like to go over some of the aspects of the bill and what it proposes to do.
As I said, this legislation has a long history. I remember previous Parliaments that attempted to deal with the copyright issue. It should be noted that many of our trading partners have been pleading with us, particularly our friends south of the border, to get this done and get it right. The new ambassador brought it up in a recent meeting with us. He indicated that this was an important issue for the United States because most of our trade is done with that country.
Bill C-8 deals with counterfeiting and infringement, which is important. It proposes to add two new criminal offences to the Copyright Act for the possession of and export of infringed copies. The bill would also create offences for the selling or offering of counterfeit goods on a commercial scale.
There is some contention as to the degree of the export and import of counterfeit goods.
I cite Michael Geist, because he is the expert in the country on this issue. His testimony at committee raised some questions about the extent to which there is counterfeiting. He should be listened to, because he is an expert. He asked this very good question: what is the scope of the studies that are referenced by government and officials? In other words, do we have accurate data?
That said, it is important that we have legislation that would deal with counterfeiting and the trade of counterfeiting materials, as contemplated in this bill.
That is the first part. The bill adds two new criminal offences under the Copyright Act for possession and exportation of infringing copies and creates offences for selling or offering counterfeit goods on a commercial scale.
The other aspect is that it creates a prohibition against importing or exporting infringing copies and counterfeit goods. It introduces some balance to that prohibition by creating two exemptions. One is personal use. As I referenced earlier, it relates to the creative class and those in the knowledge industry. I will use educators as an example.
I come from the business of teaching. As educators, it is important that we have access to knowledge and make it available to students. There is a balance that has to be struck so that we will not arrest teachers if they are just sharing materials with their students to allow them to gain knowledge. That is one of the areas we have to keep in mind.
The other one we have to look for is items in transit control.
Finally, the bill would grant 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 these private rights holders to obtain a court order before seizing infringing copies or goods. The bill grants new ex officio powers to the Minister of Public Safety and border officials to share information on detained goods with rights holders. It also widens the scope of what can be a trademark to the features found in the broad definition of “sign”, which includes all sorts of things: shapes, colours, scents, et cetera. What we want to see on this side is that we strike that balance. These are fairly important new powers that are being given to the government.
I will finish by saying that it is fine to pass laws on copyright and trademark to make sure that we deal with what we are focused on—that is, those who decide to get into the business of knock-offs and use the creations of others to benefit themselves when they have not had any input into the creation of any goods, ideas, or products. By the same token, how do we enforce these measures?
Members will hear from my colleagues tonight about some of the problems we have with the government's cutting of border services in this area. On the one hand, it is fine to give powers to border agents to say, “Here it is; you make sure that you deal with the infringements on copyright”, but on the other hand it has cut the budgets of those who are responsible for dealing with this authority.
This is an issue with our friends south of the border. They are aware of this. We have had issues with our friends south of the border regarding regulations. Let us make no mistake, this is a trade issue. They want to know if we are serious about this issue and will bring in laws that are modern and up to date with current copyright thinking. That means little unless we have an enforcement mechanism, to say the least. It is not only about passing laws; it is also about ensuring that we have resources on the ground to enforce them.
Members will hear from my colleagues and me that we have to get it right and make sure that we do not go too far in terms of infringing on those in the creative class, those in the knowledge business, and those who need to have access to materials, while on the other side making sure that if we bring in new responsibilities for our border agents, we do not cut their budgets. It is important that we give them support and training as to what these new powers mean and how they will exercise them.
At the end of the day, we will be supporting the bill to ensure that we do our bit as a country, that we have a balance in terms of the copyright obligations, that those in the creative and knowledge classes have access to the materials they need to create, and that, on the other hand, we provide our border agents with the proper support that they need in material supplies and training.
The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin on a point of order.
Mr. Speaker, in a moment I will seek unanimous consent to table a document.
During members' statements, the member for Mississauga—Streetsville called on the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin to apologize. I want to point out that the member already apologized, which was appropriate.
I would mention, and I think it is ironic, that the member for Mississauga—Streetsville has never apologized for deliberately misleading the House on Bill C-23.
I seek unanimous consent to table this document, the response from the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. He did the right thing.
When is the member for Mississauga—Streetsville going to do the right thing and apologize for his comments in the House of Commons?
I thank the hon. member for Prince Albert for his intervention. I would remind all hon. members that the use of this kind of language specifically to individual members, as is referenced in section 18 of the Standing Orders, invariably leads to the kind of discourse that we do not abide by in the House. We realize that emotions can get high on either side.
I recognize the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin made his comments in French and I may want to go back to hear exactly what was said and the context of how it was said.
One of the standard measures that we use for unparliamentary language is when it creates disorder. Clearly, in the context that the comment was offered in this case, it has created a certain amount of emotional response from the other side.
I wonder if the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin might wish to address the point.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.
It is an honour to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-15, an act to replace the Northwest Territories Act, to implement certain provisions of the Northwest Territories Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement and to repeal or make amendments to the Territorial Lands Act, the Northwest Territories Waters Act, the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, other Acts and certain orders and regulations, at second reading. I say it is an honour because the goal of devolution has been one that so many people in the Northwest Territories have fought and worked for over many years.
