CIFAR Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy

Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy


CIFAR is leading the Government of Canada’s $125 million CIFAR Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, working in partnership with three newly established AI institutes – the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) in Edmonton, Mila in Montreal and the Vector Institute in Toronto.

Announced in the 2017 federal budget, the Strategy has four major goals:

  • To increase the number of outstanding artificial intelligence researchers and skilled graduates in Canada.
  •  To establish interconnected nodes of scientific excellence in Canada’s three major centres for artificial intelligence in Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto.
  • To develop global thought leadership on the economic, ethical, policy and legal implications of advances in artificial intelligence.
  • To support a national research community on artificial intelligence.

    CIFAR’s leadership of the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy is funded by the Government of Canada, Facebook and the RBC Foundation.

CIFAR is supporting equity, diversity and inclusion in AI through research and training

As part of the the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, CIFAR is working with researchers, organizations and leaders across the country to support research training programs that advance equity, diversity and inclusion in AI at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.  Some of the national activities that CIFAR is supporting this summer to help train the next generation of AI researchers include:


AI For Good Summer Lab

The AI For Good Summer Lab, led by the Osmo Foundation, aims to promote inclusive tech culture by empowering women in AI. The seven-week program targets undergraduate women enrolled in STEM programs and provides them with innovative approaches to teaching and learning AI. The AI4Good Summer Lab is taking place May 8 to June 21, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec.


Invent the Future: AI Scholars Program

Simon Fraser University's Invent the Future: AI Scholars Program is a two-week summer enrichment program for Grade 10 and 11 girls at Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby campus, sponsored by AI4ALL. Participants will explore the world of AI through team projects, industry field trips and by connecting with mentors and industry experts in supportive yet challenging environments. The program runs from July 15-26, 2019.


CIFAR Amii Deep Learning Reinforcement Learning Summer School

CIFAR Amii Deep Learning Reinforcement Learning Summer School brings together graduate students, post-docs and professionals to cover the foundational research, new developments and real-world applications of deep learning and reinforcement learning. The DLRL Summer School provides 330 graduate and post-graduate trainees from across 20 countries with an opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading researchers. The summer School takes place July 24-Aug. 2, 2019 in Edmonton, Alberta.


Summer Institute on AI and Society

The Summer Institute on AI and Society, co-convened by CIFAR, the AI PULSE Program at UCLA School of Law and Amii, brings together experts, grad students and researchers from multiple backgrounds to explore the societal, political and ethical implications of AI through a combination of lectures, panels and problem-solving activities. The program takes place July 22-24, in Edmonton, Alberta.


Data Science for Social Good

The Data Science for Social Good (DSSG) program at the University of British Columbia is a 14-week full-time summer program designed to provide an interdisciplinary data science research experience for undergraduate students at UBC. Hosted by the Data Science Institute, DSSG Fellows will be divided into teams that will work on research projects submitted by local governments or non-profits. These projects will involve analyzing multiple data sets and have an applied social good component for urban-related topics.  CIFAR is a proud sponsor of DSSG as part of our national program of activities to train the next generation of AI researchers.

AI Illustration

The Canada CIFAR AI Chairs

The Canada CIFAR AI Chairs program is the cornerstone program of the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy. A total of $86.5 million over five years has been earmarked for this program. The goal of the Chairs Program is to recruit and retain in Canada some of the world’s leading researchers in AI and provide them with long-term, dedicated research funding to support their research programs and help them train the next generation of AI leaders. In the first year of the program, CIFAR and the AI Institutes, in partnership with twelve university and hospital partners across the country, have named forty-six Canada CIFAR AI Chairs.

Aaron Courville

Aaron Courville


  • Canada CIFAR AI Chair

AI Institute

  • Mila



Faculty Member, Mila; Associate Professor, Dept. of Computer Science and Operations Research, Université de Montréal; CIFAR Fellow, Program in Learning in Machines and Brains

Deep learning, reinforcement learning, generative adversarial networks, novel generative models

Major Contributions/Awards:

Co-author of the primary textbook in the field, “Deep Learning” (with Goodfellow and Bengio); co-creator of generative adversarial networks; Google Faculty Research Award (2013)



Pan-Canadian AI Announcements and News

Expected Results

Over the next five years, CIFAR will collaborate with the Canadian research community to:

  • enhance Canada’s international profile in AI research and training;
  • increase the productivity in AI academic research and enhanced capacity to generate world-class research and innovation;
  • increase collaboration across geographic areas of excellence in AI research and strengthen relationships with receptors of innovation;
  • attract and retain outstanding AI talent in Canadian universities and industry;
  • and translate AI research discoveries in the private and public sectors leading to socio-economic benefits for Canada.


