Bill C-27 (Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2022) is what I believe is called an omnibus bill as it includes three different pieces of proposed legislation (the Consumer Privacy Protection Act [CPPA], the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act [AIDA], and the Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act [PIDPTA]). You can read the Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada summary here or a detailed series of descriptions of the act here on the ISED’s Canada’s Digital Charter webpage.
Months after the first reading in June 2022, Bill C-27 was mentioned here in a September 15, 2022 posting about a Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC) event featuring a panel discussion about the proposed legislation, artificial intelligence in particular. I dug down and found commentaries and additional information about the proposed bill with special attention to AIDA.
it seems discussion has been reactivated since the second reading was completed on April 24, 2023 and referred to committee for further discussion. (A report and third reading are still to be had in the House of Commons and then, there are three readings in the Senate before this legislation can be passed.)
Christian Paas-Lang has written an April 24, 2023 article for CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) news online that highlights concerns centred on AI from three cross-party Members of Parliament (MPs),
Once the domain of a relatively select group of tech workers, academics and science fiction enthusiasts, the debate over the future of artificial intelligence has been thrust into the mainstream. And a group of cross-party MPs say Canada isn’t yet ready to take on the challenge.
The popularization of AI as a subject of concern has been accelerated by the introduction of ChatGPT, an AI chatbot produced by OpenAI that is capable of generating a broad array of text, code and other content. ChatGPT relies on content published on the internet as well as training from its users to improve its responses.
ChatGPT has prompted such a fervour, said Katrina Ingram, founder of the group Ethically Aligned AI, because of its novelty and effectiveness.
“I would argue that we’ve had AI enabled infrastructure or technologies around for quite a while now, but we haven’t really necessarily been confronted with them, you know, face to face,” she told CBC Radio’s The House [radio segment embedded in article] in an interview that aired Saturday [April 22, 2023].
Ingram said the technology has prompted a series of concerns: about the livelihoods of professionals like artists and writers, about privacy, data collection and surveillance and about whether chatbots like ChatGPT can be used as tools for disinformation.
With the popularization of AI as an issue has come a similar increase in concern about regulation, and Ingram says governments must act now.
“We are contending with these technologies right now. So it’s really imperative that governments are able to pick up the pace,” she told host Catherine Cullen.
That sentiment — the need for speed — is one shared by three MPs from across party lines who are watching the development of the AI issue. Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, NDP MP Brian Masse and Nathaniel Erskine-Smith of the Liberals also joined The House for an interview that aired Saturday.
“This is huge. This is the new oil,” said Masse, the NDP’s industry critic, referring to how oil had fundamentally shifted economic and geopolitical relationships, leading to a great deal of good but also disasters — and AI could do the same.
Issues of both speed and substance
The three MPs are closely watching Bill C-27, a piece of legislation currently being debated in the House of Commons that includes Canada’s first federal regulations on AI.
But each MP expressed concern that the bill may not be ready in time and changes would be needed [emphasis mine].
“This legislation was tabled in June of last year , six months before ChatGPT was released and it’s like it’s obsolete. It’s like putting in place a framework to regulate scribes four months after the printing press came out,” Rempel Garner said. She added that it was wrongheaded to move the discussion of AI away from Parliament and segment it off to a regulatory body.
Am I the only person who sees a problem with the “bill may not be ready in time and changes would be needed?” I don’t understand the rush (or how these people get elected). The point of a bill is to examine the ideas and make changes to it before it becomes legislation. Given how fluid the situation appears to be, a strong argument can be made for the current process which is three readings in the House of Commons, along with a committee report, and three readings in the senate before a bill, if successful, is passed into legislation.
Of course, the fluidity of the situation could also be an argument for starting over as Michael Geist’s (Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa and member of the Centre for Law, Technology and Society) April 19, 2023 post on his eponymous blog suggests, Note: Links have been removed,
As anyone who has tried ChatGPT will know, at the bottom of each response is an option to ask the AI system to “regenerate response”. Despite increasing pressure on the government to move ahead with Bill C-27’s Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA), the right response would be to hit the regenerate button and start over. AIDA may be well-meaning and the issue of AI regulation critically important, but the bill is limited in principles and severely lacking in detail, leaving virtually all of the heavy lifting to a regulation-making process that will take years to unfold. While no one should doubt the importance of AI regulation, Canadians deserve better than virtue signalling on the issue with a bill that never received a full public consultation.
