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FAQ: Preliminary Human Rights Impact Assessment

 

  1. What is a preliminary human rights impact assessment (pHRIA)?
  2. Who is on the pHRIA project team?
  3. What are the pHRIA project team credentials?
  4. How do the roles of Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs differ?
  5. What is the methodology for this project?
  6. What is the timeline for this pHRIA?
  7. Who can I contact with questions, concerns, or contributions to the project?
  8. Where will the final report be published?

 

What is a preliminary human rights impact assessment (pHRIA)?

Human rights impact assessments are rooted in the responsibility of businesses to respect human rights throughout their operations. This responsibility is laid out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which were unanimously endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2011. The responsibilities of businesses extend to internationally recognized human rights, understood at a minimum to include the International Bill of Human Rights and the principles concerning fundamental rights set out in the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

Human rights impact assessments may be conducted at various stages of a business’ operations as part of their human rights due diligence processes. Although not required under Canadian legal or regulatory frameworks, Waterfront Toronto has commissioned a preliminary human rights impact assessment (pHRIA) of Sidewalk Labs’ Draft Master Innovation and Development Plan as amended by the resolution of the threshold issues (draft MIDP) for the Quayside site.[1]The assessment is termed preliminary because the draft MIDP has not been approved by the Waterfront Toronto Board of Directors. In this context, a pHRIA assesses potential risks prior to the outset of a business’ proposed operations, and makes recommendations regarding mitigations. As commissioned by Waterfront Toronto, this is a preliminary assessment which may (or may not) be followed by additional human rights-related work should the Quayside project proceed to an implementation stage.

The objectives outlined for this project are to identify and assess potential human rights risks associated with the draft MIDP, as well mitigations to address those risks, and to highlight areas of the draft MIDP that warrant further investigation into the potential adverse impacts on human rights. To do this, the pHRIA project team is reviewing a range of relevant project materials, including feedback received through public consultations while the draft MIDP was being developed as well as Waterfront Toronto’s consultation since its first publication. We will also be seeking meetings with a wide range of stakeholders, local and international subject matter experts, advocates and non-profit organizations with perspectives on relevant human rights-related issues including but not limited to data collection and use, housing, labour, community services, accessibility, Indigenous Peoples, and equity seeking populations.

 

Who is on the pHRIA project team?

Through an open request for proposals, Waterfront Toronto selected a consortium with complementary expertise in human rights impact assessments, artificial intelligence, data governance, and public policy to perform the preliminary human rights impact assessment of the draft MIDP.

This consortium (or pHRIA project team) includes: Element AI, a leading provider of artificial intelligence solutions; Fair/Square Research, experts on human rights impact and risk assessments, with years of experience at two of the world’s most respected international human rights organizations; Ravi Naik of AWO Legal, a globally recognized litigator specializing in data protection and the 2018 UK Law Society Human Rights Lawyer of the Year; as well as additional advisors on the implications of AI deployment and data governance in the Canadian public sector, particularly for vulnerable communities. For further detail on the pHRIA project team, please see here.

 

What are the pHRIA project team credentials?

Together, the pHRIA project team has diverse expertise on topics including human rights, public policy, law, data protection and governance, and human-centered design pertaining to digital technologies. Each member brings different and complementary experience and expertise.

Fair/Square Research are human rights experts with extensive experience in documenting and addressing the adverse human rights impacts of a range of business sectors, including construction, agriculture, and extractive industries. The project team also includes leading advisors on the implications of AI deployment and data governance in the Canadian public sector, particularly for vulnerable communities; as well as Ravi Naik, a globally recognized litigator specializing in data protection and the 2018 UK Law Society Human Rights Lawyer of the Year.

For this pHRIA, in addition to overall project management, Element AI is focused on AI technology, data governance, and human-centred design. Element AI’s collective expertise, including fundamental and applied AI research scientists, experienced machine learning engineers and architects, and design researchers with inclusive design training, are available to support its portion of analysis.

Since its inception, Element AI has been committed to the design, development and deployment of responsible artificial intelligence that is ethical and respects human rights. Element AI has actively built in-house capacity and sought out multi-stakeholder collaborations to advance this vision. For example, last year, in partnership with international human rights organization, Amnesty International, Element AI contributed to a ground-breaking study into abuse against women on Twitter. Recently, in collaboration with the Mozilla Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation, Element AI convened a multi-stakeholder workshop on human rights and AI governance. The workshop culminated in a report featuring recommendations on the role of human rights impact assessments in AI governance.

 

How do the roles of Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs differ?

The pHRIA project team has been retained by Waterfront Toronto to evaluate the Draft Master Innovation and Development Plan as amended by the resolution of the threshold issues (draft MIDP) for the Quayside site submitted by Sidewalk Labs. Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs will be interviewed as part of the consultation process.

 

What is the methodology for this project?

There is no single standardized human rights impact assessment methodology. For this pHRIA, we have developed a mixed-methodology that is based on the consultative process outlined in the Request For Proposals as well as best practices from prior projects and international norms and standards on human rights due diligence, informed primarily by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Our team’s approach rests on the following principles:

  • A rigorous human rights-based approach, assessing against internationally recognized human rights.
  • Centered around meaningful consultation. A critical component of any Assessment is to speak to the right people — rights-holders, stakeholders and subject-matter experts — to help identify and understand the nature of potential human rights risks and explore effective mitigations.
  • Attentive to equality and nondiscrimination. We endeavour to carry out our assessment in a way that is inclusive, gender-sensitive and takes into account the needs of individuals and groups at risk of vulnerability or marginalization.
  • Independence. The pHRIA project team will consult with interested parties independently of Waterfront Toronto. Furthermore, should the pHRIA project team members disagree on important findings, we commit to noting all opinions in the final report in the interest of transparency.

 

Additional details on our approach and best practices will be included in our final report.

 

What is the timeline for this pHRIA?

After an initial phase of desk research, the pHRIA team will carry out consultations, during the month of February, with a wide range of stakeholders, local and international subject matter experts, advocates and non-profit organizations. Issues raised by the desk research and consultation will be integrated into the public consultation that Waterfront Toronto is holding on February 29, 2020. Following the public consultation, the pHRIA project team will finalize its report, which Waterfront Toronto has committed to making public by March 31, 2020. The pHRIA final report will be considered together with the results of Waterfront Toronto’s technical evaluation, input from Waterfront Toronto’s advisors and feedback from public consultation, and will help management and the Board of Directors to make informed recommendations and decisions on the future of Quayside.

 

Who can I contact with questions, concerns, or contributions to the project?

The pHRIA project team has set up an email account for those wanting to share information, provide comments, or ask questions regarding potential human rights risks associated with the draft MIDP: WT_HRIA@elementai.com. For other questions related to Quayside , please email Waterfront Toronto: quayside@waterfrontoronto.ca.

 

Where will the final report be published?

Once the work is completed, the pHRIA will be published online on Waterfront Toronto’s corporate and Quayside websites.

 

 

[1] As described in Request for Proposal #2019-19: “Preliminary Human Rights Assessment”, the Master Innovation and Development Plan, as amended by and to be read together with the Threshold Issues and the Digital Innovation Appendix, is referred to herein as the “draft MIDP”.