At the G7 Digital Ministers gathering in Paris yesterday Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains announced the launch of the Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence. The 15-member council will advise the federal government on “how best to build on Canada’s AI strengths, identify opportunities to create economic growth that benefits all Canadians and ensure that AI advancements reflect Canadian values.”
Turing Award Recipient Yoshua Bengio will co-chair the council with Chief Science Officer for the Royal Bank of Canada Foteini Agrafioti. They will be joined by respected Canadian scientific experts and entrepreneurs, including another Turing Award Recipient, Dr. Geoffrey Hinton, and University of Alberta Professor Richard Sutton.
Canada is a hot spot for AI experts and talented Canadian and international students alike, and has produced fundamental research breakthroughs in deep learning over the past 20 years. The Canadian government wants to make the nation of 37 million a world leader for AI research and development. In 2017 it launched the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence strategy with an investment of CDN$125 million. Last December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an investment of up to nearly CDN$230 million for the AI-Powered Supply Chains Supercluster (SCALE.AI) based in Quebec.
Canada now has more than 800 AI companies and the number of Canadian AI startups is growing by approximately 28 percent year over year. AI job opportunities in Canada increased fivefold from 2015 to 2017. In 2018 over CDN$548 million in venture capital was invested in Canadian AI companies, an increase of approximately 50 percent from 2017.
The advisory council is expected to play a key role in leveraging AI to create jobs and boost economic growth. Bains says the new council “will help us capitalize on Canada’s leadership in AI in ways that upholds Canadian values of inclusiveness and diversity so that all Canadians can participate in and benefit from the digital economy.”
Council initiatives include:
- Informing the Government on Canada’s development of AI-related policy
- Establishing a working group on commercializing value from Canadian-owned AI and data analytics
- Building on the work started by the Digital Industries Economic Strategy Table
- Advising on how to advance the goals laid out in the Canada-France Statement on Artificial Intelligence
- Raising the government’s international engagement
The Montreal Institute of Learning Algorithms (MILA), incubator Element AI, and the Vector Institute are leading Canada’s push in AI. The tech’s development has however also triggered some local concerns on job replacement, model biases, and privacy and ethical questions. Last month the Toronto-based Canadian Civil Liberties Association filed a lawsuit in an attempt to thwart Google sister company Sidewalk Labs’ smart city tech development on the Toronto waterfront, with the nonprofit’s general counsel MJ Bryant complaining “Canada is not Google’s lab rat.”
Canada’s Minister of Digital Government Joyce Murray sounded a more optimistic note regarding AI’s promise and potential in the country: “Artificial intelligence has enormous potential to help us design the responsive digital services that Canadians demand, but it must be used ethically and responsibly. The Advisory Council on Artificial intelligence will give us essential expertise from across industry, academia and government to make sure we use AI in a way that is transparent, deliberate and accountable.”
The other members of the new Advisory Council are:
- Pierre Boivin, President and CEO, Claridge
- Natalie Cartwright, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Finn AI
- Marc-Antoine Dilhac, Canada Research Chair in Public Ethics and Political Theory, Université de Montréal
- Eli Fathi, Co-Founder and CEO, MindBridge Analytics Inc.
- Geoffrey Hinton, Chief Scientific Advisor, Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence
- Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology, University of Ottawa
- Jordan Kyriakidis, Co-Founder and CEO, QRA Corp.
- AJung Moon, Director, Open Roboethics Institute
- Mona Nemer, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor
- Teresa Scassa, Canada Research Chair in Information Law and Policy, University of Ottawa
- Elissa Strome, Executive Director of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
- Richard Sutton, Chief Science Advisor, Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute
- Geneviève Tanguay, Vice President of Emerging Technologies, National Research Council Canada
Journalist: Tony Peng | Editor: Michael Sarazen