Weeknote 17, 2023

§1 What is Bill C-27?

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. 

In the following article, we set out five key things you need to know about Bill C-27 and how this new legislation will impact the rights of Canadians when it comes to privacy, data protection, and AI systems.

Bill C-27 contains three proposed Acts, which relate to consumer privacy, data protection, and AI systems. The proposed Acts are The Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CPPA), The Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act (PIDPTA), and The Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA). Of the three proposed Acts, both the CPPA and PIDPTA previously appeared in Bill C-11 (though both show some evolution in C-27), while AIDA is an entirely new draft legislation.

Five things to know about Bill C-27, Oct 18, 2022 By Maggie Arai

§2 What is AIDA?

Last June, Canada’s federal government introduced Bill C-27, proposing new laws to deal with the widespread adoption of digital technology. Within it, there was a surprise Easter egg: the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA). This risk-based, sanctions-backed act was meant to promote a responsible Canadian artificial intelligence (AI) industry, and to protect Canadians against harmful AI systems. However, AIDA failed on both counts.

Indeed, AIDA is an empty shell that falls short of providing much-needed clarity about rights and obligations pertaining to AI systems. Undefined terms gesture toward obligations for entities responsible for AI systems, with the blanks supposedly to be filled in down the line by government regulations subject to little democratic oversight. The result is a lack of basic legal certainty. With crucial provisions left open-ended, AIDA is not a fully developed legal regime.

Take, for example, its vague, circular definition of high impact system: “High-impact system means an [AI] system that meets the criteria for a high-impact system that are established in regulations.” Yet this definition is the crux of the act, as many of the obligations it sets out hinge on whether a system is “high-impact.” With AIDA evasive about which systems fall in this category, the government is effectively preserving its ability to decide how much (or how little) to constrain such systems.

AI Regulation Should Not Be a Blank Cheque for Government: Bill C-27’s fundamental flaws should be addressed now, to allow for a meaningful, democratic debate. Maroussia Lévesque
Florian Martin-Bariteau, April 27, 2023, Centre for International Governance Innovation

§3 AIDA: An Explainer for Artists & Creators

What is the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act?

The Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA) is a proposed act that was introduced to the Canadian Parliament’s House of Commons in 2022 as one of three parts of a larger act known as the Digital Charter Implementation Act, or Bill C-27. 

AIDA is intended to set rules on the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI) systems in Canada. The full text of AIDA can be found here (see “Part 3” in the table of contents). A summary of AIDA’s key provisions can be found here.

Many observers have expressed concern that AIDA was rushed into Parliament without sufficient public consultation, will not ensure adequate public oversight over how AI will be regulated in Canada, and does not provide the public with adequate protections against the potential harms of AI. See for example this report by the Centre for Digital Rights, this report by researchers from Toronto Metropolitan University, Princeton University, and McGill University, as well as Professor Teresa Scassa’s series of blog posts on AIDA. 

The government department responsible for AIDA has published a companion document that describes how AIDA will work and the government’s proposed approach to public consultation for setting more specific rules for AI. Unfortunately, public consultation on those rules is only set to occur after AIDA has already become law, and guarantees of ongoing public consultations after the initial consultation period described in the companion document are not provided.

As of April 24, 2023, AIDA has been sent to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Industry and Technology for further study. Following the committee’s study, the House of Commons will hold a third vote on AIDA. If AIDA passes that vote, AIDA will proceed to the Senate for further debate and study.

Canada’s Artificial Intelligence and Data Act:  An Explainer for Artists & Creators

This document is maintained by Blair Attard-Frost, please contact blair@blairaf.com if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this document.

This document was last updated on April 29, 2023

Blair Attard-Frost is a PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information who is researching the ethics and governance of artificial intelligence.

§4 This week in Data and Justice

Two items pertaining to data and justice crossed my path this week:

  • Federal Court of Appeal Bulk Decisions Dataset: Description: This is a bulk open-access dataset in JSON format with the full text of Federal Court of Appeal (Canada) decisions. The process through which data is processed and code snippets for loading the data are available in a repository on the Refugee Law Lab Github.
  • Interested in learning how to do data activism?
    Join our FREE workshop May 5th to 7th on Mobilizing Data for Justice: A Skills Development Workshop in Data Activism.
    • We are bringing together activists, community leaders and critical researchers from around the world to creatively blend skills building, community outreach and research collaboration.

§5 Unreported is not the same as irretrievable

A short post from the LSO reminds us that Unreported doesn’t mean irretrievable:

Trying to find an Ontario case but can’t find any trace of it online? With the advent of online databases such as Lexis Advance Quicklaw, Westlaw Canada, and CanLII, one may have the impression that “everything is now online.” And while we now commonly refer to any decision not published online as “unreported,” even the term itself has changed in meaning (for an excellent review of the evolution of the term, look to the Law Society of Saskatchewan’s blog post “Unreported, You Say?”). 

Nevertheless, finding caselaw that is not readily available is still a reality the legal researcher faces today, and if you can’t find it online or in any of the printed reporters, there are some steps you can follow to try and locate that elusive decision:  Finding “Unreported” Ontario Decisions: Unreported, but not Unretrievable?

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