EDITORIAL: Canada needs urgent regulation of Artificial Intelligence

Mar 28, 2024 | Editorial, OP-ED

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is evolving so rapidly that governments need to proactively anticipate future problems and capabilities of AI.

RBC’s 2024 Fraud Prevention Month poll suggested that 88 per cent of people in Canada agree that scams with the use of AI will increase this year.

This makes it necessary for the government to stay a step ahead and stop these AI scammers, by bringing in strict regulations in place.

Competition Bureau Canada, an independent law enforcement agency, in a recent news release, said sometimes it is hard to tell what is real and what is AI-generated.

“AI can be used to quickly produce texts, emails and messages in the style and language of a specific person. It can be used to clone anyone’s voice. And in just minutes, it can be used to make fake images, audio, or videos of real people,” the statement said.

With all this happening at such a fast pace, Canada currently has no regulatory framework in place that is specific to AI.

Canada’s Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA) which is a part of Bill C-27 was tabled in June 2022, even before ChatGPT launched.

The bill is currently in consideration at the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology in the House of Commons and would come into force no sooner than 2025.

It could take years for the government to pass a bill so government needs to be planning for future advancements.

The government introduced a Voluntary Code of Conduct on the Responsible Development and Management of Advanced Generative AI Systems in 2023, a temporary code until AIDA comes into effect.

The voluntary nature means it’s unlikely to be effective.

Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, met with his G7 counterparts in Italy from March 13 to 15 to discuss innovation, governance and responsible use of emerging technologies.

“Canada is a world leader when it comes to the governance and responsible use of AI and other emerging technologies,” Champagne said.

However, Michelle Rempel Garner, Conservative Party MP in her speech during the House of Commons debate on Bill-27, said the Liberal government unveiled the bill six months before the release of ChatGPT, rendering the approach this bill proposes obsolete.

“Since AIDA was initially tabled, a generation’s worth of technological change and impact has occurred, both positive and negative,” she said.

“AIDA needs to be shelved, and Canada’s approach to developing and regulating AI urgently rethought, in public, with industry and civil society input,” Garner said.

Garner is right. It doesn’t make sense to implement a Bill that is no longer up to date.

The EU AI Act was passed on March 13, which claims to be the first comprehensive regulation of AI by a major regulator anywhere.

With the pace at which AI is progressing, Canada urgently needs to enact regulations which can accommodate the future progress of AI.