PIAC Comments on the Toronto Police Services Board’s new AI Policy

PIAC commented on the Toronto Police Services Board’s public consultation on the use of new artificial intelligence technologies. The consultation sought public feedback on the Board’s draft AI Policy for governing how the Toronto Police Service will obtain authorisation for and use new AI technologies. The policy is intended to guide the Toronto Police in conducting initial risk assessments, and tracking the impacts, public concerns, and performance of AI technology, while also protecting privacy, equality, accountability, and fairness. PIAC thoroughly reviewed each provision of the draft policy, and concluded that, as published, it falls short of achieving the goal of ensuring new AI technologies do not introduce or perpetuate biases in policing decisions.

PIAC comments on Senator Wetston’s Inquiry on Canadian Competition Act in the Digital Era

PIAC recently commented on Senator Howard Wetston’s inquiry concerning the reform of the Canadian Competition Act in this digital age. The last review of the Act took place 14 years ago. Much has changed since then, with the most significant development being the emergence of digital platforms and the rapidly changing competitive landscape.

We presented our major concerns and proposed some pragmatic measures to protect competition and consumer interests in this digital age. Specifically, we suggested retaining protection of consumer interests in the purpose clause of the Competition Act and proposed additional safeguards to clarify the scope of consumer protection under the Act, and standards for applying competition law and policy. We strongly opposed any attempt to remove consumer protection from this framework. We commented on measures to consider concerning abuse of dominance by digital platforms. We also recommended the removal of the problematic efficiencies defence. See our submission for more details.

PIAC asks for stronger language in the FCAC’s proposed Guideline for banks’ internal complaint-handling procedures

Recently, PIAC commented on the Consultation on Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s (FCAC) Proposed Guideline on Complaint-Handling Procedures for Banks and Authorized Foreign Banks. The proposed Guideline sets out FCAC’s expectations with respect to banks and authorized foreign banks’ implementation of, and compliance with, the new complaint-handling provisions in the Bank Act and the Financial Consumer Protection Framework Regulations (FCPF), which will come into force June 30, 2022.

In our comments, PIAC supported the FCAC’s inclusion of expectations regarding systemic issues and redress and reimbursement policies not found in CG-12, the existing guidance for Federally Regulated Financial Institutions (FRFIs) including banks. However, PIAC recommended the FCAC use stronger language to describe these new expectations and include more explicit references to the above noted FCPF consumer protections.

PIAC comments on OPCC Facial Recognition 2021 Consultation

On June 10, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPCC) released a draft “Privacy guidance on facial recognition for police agencies,” a proposed guideline for police to follow when using facial recognition technology (FRT), “with a view to ensuring any use of FR complies with the law, minimizes privacy risks, and respects privacy rights.” The OPCC sought feedback from stakeholders on this draft guidance, which was developed jointly by the federal, provincial and territorial privacy protection authorities, and outlines the current privacy and legal framework that applies to police use of FRT. The consultation’s feedback questions fell under one of two main considerations: Whether the guidance will be effective in ensuring police use of FRT is lawful and privacy protective, or whether FRT is appropriately regulated under the existing legal and policy framework. PIAC contributed a submission which expressed substantial doubt on both fronts.

PIAC comments in favour of a single External Complaints Body for banking services

Recently, PIAC commented on the Department of Finance Canada’s Consultation on Strengthening Canada’s External Complaint Handling System in Banking. The Consultation was released following two reports by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC): “Bank Complaint Handling Procedures” and “The Operations of External Complaints Bodies” which identified a number of deficiencies in the complaint handling policies, procedures and operations of banks and external complaint bodies (ECBs), organizations that review complaints that are not satisfactorily resolved by a banks internal complaints handling system. Unfortunately, the Consultation did not seek feedback on banks’ internal complaints handling processes, an issue we raised in our comments. Despite the Consultation’s narrow scope, we generally support the government’s efforts to improve the ECB system in banking. In our submission, we ask that the government move away from the current multiple ECB system and towards designating a single ECB to oversee all banking services complaints.

PIAC supports proposed Regulations Amending the Air Passenger Protection Regulations

PIAC supports the proposed Regulations Amending the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, released in July 2021 for comments by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA). These regulations are meant to provide refunds to air passengers for flight cancellations and lengthy delays due to situations outside the air carrier’s control. The Minister of Transport in December 2020 issued a direction to the CTA to make a regulation that must provide for refunds to passengers for flight cancellations due to situations outside of a carrier’s control. The direction also stated that the CTA may determine that refunds be provided for lengthy delays due to situations outside of a carrier’s control. We commented on both stages and strongly supported this initiative for advancing air passenger rights.

PIAC comments on the Government’s proposed approach to address harmful content online

In September, PIAC commented on the Government’s proposed approach to address harmful content online. PIAC has many concerns about the proposed framework, but for now we limited our comments to the possible impact of the Proposal’s site-blocking regime on telecommunications consumers. PIAC believes it is generally inappropriate to use site-blocking to address the online harms identified in the Proposal because mandatory site-blocking: 1) is incompatible with Canada’s net neutrality framework rooted in ss. 36 and 27(2) of the Telecommunications Act, which must be interpreted in furtherance of s.7 objectives; and 2) could result in excessive infringement of Canadians’ rights to freedom of expression on the Internet.


PIAC supports TekSavvy and CNOC’s Petitions on Wholesale Rates

TekSavvy and CNOC, each filed petitions with the Governor-in-Council (GIC) to rescind the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) recent decision (Telecom Decision CRTC 2021-181) that reverses the wholesale rates regime for broadband Internet in Canada and to reinstate the previous wholesale rates decision, Telecom Order CRTC 2019-288 (TO 2019-288). PIAC filed a submission, supporting both TekSavvy’s and CNOC’s petitions in their request to rescind TD 2021-181 and to reinstate the previous wholesale rates decision from 2019.

PIAC comments on stakeholder engagement on fair revenue sharing between digital platforms and news media

PIAC recently commented on the consultation on fair revenue sharing between digital platforms and news media. We expressed several concerns regarding the Australian remuneration model for news media, which is one of the options primarily being considered for Canada. We noted several issues with this regime, such as lack of public transparency, how it may particularly hurt smaller news media outlets, and affect key policy issues such as freedom of press and speech. The other regime discussed in the consultation paper is the mandatory financial contributions regime, which would work in a similar way as the regime for contributions to Canadian content. We argued that this will be a better option than the Australian model as it would allow for equitable access to funds, which would be administered through an independent fund. Our position is that it would be best to wait and see how these models pan out in other countries, review any issues that arise and see what lessons could be applied, before implementing a regime here.

PIAC commented on the Consultation on a Modern Copyright Framework for Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things

In September, the department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada launched a consultation to gather additional evidence to help the Government determine whether and what copyright policy measures should be taken to ensure Canada’s copyright framework continues to achieve its underlying policy objectives and related priorities in the face of the challenges brought by AI and Internet of things. PIAC expressed its support for the government’s efforts to expand users’ rights through the clarification and development of exceptions in the Copyright Act and asked that the government promote society’s interest in fostering future creative innovation by prioritizing a robust public domain and ensuring users are able to fully exercise their access rights. We also commented on issues relating to circumventing technological protection measures (TPM) and having an exception to enable the repair of software-embedded devices.