C-47 Undermines Olympic Spirit

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) focuses on Bill C-47, the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act, which I think is better characterized as the Olympic Corporate Sponsor Protection Act.  The column synthesizes my comments from two earlier postings on the bill (here and here), namely that government ministers did not appear particularly anxious to grab the spotlight that typically comes with the introduction of a new initiative, that the bill raises free speech concerns, and that the bill gives VANOC the power to obtain an injunction to stop the distribution of goods that might violate the law without the need to demonstrate irreparable harm.

I conclude by arguing that beyond its substantive shortcomings, the bill raises more fundamental concerns about legislative fairness. Special interest legislation, particularly legislation blatantly designed to protect a select group of corporate interests at the expense of free speech, should have no place in a government focused on trust and accountability. Protecting the investment of Olympic corporate sponsors may be a worthwhile goal, yet there is a price to be paid for eliminating court-ordered safeguards and granting control over generic words to a private entity.  Canadian Olympic organizers have pledged to "own the podium" in 2010, yet Canadians might ask whether they must own words such as "winter" in order to do so.


  1. Weird exclusion
    Oddly, section 4(2) prohibits combinations of Part 1 words, and Part 2 words with Part 1 words, but does not prohibit combinations of Part 2 words. So, while “2010 sponsor”, or “XXIst Games” or “Winter Games” would be prohibited, “Whistler Gold Sponsor” would not be (at least by rote application of that section).

    Generally, the controversy on this sort of bill is as Michael suggested; special interests legislation. But, generally speaking, the actual negative effects of this particular bill should be mitigated by the expiry of some official marks (Schedule 2), the exception for those already using the wares/services, and the discretion of the courts.

  2. full circle
    Looks like they’ve added part of our national anthem to their “Olympic marks”. I wonder if thats what our MPs had in mind when they passed it.