Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne will announce new government measures Wednesday designed to help Canada take the lead in the area of artificial intelligence.
Champagne told the Commons industry and technology committee on Tuesday that new steps are on the way.
“There is an announcement coming with respect to that …. We need to put a bit of focus on that and understand the impact that AI can have,” he said.
Champagne was responding to a question from Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin, whose riding of Toronto–Danforth includes a number of actors who have been asking what Canada will do to protect artists from the issues raised by AI, such as the use of their voices or images.
Questions such as those are among the issues that have fuelled the recent strikes by Hollywood writers and actors.
Outside the meeting, Champagne was coy, refusing to even give hints of what he plans to announce at the All In conference in Montreal.
“There are a number of things that we will be doing and proposing … things that will go in the direction of providing Canada’s leadership on AI,” Champagne told CBC News.
“There are things that we can do to make Canada a leader,” he said, including a proposed update to the privacy law, “and that is what we are going to be doing.”
Testifying before MPs, Champagne said Canada is at the forefront when it comes to developing a framework and rules for the use of artificial intelligence — something that the U.S. and Europe are watching closely as the technology develops quickly.
“I hope that colleagues feel the same level of urgency I feel, because every day we kind of learn of a new aspect of that technology that goes beyond what we have already seen. So having a framework, I think, will be much needed and it will help with responsible AI,” he said.
The government has taken first steps to govern AI including the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act, part of the broader Bill C-27, which was tabled in June 2022. The legislation would also update Canada’s privacy law — something that hasn’t been done in two decades, before social media and many technological developments.
Champagne announced a series of amendments to that legislation on Tuesday, saying they respond to feedback he has received.
Among the amendments will be to define what constitutes a “high-impact AI system” covered by the legislation, Champagne told the committee.
“We will propose an amendment to define classes of systems that would typically be considered high impact — for example AI systems that make important decisions about loans or employment.”
Other amendments will “introduce specific and distinct obligations for general-purpose AI systems like ChatGPT” and make it clearer what obligations the developer of an AI system has versus someone who manages and deploys it.
The government will also “strengthen and clarify” the role of the proposed AI and Data Commissioner provided for in the legislation and enable them to share information and co-operate with other regulators like the Competition Commissioner or the Privacy Commissioner, Champagne said.
Amendments would also recognize a fundamental right to privacy for Canadians, along with the bill’s existing provisions to allow people to transfer their data to another company or have it deleted.
Champagne said the government has also decided to beef up protection for children’s online information and will give the Privacy Commissioner more flexibility to reach compliance agreements with companies that violate the privacy law.