Debating the Olympics Marks Bill

Members of Parliament devoted nearly two hours on Wednesday to debating Bill C-47, the Olympic Marks bill.  While much of the discussion predictably veered toward completely unrelated issues (child obesity, French language coverage of the Olympics, the "world class" status of Vancouver, camcording), the core elements of the discussion were encouraging.  With one notable exception (BC Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal, who urged the government to push foward on the bill without any committee hearings), most of the MPs engaged in the debate recognized that the bill grants the Vancouver Olympic Organizing committee (VANOC) enormous power that should be carefully analyzed and should not be permitted to chill free speech, parody, or other legitimate activities.  There were strong calls for committee hearings from Liberal Hedy Fry (who referenced some of my comments) and the NDP's Charlie Angus.

The free speech issue in particular was raised by several MPs. 
For example, Conservative MP James Moore stated:

some of the news coverage that we have seen about this bill suggests that it would be used outside of a commercial context to muzzle citizens' right to free speech and prevent people from parodying the games or protesting the games, but that is not this legislation's intent or effect. Therefore, if people want to parody the Olympic games in a sketch, publish an editorial cartoon, make comments on a website or through a newspaper article, or criticize the games in any way, they can refer to an Olympic slogan or include a photo of an Olympic mascot as they see fit.

Similarly, Angus commented that:

I appreciate the comments made by the Conservative member who spoke earlier and said that this will be applied only for commercial abuse. Public satire, public discourse, blogging, et cetera will not be impeded. This again shows the intent of a balance, but we have to see it in the legislation in order to feel comfortable that we are going after the unfair bootlegging use of symbols that are quite rightly trademarked.

The MPs completed second reading yesterday, sending the bill to committee for discussion on whether it may unfairly restrict important freedoms.


  1. Xetheriel says:

    A lot of comments from politicians saying that “This is not the intent of the bill”. But we all know, that what a bill is *intended* for, and what it gets *used* for, are often 2 very different things. Those deciding whether to pass this bill or not should not think about the “intentions” of the bill, but the possible implications of it. What *could* the bill be used for, other than the intended uses. *Could* the bill be used to stiffle free speech? If it can in its current wording, than perhaps it should be re-worded to provide proper exclusions/exceptions to the bill. Explicit, rather than implicit.
    When introducing a bill such as this, it should be written in such a way as to leave no doubt as to the intention of the bill. If theres this much debate over it, it obviously hasn’t been written in such a way as to allow free speech/parody/blogging/discourse, etc.
    Politicians should be weary of voting for such a bill if there are this many questions as to the nature of the bill.

  2. Dwight Williams says:

    Agreement on Wording
    If it isn’t explicitly in the wording of the bill in question, it won’t be taken seriously by the IOC or the Vancouver organizing committee’s legal people.