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Pioneering Canada’s AI Future

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne

Minister of Innovation, Science & Industry

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science & Industry unveils AIDA Legislation, ensuring responsible AI and fueling commercialization leadership.

When I began my tenure as Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry, I was struck by the potential of AI to transform our world. While our government was carving out a way to fuel and sustain an AI leadership role for Canada, I saw an opportunity to seize this moment. Since, we’ve put forward a number of efforts and measures to demonstrate that Canada can be a leader in this emerging industry.

The Pan-Canadian AI Strategy was launched in 2018 to provide federal funding and coordination for AI research and talent, and we followed-up by launching phase two of the AI strategy in 2022, which provided more than $440 million to support AI research, compute power, and commercialization. This work is paying dividends: today, Montreal has the highest concentration of researchers and students of deep learning, and Toronto-Waterloo has the highest concentration of AI start-ups anywhere in the world. We have a strong foundation of talent and institutions to position Canada for success in a AI-enabled world.

In 2020, Canada, in partnership with France, co-founded the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence. Our world-leading Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence plays a key role in advising our government on the best ways to build our national strengths and global leadership in AI, identifying opportunities for economic growth that benefit all Canadians, and ensuring that AI advancements reflect Canadian values. Canada has also been a leading contributor to international frameworks, including through the G7 Hiroshima AI process and the Bletchley Park Declaration, which I was proud to sign this last November at the world’s first global summit on AI safety.

With that said, we know that powerful AI systems, if not properly safeguarded, pose risks to individuals and society. We must be wary of discrimination – particularly for high impact systems that could decide whether we get a loan, or prioritize patients waiting for healthcare. We also know that complex algorithms determine what information we see online, but we do not always know how those decisions are made, or to whose benefit. So what do we do with a technology as powerful as AI? How do we move from fear and uncertainty to opportunity and abundance?

In 2022, I put forward a new legislation, the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act, to address these concerns. Once AIDA becomes law, the industry would have clear guardrails to help maximize the benefits and minimize potential harms. AIDA sets a solid foundation for regulating the development and operation of AI systems with significant impacts on health, safety or human rights. It sets clear boundaries around unacceptable conduct, while creating space for research and innovation that will lead to tomorrow’s exciting products and services.

Now, while some may have criticized the Act for not addressing every potential impact that AI may have on our society and some have expressed concerns about over-regulation, let me be clear: I am confident that this is the right Bill, at the right time. The Act is designed to be adaptable to future innovations in AI, to allow us to address future risks. AIDA is a stepping stone of our government’s overall approach to responsible AI. We’ll always be at the ready to do more to addressing this fast changing industry. We are currently consulting with Canadians on how to address potential risks to creators as a result of AI, in particular with respect to copyright. And the Treasury Board continues to refresh its direction to the Government of Canada’s public servants to ensure that AI deployed in a government context is safe, and aligned with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

AI regulation is also gaining momentum internationally, as many other countries are now following Canada’s example in proposing regulatory approaches to responsible AI. The Biden administration’s recent Executive Order directs multiple United States government agencies to urgently develop new AI rules and standards. Earlier this month, the United Kingdom hosted an AI Safety Summit, where I met with AI leaders and government representative from around the world to discuss how we would work together at a global scale to ensure safe and responsible AI development. I am proud to say that Canada has been a leading contributor to international frameworks on AI, including through the G7 Hiroshima AI process. As the European Union’s AI Act continues its own path, it is crucial that we accelerate our own legislative efforts to secure interoperability with our international partners and so that Canadian values continue to inform international deliberations.

We’re not standing idly by until AIDA comes into force to take action on responsible AI. We recently developed a Voluntary Code of Conduct on the Responsible Development and Management of Advanced Generative AI Systems that is designed to help firms mitigate the risks of generative AI now, and provide a bridge to the regulations that will follow under AIDA. To date, more than 20 leading Canadian, and international organizations, have signed-on to this code, and I know that others will follow their lead.

We are at an inflection point in AI and my goal is to ensure that Canada can seize the moment and be ambitious. To do that, we must act now to guide the responsible development and use of this technology in our society, including by passing AIDA. If we miss this chance to build trust in AI, we risk not being able to adopt and capture the full benefits of AI that could yield better healthcare, greater energy efficiency, and more reliable supply chains. A clear and responsible framework built on safety, transparency, and fairness will ensure Canada remains a global AI leader for generations to come.

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