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Cultivating human rights knowledge and change

As a centre for human rights knowledge, a large part of the Commission’s work each year is to provide and support a range of human rights research, guidance and knowledge. This work is far-reaching. It helps inform important discussions within Canadian society, within Canadian academia, at the international table, and in a parliamentary committee. This year, we focussed our knowledge work on several key issues, with artificial intelligence being key among them.

Human rights and artificial intelligence

In the fall of 2022, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics released their report, “Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) and the Growing Power of Artificial Intelligence.” It is a comprehensive report consisting of in-depth analysis and 19 recommendations. Overall, the Committee's study confirmed that Canada's current legislative framework does not adequately regulate FRT and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI). They confirmed that without the right legislative framework in place, a national pause should be put on the use of FRT in policing.

Earlier in 2022, the Commission made a submission to the Committee to offer our knowledge and insights to that report. We looked closely at the various human rights implications of this emerging issue, with a focus on the use of FRT in policing. We raised concerns that the over-surveillance of Black and Indigenous communities would be exacerbated through the use of FRT which itself is often biased against people of colour. We are encouraged by how the report and its recommendations are well aligned with our human rights perspective on the use of FRT and AI in the policing sector. We welcomed one recommendation in particular that calls for an update to the Canadian Human Rights Act to ensure that the CHRA protects people in Canada from discrimination caused by the use of facial recognition technology and other artificial intelligence technologies.

We welcome steps such as the government response, and debate on Bill C-27, which proposes a new Artificial Intelligence and Data Act, and a new Artificial Intelligence and Data Commissioner. It also proposes the regulation of AI systems that may cause serious harms, including those stemming from bias or discrimination. It is our hope that government actions and new legislation will integrate human rights perspectives and lead to legal and policy changes that will better protect human rights and privacy rights.