Third Review of the Directive on Automated Decision-Making
About the Third Review
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) is completing the third review of the Directive on Automated Decision-Making. The review takes stock of the current state of the directive and identifies risks and challenges to the government’s commitment to responsible artificial intelligence (AI) in the federal public service. It provides an analysis of gaps that may limit the directive’s relevance and effectiveness in supporting transparency, accountability, and fairness in automated decision-making. The review also highlights problems with terminology, feasibility, and coherence with other federal policy instruments.
Periodic reviews are not intended to be exhaustive. They seek to adapt the directive to trends in the regulation and use of AI technologies in Canada and globally. Reviews also allow TBS to gradually refine the text of the instrument to support interpretation and facilitate compliance across government. The first review (2020-21) sought to clarify and reinforce existing requirements, update policy references, and strengthen transparency and quality assurance measures. The second review (2021-22) informed the development of guidelines supporting the interpretation of the directive.
As part of the third review, TBS is proposing 12 policy recommendations and accompanying amendments to the directive:
- Expand the scope to cover internal services.
- Clarify that the scope includes systems which make assessments related to administrative decisions.
- Replace the 6-month review interval with a biennial review and enable the Chief Information Officer of Canada to request off-cycle reviews.
- Replace references to Canadians with more encompassing language such as clients and Canadian society.
- Introduce measures supporting the tracing, protection, and lawful handling of data used and generated by a system.
- Expand the bias testing requirement to cover models.
- Mandate the completion of Gender Based Analysis Plus during the development or modification of a system.
- Establish explanation criteria in support of the explanation requirement and integrate them into the Algorithmic Impact Assessment (AIA).
- Expand the AIA to include questions concerning an institution's reasons for pursuing automation and potential impacts on persons with disabilities.
- Mandate the publication of a complete or summarized peer review prior to system production.
- Align the contingency requirement with relevant terminology established in Treasury Board security policy.
- Mandate the release of an AIA prior to the production of a system and ensure it is reviewed on a scheduled basis.
The recommendations would reinforce transparency and accountability; strengthen protections against discrimination and harm; ensure that automated decisions impacting the rights or interests of individuals – including federal public servants – are fair and inclusive; clarify requirements; and support operational needs.
TBS has engaged with a broad range of stakeholders during the third review, including in federal institutions, academia, civil society, governments in other jurisdictions, and international organizations. The goal of stakeholder engagement is to validate the policy recommendations and provisional amendments proposed in the review and identify additional issues that merit consideration as part of this exercise or in future reviews.
TBS divided stakeholder engagement into two phases. The second phase ran between September and November 2022. It involved outreach to federal AI policy and data communities; agents of parliament; bargaining agents; industry representatives; and international organizations. The first phase ran between April and July 2022, and mainly drew on the expertise of federal partners operating automation projects and subject matter experts in academia, civil society, and counterparts in other governments. The What We Heard Reports linked below provide a summary of engagement themes and outcomes.
- Spring 2023 - Compilation of final amendments and rationales (forthcoming)
- Spring 2023 - One-page overview of final policy recommendations (forthcoming)
- Winter 2023 - What We Heard Report (phase 2 of stakeholder engagement)
- Fall 2022 - Phase 2 consultation: key issues, policy recommendations, and provisional amendments
- Summer 2022 - What We Heard Report (phase 1 of stakeholder engagement)
- Spring 2022 - Phase 1 consultation: key issues, policy recommendations, and provisional amendments
- Spring 2022 - Report on the 3rd review of the Directive on Automated Decision-Making (phase 1)
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