Last year I had the opportunity to meet with the premier of the Northwest Territories, Premier Robert McLeod. He actually came to my home province of Manitoba for the Manitoahbee Festival, which is an indigenous music festival that profiles the amazing musical talent of the Northwest Territories. I had a chance to hear a bit from Mr. McLeod about the hard work that he and his team have done to get to this day.
I also want to acknowledge my colleague and friend, the member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories, who has worked tremendously hard on this initiative as well. He has been a solid representative and an extremely important spokesperson on the issues that matter to the people of the Northwest Territories.
I understand the issue, not only as a member of Parliament but also on a personal level. I understand the importance of the concept of devolution, autonomy and, not just self-respect, but the acknowledgement of the respect that is due to the people of the north. I say that because I myself am from the north. I represent the region known as Churchill, in northern Manitoba, but I am also from there. I was born in Thompson. I grew up in the north and I have a very acute understanding, an understanding that so many of us northerners share, of the way in which the north is often marginalized. It is marginalized overtly and covertly in so many ways.
I will give a few examples. Number one, we in the north are very much aware how important services are to us in northern Canada, like any Canadian; for example, health care. We also know that in the north it is oftentimes, unfortunately, more difficult to access the basic health care that is required, especially compared to that of our urban neighbours. What ends up happening is that we have fewer doctors. Sometimes when we have nurses, it is more difficult to have the same nurses come. We have many people who come in and out, who stay for a while and then leave, so it is impossible for us to build relationships with the people who care for us when we need them most. We also find that in terms of health care infrastructure it is a tremendous challenge. While in provincial jurisdiction communities in the north there is definitely an effort to invest in health care infrastructure in an equitable way, if one drives a few minutes down the road and spends some time on a first nation, which is federal jurisdiction, one understands how northern first nations in particular suffer as a result of their geographic location and the way systemic racism has come into play.
We understand that in health care, for example, we in the north have certain struggles, and we struggle more than people in southern Canada in some respects. However, what we also know in the other sense is that it is difficult to find health care services. It is also difficult to see the kind of infrastructure funding we need. If one lives in northern Canada—and anyone who has visited northern Canada knows—it takes a while to get to places. Communities are far away from each other and populations are spread out.
However, that does not mean that people do not need to leave. People need to leave on a regular basis for health care. People need to leave for education. In fact, young people in many of the communities I represent have to leave after grade 9 or grade 10 to finish their high school in an urban centre. People need to leave to go for post-secondary education or training. People need to leave to visit their families. People also need to leave to buy basic necessities, such as food and goods they cannot access in their communities or are too expensive in their communities. That means infrastructure that links them is extremely important.
I would argue that perhaps the greatest gap in terms of the reality that northerners face is the way in which infrastructure across the Canadian north is often subpar compared to that in the south. We can talk about gravel roads and roads that need to be fixed up, but we can also talk about the fact that many communities across the north do not even have roads to speak of. Unfortunately, the common thread throughout the story is federal inaction and, frankly, neglect when it comes to partnering with the province and partnering on first nations.
The irony is that a tremendous amount of wealth comes out of northern Canada. It comes out of the communities I represent and the territories—Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. It comes out of northern Canada as a whole. That wealth comes through mining, hydroelectric development, forestry and development. That creates a tremendous amount of wealth in terms of revenue for government and corporate wealth. It does create jobs in our communities but often not in a sustainable way or in a way where training is part of the deal so that people are able to have long-term, stable employment, can learn from their work and go on to better themselves and work in other workplaces. Unfortunately, that wealth is often not shared with the communities that help to produce that wealth.
I can certainly share countless examples in my neighbourhood in the north where that is very obviously the case. Perhaps the most stark is the way in which so many first nations still live in third world conditions and yet are surrounded by some of the richest deposits of minerals or oil. Companies make great profits off these deposits, and yet there is no understanding that first nations, on whose territory these people are working, ought to be part of the deal, both in terms of revenue and long-term benefits.
This brings me to the point that northerners best understand their experience. They understand that this relationship, which has been supported by the federal government, where the decisions are made in Ottawa, where the wealth often goes back to Ottawa and is not returned to northern communities, must be fixed. We have an opportunity to do that, but unfortunately the work is not done. We are debating this bill at second reading, and New Democrats support this bill at second reading, but we have said very clearly that we need to look at the gaps and particularly at the way in which the federal government, unfortunately, continues to play a big brother role in this relationship, a relationship that some people use the word “colonialism” to describe, a sentiment that has been very much felt throughout recent years.
New Democrats want to make sure that this approach to devolution, something that so many people in the territories want, is free of that top-down approach, the approach that insinuates that the federal government does not trust the people of the Northwest Territories to govern themselves or make the right decisions for themselves. We believe that the federal government, which has done serious work on this file, needs to take this to the final stage, where a devolution agreement can be the best it can be and the best possible deal for the people of the Northwest Territories, an arrangement that agrees that the people, the first nations and the Government of the Northwest Territories must be the ones to make the decisions for the betterment of themselves and all of us.
The electoral district of Marc-Aurèle-Fortin (Quebec) has a population of 107,149 with 84,243 registered voters and 200 polling divisions.
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