Ottawa will prevent AI tools from discriminating against potential hires, Anand says

The Canadian federal government, led by Treasury Board President Anita Anand, is committed to preventing artificial intelligence (AI) from contributing to discrimination in the hiring process for federal government departments. Anand addressed concerns about AI tools in hiring during a recent year-end interview with CBC News, emphasizing the need for privacy protection and non-discriminatory hiring practices.

Government departments have already begun integrating AI tools into their hiring processes. The Department of National Defence, for instance, mentioned its use of Knockri, an AI-driven skills assessment tool, in pre-recorded job interviews to mitigate bias and enhance equity in recruitment. Knockri employs machine learning to analyze speech-to-text content and compare it against performance indicators.

Anand, a racialized woman, underscored the importance of ensuring that AI in the workplace complies with existing laws and stands the moral test of being non-discriminatory. In response to concerns about technology purchases by government departments, she clarified that tools for extracting data from devices were used only in specific cases where an investigation or suspicion of wrongdoing existed, not as a routine practice.

The federal government, under Anand’s leadership, introduced guidelines in September for public servants using generative AI tools like ChatGPT, with a focus on monitoring AI usage to prevent bias and discrimination. Anand acknowledged the recent incident where Global Affairs used an AI-generated image on social media to represent an Inuit woman, expressing that department could have benefited from tools like the Algorithmic Impact Assessment (AIA) process and AI guidelines developed by the Treasury Board.

Looking ahead, Anand aims to address regulatory gaps in Canada concerning the long-term use of AI. She emphasized the transformative nature of AI and the need to evaluate existing regulations, especially with the emergence of autonomous technologies like vehicles. The government’s focus remains on fostering responsible AI use, respecting privacy, and promoting equality in hiring practices.

Sumann Senguptaa

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