The governments of Canada and Quebec and the international community join forces to advance the responsible development of artificial intelligence
June 15, 2020 – Ottawa, Ontario, and Québec, Quebec
The evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) represents one of the greatest technological transformations of our age. AI is radically changing the way people live, work and play. International and multistakeholder collaboration are critical to the responsible use and development of AI based on shared values such as human rights, diversity, inclusion, innovation, and economic growth for all.
In this spirit, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, along with representatives of the 14 other founding members of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI), today announced the official launch of this initiative.
In the wake of this international launch, the Government of Canada is also joining with the Government of Quebec to advance the responsible development of AI. Minister Bains, along with Nadine Girault, Quebec's Minister of International Relations and La Francophonie, announced the opening of the International Centre of Expertise in Montréal for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (ICEMAI) as well as the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) under GPAI.
GPAI will facilitate international and multistakeholder collaboration by bringing together experts from industry, civil society, governments, and academia. It will conduct activities across four themes, including two supported by the Montréal Centre of Expertise: Responsible AI and Data Governance. A corresponding Centre of Excellence in Paris will support the other two themes: Future of Work and Innovation & Commercialization. In light of the current pandemic, GPAI will also investigate how AI can be leveraged to respond to and recover from COVID-19.
Several Canadian experts will contribute to the cutting-edge research and activities of GPAI's Working Groups on these themes, including Yoshua Bengio, Founder and Scientific Director of the Mila research institute in artificial intelligence, who will co-chair the Working Group on Responsible AI.
International Centre of Expertise in Montréal for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence
The ICEMAI, whose creation is being led by Montréal International, will be one of GPAI's two international Centres of Expertise, along with the Paris Centre of Expertise. The Centres will work closely with the GPAI Secretariat, which will be hosted at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In addition to its thematic work, the ICEMAI will also plan the first annual GPAI Multistakeholder Experts Group Plenary, to be held in Montréal in December 2020.
The ICEMAI will work with the Government of Canada's Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence, Forum IA Québec, and the International Observatory on the Societal Impacts of Artificial Intelligence and Digital Technologies, as well as with experts from Quebec, Canada, and around the world to strengthen innovation and the commercialization of AI technologies.
Signing of a memorandum of understanding on GPAI
Ministers Bains and Girault also made public a MOU between the governments of Canada and Quebec on GPAI. Modelled on the Canada-Quebec Agreement on UNESCO, the MOU is the result of excellent cooperation between the two governments. It will enable Quebec to highlight the important role of its AI ecosystem, specifically in the area of responsible development of AI, and to take its place internationally as an essential partner and subject-matter expert. As an active participant in Canada's activities in GPAI, Quebec will be able to advance its scientific perspectives and recommend experts to GPAI's Working Groups.
The MOU will also allow Quebec to participate in GPAI-related activities. The governments of Canada and Quebec will continue to involve and closely collaborate with other provincial and territorial governments to ensure Canada's work draws from the strong expertise in AI found from coast to coast.
Beginning in 2018, the governments of Canada and Quebec recognized the importance of these international developments. In March 2018, the Government of Quebec announced a $5-million grant to set up an international AI organization in Montréal or attract one to the city. The federal government had previously committed to investing up to $10 million over five years to support the Montréal Centre of Expertise and GPAI. The total amount of the investment will be up to $15 million over five years.
"In launching GPAI, the Government of Canada recognizes the need for the responsible development of AI. This builds on our Government's Pan-Canadian AI strategy to advance AI research and promote collaboration. Our partnership with Quebec in this area will help us ensure that AI benefits Canadians in an equitable and socially responsible way. By connecting the work of GPAI with the technological innovations of Montréal's AI sector and by establishing partnerships with the provinces and territories, we will produce useful research and expertise for governments around the world."
— The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
"Quebec, and particularly the Montréal metropolitan area, is world-renowned in artificial intelligence research. The large university community, distinguished researchers, innovative companies, and numerous public and private investments in this rapidly growing ecosystem make it a trusted and recognized leader. The recent signing of the memorandum of understanding between the governments of Quebec and Canada sets out Quebec's role within the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence and demonstrates Quebec's indisputable leadership in the responsible development of AI. The Government of Quebec, working with the federal government and GPAI member states, will actively contribute to the advancement of AI to benefit humanity. Today, I am pleased to announce the opening of the International Centre of Expertise in Montréal for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, which will play a key role in GPAI."
— Nadine Girault, Minister of International Relations and La Francophonie
In March 2018, Quebec announced a $5-million grant to support the creation of an international artificial intelligence organization in Montréal or to attract one to the city.
Canada and France, along with a number of international partners, have been working together since June 2018, including through Canada and France's G7 presidencies, to develop and launch GPAI.
GPAI is an excellent example of Canada's leadership and its commitment to multilateral cooperation, consistent with Canada's pillar of "strengthening multilateralism" in its platform for the United Nations Security Council.
GPAI brings together countries and experts across disciplines and from various stakeholder groups, including industry, civil society, governments, and academia. GPAI will support the development and use of AI based on human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth, while seeking to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The two Centres of Expertise will support the thematic work of GPAI discussed at the 2019 G7 Leaders' Summit and endorsed in the 2020 G7 Science and Technology Ministers' Declaration on COVID-19.
Canada has a thriving AI ecosystem composed of more than 850 start-up companies, 20 public research labs, 75 incubators and accelerators, and 60 groups of investors from across the country, grouped in major hubs such as Montréal, Toronto, Waterloo, Edmonton, and Vancouver.
Canada's AI ecosystem is attracting increased investment in start-ups, incubators, and research institutes. The Montréal Centre of Expertise will also benefit from significant investments in AI in Canada and Quebec. In addition to receiving more than $900 million in foreign direct investment since 2017, the Montréal AI ecosystem has benefited from nearly $1 billion in public funds, both from federal and Quebec initiatives. Of this funding, $40 million comes from the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, while $230 million comes from the Innovation Superclusters Initiative that gave rise to the Montréal SCALE.AI Supercluster, which is focused on supply chains and SMEs. Over the next 10 years, these investments are expected to contribute $16.5 billion to Canada's GDP and help create over 16,000 jobs.
GPAI (formerly the International Panel on Artificial Intelligence) was discussed in December 2018 at the G7 Multistakeholder Conference on Artificial Intelligence, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister Bains and Mounir Mahjoubi, France's former Minister of State for the Digital Sector, announced its mandate. In May 2019, GPAI's organizational structure was made public at the end of the informal meeting of G7 digital ministers.
The creation of GPAI is a key element of the Canada-France Statement on Artificial Intelligence and is in line with the roadmap adopted by the Premier of Quebec and the Prime Minister of France at their 20th Alternating Meeting.
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