What prompts this post is a public letter based out of MILA that calls on the government to urgently move ahead with the bill signed by some of Canada’s leading AI experts. The letter states: …
When the signatories to the letter suggest that there is prospect of moving AIDA forward before the summer, it feels like a ChatGPT error. There are a maximum of 43 days left on the House of Commons calendar until the summer. In all likelihood, it will be less than that. Bill C-27 is really three bills in one: major privacy reform, the creation of a new privacy tribunal, and AI regulation. I’ve watched the progress of enough bills to know that this just isn’t enough time to conduct extensive hearings on the bill, conduct a full clause-by-clause review, debate and vote in the House, and then conduct another review in the Senate. At best, Bill C-27 could make some headway at committee, but getting it passed with a proper review is unrealistic.
Moreover, I am deeply concerned about a Parliamentary process that could lump together these three bills in an expedited process. …
For anyone unfamiliar with MILA, it is also known as Quebec’s Artificial Intelligence Institute. (They seem to have replaced institute with ecosystem since the last time I checked.) You can see the document and list of signatories here.
Geist has a number of posts and podcasts focused on the bill and the easiest way to find them is to use the search term ‘Bill C-27’.
Maggie Arai at the University of Toronto’s Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society provides a brief overview titled, Five things to know about Bill C-27, in her April 18, 2022 commentary,
On June 16, 2022, the Canadian federal government introduced Bill C-27, the Digital Charter Implementation Act 2022, in the House of Commons. Bill C-27 is not entirely new, following in the footsteps of Bill C-11 (the Digital Charter Implementation Act 2020). Bill C-11 failed to pass, dying on the Order Paper when the Governor General dissolved Parliament to hold the 2021 federal election. While some aspects of C-27 will likely be familiar to those who followed the progress of Bill C-11, there are several key differences.
After noting the differences, Arai had this to say, from her April 18, 2022 commentary,
The tabling of Bill C-27 represents an exciting step forward for Canada as it attempts to forge a path towards regulating AI that will promote innovation of this advanced technology, while simultaneously offering consumers assurance and protection from the unique risks this new technology it poses. This second attempt towards the CPPA and PIDPTA is similarly positive, and addresses the need for updated and increased consumer protection, privacy, and data legislation.
However, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. As we have outlined, several aspects of how Bill C-27 will be implemented are yet to be defined, and how the legislation will interact with existing social, economic, and legal dynamics also remains to be seen.
There are also sections of C-27 that could be improved, including areas where policymakers could benefit from the insights of researchers with domain expertise in areas such as data privacy, trusted computing, platform governance, and the social impacts of new technologies. In the coming weeks, the Schwartz Reisman Institute will present additional commentaries from our community that explore the implications of C-27 for Canadians when it comes to privacy, protection against harms, and technological governance.
Bryan Short’s September 14, 2022 posting (The Absolute Bare Minimum: Privacy and the New Bill C-27) on the Open Media website critiques two of the three bills included in Bill C-27, Note: Links have been removed,
The Canadian government has taken the first step towards creating new privacy rights for people in Canada. After a failed attempt in 2020 and three years of inaction since the proposal of the digital charter, the government has tabled another piece of legislation aimed at giving people in Canada the privacy rights they deserve.
In this post, we’ll explore how Bill C-27 compares to Canada’s current privacy legislation, how it stacks up against our international peers, and what it means for you. This post considers two of the three acts being proposed in Bill C-27, the Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CPPA) and the Personal Information and Data Tribunal Act (PIDTA), and doesn’t discuss the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act [emphasis mine]. The latter Act’s engagement with very new and complex issues means we think it deserves its own consideration separate from existing privacy proposals, and will handle it as such.
If we were to give Bill C-27’s CPPA and PIDTA a grade, it’d be a D. This is legislation that does the absolute bare minimum for privacy protections in Canada, and in some cases it will make things actually worse. If they were proposed and passed a decade ago, we might have rated it higher. However, looking ahead at predictable movement in data practices over the next ten – or even twenty – years, these laws will be out of date the moment they are passed, and leave people in Canada vulnerable to a wide range of predatory data practices. For detailed analysis, read on – but if you’re ready to raise your voice, go check out our action calling for positive change before C-27 passes!
Taking this all into account, Bill C-27 isn’t yet the step forward for privacy in Canada that we need. While it’s an improvement upon the last privacy bill that the government put forward, it misses so many areas that are critical for improvement, like failing to put people in Canada above the commercial interests of companies.
If Open Media has followed up with an AIDA critique, I have not been able to find it on their website.