An Open Letter on Disruptive Technologies

Parliamentary business resumed in the House of Commons on Monday, and bills important to our collective future will return to the agenda.

Among them, Bill C-27 proposes to change companies’ privacy obligations and proposes a new Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (LIAD) aimed at regulating artificial intelligence (AI) systems to limit potential harm. Population.

Among other things, it provides common requirements for the design, development and use of AI systems in Canada; It prohibits the use of illegally obtained personal information in such a product, and it punishes access to an AI system with intent to defraud or harm.

CUPE-Québec is pleased to see that the federal government has decided to take the bull by the horns in this area. Businesses have really been encouraged to go the AI ​​route for years, some have started to do so, and utilities are no exception.

However, the legal basis of Bill C-27 revolves around provincial and federal jurisdiction over international trade, which would significantly limit its scope. Thus, any artificial intelligence system developed in a Quebec company or sold to it by another company, university or other organization in Quebec will escape the provisions of the future LIAD, as these activities are under provincial jurisdiction.

This raises the question of what the Quebec government will do to regulate artificial intelligence in the private sector, as well as other technologies that threaten to disrupt the labor market and our society in the more or less short term – it may consider automation among others. , 5G, driving autonomous vehicles, telemedicine and other Internet of Things applications, etc.

Two parties campaigning in Quebec have already pledged to use these disruptive technologies to tackle job shortages. This is the case of PLQ, which wants to use “…digitalization and automation of businesses”, and PCQ, which “…offers to facilitate the automation and robotization of businesses…” for this purpose.

The CAQ, for its part, promises “…by 2026 cellular connectivity everywhere, by 2030 the network will be largely converted to 5G technology, and fiber optic access will be offered to everyone. According to François Legault, these measures are necessary for Quebec to remain competitive.

Although motivated by legitimate economic goals, these electoral promises remain silent on the framework and social dialogue that must be established to advance such projects of societal-wide technological transformation.

However, Quebecers will be directly affected by these initiatives, as they transform their activities, make changes to their coverage or insurance premiums, or lead to the reconfiguration of services offered by governments.

CUPE-Québec believes that political parties should go further and commit now that any use of disruptive technologies will only be made after consultation with public stakeholders.

Citizens have the right to know the nature and consequences of technological transformations that are envisaged before they are implemented or authorized by the government and should have the opportunity to position themselves on these changes.

If there’s one lesson to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that technology can be a true ally. Especially thanks to telecommunications networks and video conferencing platforms, we have been able to keep in touch with our families and friends, keep our jobs and keep the economy going while incarcerated.

However, the isolation periods of 2020 and 2021 have also shown the inability of machines to change human relationships, as well as the ability of technology to sometimes negatively disrupt the organization of work and society. To date, many issues remain to be resolved in labor law, and workers, like supply chains, are still in post-pandemic rehabilitation.

CUPE-Québec is challenging Quebec’s political parties to commit, between now and the October 3 election, to a major social dialogue on disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence. Together, we must determine how they will be integrated into our lives and legalized before they are implemented to ensure that they contribute not only to the economy, but to our overall well-being.

Patrick Gloutny, President of SCFP-Québec and
Tulsa Wallin-Landry, President of the Provincial Council of the Communications Sector (CPSC) of CUPE-Québec.

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