Objective: The purpose of this outreach is to solicit views to support Canada’s participation in treaty negotiations on artificial intelligence (AI) in the Council of Europe (CoE).

Background on Negotiations: Last year, the CoE launched international negotiations for a new treaty on AI, human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The purpose of the treaty is to address potential harms and other risks from the design, development and use of AI. The treaty could set out rights, obligations and principles to ensure that the design, development and use of AI systems respects human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The treaty may be complemented by other binding or non-binding instruments, such as sectoral instruments or a methodology to support the identification, assessment, and mitigation of risk. Once concluded, this treaty could be the first international convention on the regulation of AI and the first legally binding international instrument on AI and human rights. 

Overview of the Treaty: While the treaty is meant to set out minimum standards, it is also expected to break new ground. The treaty, for example, could include rights, obligations, and principles that may go beyond existing legal and regulatory frameworks in many countries. The treaty would set out measures tailored specifically to AI, with flexibility on implementation, in certain respects, left to the Parties. It would include fundamental principles grounded in respect for human dignity and human rights. It could also include obligations pertaining specifically to implementation, including the establishment or designation of supervisory authorities; provisions relating to remedies and rights, including new AI-specific rights; and elements related to mitigating risks to democracy and the rule of law. 

Canada’s Participation: Canada is not a member of the CoE, but it participates in the organization as an Observer State. Canada had been invited to participate in the negotiations, along with other Observer States. Participating in the negotiations provides Canada with an opportunity to help shape the treaty to reflect Canadian interests and values. It also affords an opportunity to influence the treaty to align with Canadian objectives on AI in the context of potential risks to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Canada’s participation is co-led by Global Affairs Canada and the Department of Justice, with strong support by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (“Core Departments”).

Timeline for the Negotiations: Canada formally joined the negotiations in February 2023. It will continue to participate, with other negotiating States, over the course of this year. While the initial goal to complete the treaty had been set for November 2023, given the pace of negotiations and complexity of the issues being addressed the negotiations are expected to extend into 2024. Negotiating States retain the ability to provide input on any part of the draft treaty at any point in time as negotiations are taking place on a rolling basis. The CoE has also proposed to develop a methodology for the assessment of AI-related risks. The methodology would be set out in a separate non-binding instrument intended to support the treaty’s provisions on risk. Canada intends to participate in the elaboration of the methodology.

In developing Canada’s negotiating positions, the Core Departments representing Canada in these negotiations wish to solicit the views of Canadian experts and stakeholders with an interest and expertise in AI and human rights. To this end, they have prepared a series of questions based on a draft of the treaty known as the “Consolidated Working Draft”. This is the most recent draft of the treaty, as prepared by the CoE Secretariat and the Chair of the CoE’s Committee on Artificial Intelligence and published on July 7, 2023. This draft has been provided by the CoE to serve as the basis for further negotiations. It does not yet reflect the final outcome of the negotiations, which are expected to conclude in early 2024.
The following questions are intended to guide your input and may be supplemented with further discussions over the coming months.

In order to enable input from the greatest number of stakeholders to be effectively considered, we would encourage you to answer the following questions via the following Simple Survey. The survey will remain open until September 15, 2023. Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us by e-mail at: If you prefer, however, you may share your views with us by emailing your comments to us instead.
In order to keep track of responses, we will be asking you to provide your name, the name of the organization you represent, and your title within this organization, prior to commencing the survey. If you consent to having this information published in association with your comments, please indicate this in your response. However, we ask that you please do not otherwise share any information that could identify you, a colleague, or personal experiences within your answers to the survey questions that follow.