AI Futures
Policy Labs

In partnership with the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E), this project has been designed to help emerging policy leaders across Canada understand and respond to the opportunities and challenges that accompany the rapid development of artificial intelligence.


We partnered with BII+E to develop and host a series of AI Futures Policy Labs with the aim of helping emerging policy leaders in Canada’s public, private, academic, and not-for-profit sectors prepare for the opportunities and challenges that accompany the rapid development of artificial intelligence.


While breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, like prediction, natural language processing, and pattern and image recognition, offer promising opportunities in the form of better services, they also pose challenges in areas such as fairness, privacy, and safety. There is an increasing need to build capacity within the public policy field to ensure AI technologies are developed, implemented, and governed in ways that align with public interest objectives.

In January 2018, CIFAR and BII+E formed a partnership to design and host five AI Futures Policy Labs across Canada aimed at generating greater awareness of the long-term policy implications of AI among emerging policy leaders, both within and outside of the civil service. This series is supported through the Government of Canada’s $125 million Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy under the leadership of CIFAR.

The AI Futures Policy Lab series builds on CIFAR’s work connecting our research programs to global thought leaders outside of academia. Through these knowledge mobilization activities we enrich research and stimulate new social, economic and technical innovations. We believe that targeted and customized engagements between researchers and priority sectors have the most long-term – and potentially transformative – impact.

Our Process

This partnership leverages the intellectual expertise of both CIFAR and BII+E in the design and delivery of this lab series in a number of ways. CIFAR has a long history of supporting Canadian AI R&D and currently engage in research related to the social, ethical and legal aspects of artificial intelligence through its AI & Society program. CIFAR also has an extensive network of fellows that provide expert insight into the rapidly expanding field of AI.

Similarly, BII+E’s AI + Society work stream seeks to understand the impacts of Artificial Intelligence (AI), demystify core AI capabilities and identify new ways of using advances in AI to improve government and promote public interest. To achieve these aims, BII+E brings its experience in public engagements and in-house research capacity to develop relevant content, facilitate the participation of stakeholders, and then disseminate knowledge generated throughout the labs.

CIFAR and BII+E have collaboratively designed each lab to:

  • Provide emerging policy innovators with a direct line of sight into the AI sector, including the existing myths and hype, current capabilities, as well as present-day and potential applications. A mixture of presentations and discussions with prominent AI researchers and practitioners provide participants with the opportunity to learn common terminology, as well as current techniques and applications.
  • Increase the capacity of future leaders to understand the cross-cutting policy implications of AI. Facilitated discussions on curated scenarios encourage participants to ask critical questions surrounding the benefits and risks of current and potential AI capabilities and applications.
  • Facilitate early thinking on potential government responses to emerging AI applications. Lab activities have been designed to raise awareness of the types of interventions policy makers can utilize to mitigate the risks and encourage beneficial development and use of AI technologies.

The AI Futures Policy Labs series bring together individuals with a range of expertise in public policy, AI R&D, community engagement, and Indigenous studies.

Conclusion and Final Report

The AI Futures Policy Labs engaged more than 125 policymakers in five different Canadian cities, including Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montréal.

CIFAR and BII+E published the recommendations and findings collected over the course of the Labs in a final report, Exploring the Future of AI Policy in Canada. The report shares recommendations made by the Labs’ participants and addresses themes clustered in the following areas:

  • Addressing the future of work
  • AI anti-trust mechanism
  • Consumer protection
  • Data governance
  • Public education
  • Consultation
  • Encouraging responsible innovation, and
  • AI regulation and legislation.

You can read the summary reports published from  city:

Host Organisations

  • ATB Financial
  • Microsoft
  • Element AI