Canada to host multistakeholder conference on AI in Montreal

Canada will host a G7 multistakeholder conference on artificial intelligence on December 6, the government has announced.

The conference is an outcome of the G7 Ministerial Meeting on Preparing for Jobs of the Future that the government hosted here in March, and it will be one of the last events under Canada’s G7 Presidency.

The conference will be held in Montreal during the week of the annual Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) conference, the biggest machine-learning and AI conference in the world.

“Artificial Intelligence is a key part of our government’s economic growth strategy,” Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said in a statement. “It presents new opportunities to generate prosperity for Canadian families through new and innovative high-quality jobs. The G7 conference in December will help us focus on the responsible adoption of AI and explore business opportunities related to AI.”

No agenda for the meeting was announced. However, at the G7 meeting in Charlevoix, Quebec in March the ministers agreed the multistakeholder conference — including academics, civil society, industry and governments — would discuss “how to harness the positive transformational potential of AI to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth.”

“AI and machine learning are technologies that will disrupt how problems are being solved across industries and Canada has been at the forefront of that research from the beginning,” Mark Cassetta, senior vice-president of product management and strategy at Ottawa-based data protection software maker Titus Inc. said in a statement to ITWC. “As a country our strength in innovation is being able to take disruptive technologies and use them to solve big problems – we are seeing this happen nationally and even locally in Ottawa.”  Titus, he added, is starting to incorporate machine learning into its solutions.”

For years Canadian academics have been among the leaders in machine learning and artificial intelligence research, which is reflected in the increasing number of businesses that are now turning their attention to exploiting the potential. The government says this country is home to over 500 AI companies, including major global players like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Samsung who have set up AI divisions here.

Daniel Silver, professor of computer science at Acadia University former president of the Canadian Artificial Intelligence Association told ITWC that Canada hosting this type of global event is, “another feather in our cap.” He says he’s been impressed by how the federal government has addressed the booming industry, noting how more than two years ago the Senate initiated a study on artificial intelligence and its impact on healthcare.

“[AI] grew up quickly and snuck-up on us,” said Silver, but he believes that from the federal to municipal levels of government there seems to be an understanding of the important impact AI is going to have or is already having on society and the economy. He emphasis the importance now of taking a leading role in creating policies and educating the general public and youth about how these computing systems work and the impact they can have in terms of privacy issues.

“The development of artificial intelligence and the use of big data is a defining issue of our time,” Keith Jansa VP of standards and innovation for the CIO Strategy Council told ITWC, “It will impact the way Canadians work, live and interact with each other on a significant scale that reaches beyond our borders.” He believes a common framework and standards for the ethical use of AI and data is going to be critical moving forward. He noted that the council is looking forward to engaging with the government on these issues and will review the outcomes from the G7 conference.

Bains said the government is trying to show leadership to keep Canada at the forefront of AI through several initiatives, including setting aside $125 million for the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy ($125 million) to help retain and attract top AI talent and companies that use AI; launching the SCALE.AI supercluster as part of a $950 million Innovation Superclusters Initiative; and supporting AI research at Toronto’s Vector Institute, Edmonton’s Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute and the Montréal Institute for Learning Algorithms through the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

Earlier this year, Canada and France issued a Statement on Artificial Intelligence that reaffirmed their wish to promote a vision of human-centric artificial intelligence grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation and economic growth.

In their statement earlier this year the G7 ministers said increasing trust in and adoption of AI are necessary ingredients for economic growth. The statement also said G7 members want to promote safe and reliable AI applications, consider its impact on privacy and data protection, include mechanisms to ensure the accountability of AI systems, and try to prevent the misuse of AI applications that could cause harm.

With added files from Meagan Simpson

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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