Recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) have captured our collective imagination, entering the homes of millions of Canadians and giving us a better understanding of the impact this technology will have on our lives.
There is no doubt that AI offers great potential for economic growth and societal opportunities, including to address some of the most pressing health and environmental challenges of our time. While these developments are impressive, it is important to recognize that AI systems pose risks that need to be taken seriously and addressed quickly.
These include discrimination, bias, misinformation, influence on mental health (especially that of children) and labor market disruptions. At the rate that powerful AI systems continue to be developed, other critical risks will most likely emerge, and current risks could increase significantly.
The global conversation of the past few weeks is unequivocal: accelerating the development and use of AI must be accompanied by appropriate government oversight.
In June 2022, Canada introduced its proposed Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (LIAD) as part of Bill C-27. In addition to stipulating that high-impact AI systems must comply with obligations, including security, transparency, and human rights, the LIAD would sanction behavior that causes serious harm to individuals or their interests. It provides a scaffolding for regulations to be developed in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, defining specific concepts and requirements that will form the safeguards for the development and deployment of AI.
We ask our political representatives to support LIAD with conviction. While the parliamentary committee will allow for improvements and amendments, we believe the current proposal is well-focused and strikes the right balance between the protection of Canadians and the imperatives of innovation. Above all, it proposes a legislative framework for AI that will be supported by regulations and standards, making it flexible enough to adapt to new AI capabilities and applications as technology evolves.
Parliamentary processes take time. The iterative discussions they allow are valuable, and the LIAD has been the subject of parliamentary debate. The pace at which AI is developing now demands action. If the parties do not work together to advance the LIAD before the summer, it will lead to considerable delays before having a regulatory framework that guides businesses and protects Canadians. In summary, the window for action is rapidly closing, and further lag would be out of step with the rate at which technology develops and deploys.
Importantly, regulating AI promotes innovation and economic growth. The establishment of a concrete and rigorous legal framework will allow Canadian companies to align their activities with the requirements to come in many other jurisdictions, including Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States.
A recent survey by the Canadian Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence found that “71% of respondents believe that AI can be trusted if it is regulated by public authorities to an extent appropriate to the level of application risk. This is what the LIAD is trying to accomplish and we strongly encourage our political representatives to act in this direction.
Through its actions over the past few years, Canada has earned an excellent reputation globally as a leader in responsible AI. We must honor this leadership by adopting our national legal framework while promoting the adoption of international AI standards. If we fail to do so, we will have missed a unique opportunity to advance Canadian values at a crucial moment in history. If we succeed, we will lay a solid foundation to ensure that the great potential of AI serves the well-being and prosperity of Canadians.