MPs call for better protection of workers amid widespread AI adoption

Report's recommendations for artificial intelligence include ethical adoption, worker privacy, skills training

MPs call for better protection of workers amid widespread AI adoption

Members of Parliament (MPs) are calling on the federal government to better protect workers amid the ongoing widespread implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) in Canada.

In the report titled Implications of Artificial Intelligence Technologies for the Canadian Labour Force, witnesses before a parliamentary committee noted the “rapid pace” of AI implementation in the country.

They highlighted the benefits that the technology can bring, according to the report.

“While technological shifts can be disruptive, there are likely to be benefits, including for productivity and growth,” read part of the report from the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development.

Four in 10 executives predict that AI will deliver gains of more than 30 per cent in productivity, according to a previous Mercer report.

However, AI adoption also presents risks.

“While the risks and benefits presented to the committee were vast, the recurring themes were the need to protect workers, the need to support businesses and the need to strengthen access to information, data and research to facilitate better decision making,” according to the report. 

“The committee sees the need for the Government of Canada to strengthen the ways in which workers are protected, to support the ethical adoption of AI and to undertake additional data collection to monitor the current and inevitable future impacts of AI technologies on the Canadian labour force.”

The rise in AI-generated deepfake scams is keeping Canadian business leaders up at night, according to a previous KPMG report.

MPs’ recommendations for AI adoption

Following their deliberation, MPs recommended – according to the committee's report – that:

  • Employment and Social Development Canada, with Justice Canada, undertake a review of federal labour legislation to assess its capacity to protect diverse workers’ rights in the context of current and future implementation of artificial intelligence technologies.
  • Employment and Social Development Canada develop a framework, in collaboration with provinces and territories and labour representatives, to support the ethical adoption of artificial intelligence technologies in workplaces.
  • Employment and Social Development Canada invest in skills training to increase the adaptability of the Canadian workforce to the use of artificial intelligence technologies.
  • the Office of the Privacy Commissioner undertake a review of how artificial intelligence is impacting the privacy of Canadian workers and create proper regulations to ensure the protection of Canadians from artificial intelligence and that those regulations can be and are properly enforced. Also, to consider how this will interact with provinces and territories.
  • Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada deliver dedicated funding to support small businesses and nonprofit organizations in all regions of the country, including rural Canada, in adopting artificial intelligence technologies in an ethical manner, that supports Canadian productivity, has clear objectives, is transparent and accountable, and has clear measurement of results.
  • the Canadian government seek ways it can pragmatically increase efficiency, productivity and reduce red tape in their operations and workplace by utilizing artificial intelligence.
  • Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada ensure that the membership of the Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence encompasses a wide diversity of perspectives, such as labour, academia and/or civil society, and the private sector; that the Advisory Council be asked to undertake work to examine mechanisms to protect workers and to identify existing data and research gaps; and that the department report back to the committee on these matters within one year.
  • Statistics Canada develop a methodology to monitor labour market impacts of artificial intelligence technologies over time, including by collecting data on job separations by reason for job separation and industry type and by tracking unemployment risk by occupation.

Recently, Ottawa announced it is investing $2.4 billion in made-in-Canada compute infrastructure to support AI in Canada. Under Budget 2024, the federal government is also investing $50 million over four years to provide skills training for workers in sectors disrupted by AI.

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