Stepping up to the plate: Is Canada ready for what’s coming in AI?


March 29, 2024 1:00 pm EDT - March 29, 2024 8:00 pm EDT

Join us to discuss the opportunities and risks of AI technologies with leading experts across industry, academia, civil society, and policy.

Around the world, governments are competing to get the most out of AI technologies to improve the delivery of services and improve private sector productivity. Balancing the opportunities and risks in AI technologies will be one of the most important public policy questions this decade.

Please join the Internet Society – Canada Chapter and leading Canadian and international experts from across industry, academia, civil society, and policy to discuss these topics.

WHEN: Wednesday, March 29, 2023 – 1:30 pm onward followed by a cocktail reception

WHERE: Rideau Club, 99 Bank Street, Ottawa, ON, K1P 6B9




1:30 – 1:40 pm Opening remarks from Franca Palazzo, Executive Director, Internet Society – Canada Chapter  


1:40 – 2:40 pm PANEL I – Crossing the ‘Valley of Death’ in AI R&D policy: how can Canada harness its strengths in fundamental AI research to realize greater economic growth and higher productivity?

A stark assessment last year by the OECD projects Canada to be the weakest performing economy out of 38 advanced countries over the next forty years, with labour productivity cited as the principal driver.

Artificial Intelligence offers an opportunity to overturn this trend: a recent MIT study of current AI technologies suggested that broadening AI adoption in R&D activities alone could double long-term productivity growth trends.

As a long-time leader and investor in fundamental AI research, Canada has a strong foundation to seize this opportunity. However, while it commonly ranks in the global top 5 on research influence, Canada still lags on the average in IBM’s Global AI Adoption Index, as countries around the world have developed strategies to pursue AI adoption much more aggressively.

This panel will discuss how Canada can close this gap, as we explore:

  • Canada’s track record to date on AI adoption and current barriers;
  • Strategic opportunities in specific sectors;
  • The industrial policy levers they can turn to in order to advance their AI adoption performance;
  • The role of different actors in the ecosystem.


  • Mark Hazelden, Senior Director, Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Sara El-Hanfy, Head of AI & Machine Learning, Innovate UK
  • Robert Asselin, Business Council of Canada

Moderated by: Nicole Foster, Director of AWS Global AI/ML and Canada Public Policy, AWS 


2:50 – 3:45 pm PANEL II – Stepping up to the plate: are Canada’s government institutions ready for what’s coming in AI?

As many governments have moved from principles to practice, and the use cases for AI technologies have become more widely understood, the value of technical understanding and policy capacity within government has never been more important.

Around the world, governments are adopting AI technologies to improve their healthcare systems, city transport networks, delivery of education, and more. The practical understanding derived from deploying these technologies within their own institutions is helping infuse their regulatory approach with a more informed approach. And it is also providing a practical platform for meaningful international cooperation, whether that is the UK-US collaboration on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, or the EU-Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement.

Nations including the U.S and UK, through to Singapore and Denmark, are investing in building institutional policy capacity to help shape these opportunities in adoption, smart governance, and international partnerships. In the UK for example, institutions such as the Office for AI, Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, and the Alan Turing Institute are providing the strategic and technical guidance to help shape the government’s approach. 

This panel will take stock of Canada’s current institutional capacity within a global context, and ask what we can learn about optimizing institutional capacity for:

  • identifying adoption opportunities within the public sector and pursuing them through to deployment;
  • developing a smart regulatory approach that provides clarity in practicable and actionable terms for Canada’s AI industry; and
  • landing international partnerships that can help give Canadian AI researchers access to scale.


  • Kevin Allison, Vice-President, Albright-Stonebridge Group 
  • Anne Marie Engtoft Larsen, Denmark’s Tech Ambassador 
  • Senator Colin Deacon, Senate of Canada (Nova Scotia)

Moderated by: Brent Arnold, Internet Society – Canada Chapter & Gowling WLG 


3:50 – 4:45 pm PANEL III – AI regulation: how do we control risks while opening markets, and spur adoption for low and medium risk AI? 

Since the EU AI Act was published 2 years ago, governments around the world have responded with their own approaches to AI governance. The response illustrates the range of choices to be made, with many governments’ strategies acknowledging the complexity of regulating a fast-moving general-purpose technology in their approach. For example, the U.S, UK, and Israel have opted for a vertically-orientated approach, working across their regulatory agencies to shape their response based on the context of AI’s use, and adapt existing sectoral regulation where required.

Businesses are seeking to navigate this emerging landscape and consider how they should invest to meet governments’ expectations. Controlling the risk while opening markets is hard and the stakes are high: a recent survey of European AI startups on the impact of the EU AI Act suggests that 16% are considering relocating or stopping their development of AI. Furthermore, as the landscape becomes increasingly complex, the interoperability of the requirements that startups must meet in order to scale their responsible AI practice is becoming increasingly salient, with standards set to play a key role. 

While the Canadian Parliament has introduced comprehensive AI legislation in the form of the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act, much is left to be defined: clarity is needed on what systems will be subject to regulation, who will be responsible for compliance, or how compliance will be assessed. 

This panel will explore:

  • the parts of Canada’s AI Act where further clarity is needed, and the implications of different options;
  • whether Canada’s reputation for AI research can be further leveraged both internationally and to support the development of Canada’s own governance approach;
  • the importance of global interoperability to Canada’s AI industry, and potential pathways to securing this.


  • Cameron Kerry, Brookings Institute
  • Ashley Casovan, Executive Director, Responsible AI Institute
  • Robert Atkinson, ITIF

Moderated by: Marc-Etienne Ouimette, Global Lead, AI Policy, AWS