  • AI Institutes. The strategy funds three centres of excellence in AI research and innovation in Canada’s three major centres for deep learning and reinforcement learning research – in Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto. These three AI Institutes provide a critical mass of research and innovation excellence, and work with researchers, industry and other stakeholders across Canada.
  •  Canada CIFAR AI (CCAI) Chairs Program. As international competition for machine learning researchers intensifies, the Canada CIFAR AI Chairs Program will help Canada retain and recruit top academic researchers and allow them the freedom to carry out research, train students, and interact with industry. The CCAI Chairs Program supports the recruitment and training of young researchers, including both graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. It includes funding for graduate students who will work with the CCAI Chairs, as well as training for students at the three AI Institutes.

    All nominations for CCAI Chairs must be made by the AI Institutes.
    Successful nominees will be leaders in their field of AI research, or in the case of early career researchers, have demonstrated potential to become leaders. The research strengths and expertise of CCAI Chairs must align with the research priorities of the nominating AI Institute. Universities that are interested in exploring a potential nomination for a faculty member should have their Vice-President Research or designate contact Elissa Strome, who will provide the contact information for the appropriate AI Institute.
  • AI & Society Program. Advances in AI will have profound implications for the economy, government and society. The Strategy funds policy-relevant working groups to examine these implications, publish their findings and inform the public and policy-makers.
  • National AI Program. The Strategy includes a program of national activities that build on CIFAR’s success with summer and winter schools in AI, and support activities that are national and collaborative in scope such as an annual meeting of Canada CIFAR AI Chairs. Our National Program activities will ensure that Canada is well-positioned for sustained global leadership in AI research and innovation.

CIFAR's Artificial Intelligence Policy Initiatives

Artificial intelligence (AI) is contributing to many advances that will have a significant impact on public policy in Canada and around the world. CIFAR's AI & Society Program connects researchers, policymakers and practitioners through interdisciplinary workshops and informs early-career civil servants through AI Futures Policy Labs. CIFAR is also contributing to national and international initiatives that are working toward the responsible, ethical and economic stewardship of AI.

Domestic Initiatives

  • AI Advisory Council: Announced on May 14, 2019, the Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence will advise the Government of Canada on building Canada’s strengths and global leadership in AI, identifying opportunities to create economic growth that benefits all Canadians and ensuring that AI advancements reflect Canadians’ values.
  • Canada’s Digital Charter: The Charter lists ten principles that demonstrate how the Government of Canada is working with Canadian companies to ensure the privacy of Canadians is protected and their data kept safe.
  • Standards Council of Canada Canadian Data Governance Standardization Collaborative: The collaborative launched on May 30, 2019 with the mission of building a comprehensive roadmap of needed data governance standards to help industry and citizens benefit from the growing supply of data, as well as manage security and privacy risks.
  • CIO Strategy Council: The Council’s mandate is to provide a forum for Canada’s most forward-thinking Chief Information Officers to focus on collectively transforming, shaping and influencing the Canadian and information technology ecosystem. The Council is leading the development of standards for the use and application of AI-based decision-making systems.

International Initiatives


National  Program Committee

Doina Precup

Prof. Doina Precup (Chair) 
Assoc. Professor of Computer Science, McGill University; CIFAR Fellow; Mila faculty member


Prof. Michael Bowling
Professor of Computing Science, University of Alberta; Amii faculty member


Dr. Myriam Côté
Director AI for humanity, Mila


Dr. Garth Gibson
President and CEO, Vector Institute

Prof. Randy Goebel

Prof. Randy Goebel
Professor of Computing Science, University of Alberta; Amii faculty member


Dr. Roger Grosse
Asst. Professor of Computer Science, University of Toronto; Vector Institute faculty member


Prof. Greg Mori
Professor of Computing Science, Simon Fraser University; Research Director, Borealis AI Vancouver


Valerie Pisano
President and CEO, Mila

Elissa Strome

Dr. Elissa Strome
AVP Research and Executive Director, Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, CIFAR


Prof. Peter Van Beek
Professor of Computer Science, Co-Director Waterloo AI Institute, University of Waterloo

International Scientific Advisory Committee

Elissa Strome

Dr. Elissa Strome 

AVP Research and Executive Director, Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, CIFAR
Shirley Tilghman

Prof. Shirley Tilghman

Chair; President Emerita,
Princeton University;
United States

Dr. Jennifer Chayes
Technical Fellow & Managing Director; Microsoft Research New England,
New York City and Montreal

Yann LaCun

Prof. Yann LeCun
Co-Director, CIFAR Program in Learning in Machines & Brains; Chief AI Scientist, Facebook Professor, New York University, United States

Antoine Petit

Prof. Antoine Petit
Member, CIFAR Research Council; President, National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS),  France

Sebastian Seung

Prof. Sebastian Seung
Advisor, CIFAR Program in Learning in Machines & Brains; Evnin Professor in Neuroscience,
Professor of Computer Science, Princeton Neuroscience Institute; Chief Research Scientist, Samsung
United States
Max Welling

Prof. Max Welling
CIFAR Fellow, Program in Learning in Machines & Brains; Vice-President Technologies, Qualcomm;
Research Chair in Machine Learning University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Upcoming Events