The government is characterizing its Bill C-56 as an anti-counterfeiting bill, yet this week NDP MP Charmaine Borg framed it more accurately as “ACTA through the backdoor.” During Question Period on Monday, Borg asked Industry Minister Christian Paradis directly if the bill paves the way for ratification of the discredited treaty:
Mr. Speaker, last July the European Parliament rejected the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement over serious concerns about the regressive changes it would impose on intellectual property in the digital age. Yet on Friday, the Conservatives introduced a bill in the House that would pave the way for the ACTA without question. Canadians have concerns about goods being seized or destroyed without any oversight by the courts. Will the minister now be clear with Canadians? Are the Conservatives planning to ratify ACTA, yes or no?
Paradis refused to respond to the ACTA ratification question:
Mr. Speaker, we are very happy to have introduced an anti-counterfeiting bill in the House. Counterfeiting is a growing problem in Canada. Counterfeiting deceives Canadians and is linked to security-related issues. So it was our duty to modernize the legislation to ensure that we can end counterfeiting, so that Canadians are not deceived, and to provide better security.
Borg tried again with a direct link between Bill C-56 and ACTA:
Mr. Speaker, a number of countries have rejected this unacceptable agreement. The anti-counterfeiting trade agreement – ACTA – was drafted behind closed doors and would incriminate the daily users of cultural content. This agreement will turn our border officers into instant copyright experts, without the adequate legal support. Canada must seriously study the problem of counterfeiting. However, the failure of Bill C-30 means that Canadians do not have faith in this Conservative government. Is Bill C-56 not simply a way to support ACTA through the back door?
Paradis ducks the question once again:
Mr. Speaker, let us be clear: Bill C-56 is a way to support and protect Canadian families.
Counterfeiting is a growing problem that must be stopped. Counterfeiting deceives Canadians and poses risks to the safety of Canadians. We must ensure that the legislation is updated and appropriate in order to equip the authorities with effective tools to fight counterfeiting, which is exactly what was introduced on Friday. If the NDP is responsible, I hope they will support us.
The 52 page bill requires careful scrutiny, but the NDP is right for drawing attention to the elephant in the room. ACTA has been rejected in Europe and stands as a discredited agreement. Despite that, Bill C-56 is fundamentally a bill designed to allow Canada to implement ACTA.