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Preliminary Human Rights Impact Assessment for Quayside Project

Jan 17, 2020

Feedback from the public at a Waterfront Toronto consultation.Waterfront Toronto is undertaking a preliminary human rights impact assessment to help proactively answer questions, identify risks and mitigation strategies, should they be needed.

By: Emma Loewen

On October 31, 2019, based on resolution of key issues with Sidewalk Labs’ draft Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP), our Board of Directors provided a green light to proceed with the technical evaluation of the amended MIDP and to undertake further public consultation.

As part of this process, Waterfront Toronto has supplemented the team of external subject matter experts that are working with Waterfront Toronto to conduct the technical evaluation of the amended MIDP, that includes: Arup, Perkins and Will, Steer Davies Gleave, McCarthy Tétrault, Dentons, N. Barry Lyon Consultants, Gladki Planning Associates, and Moriyama and Techima.

Recognizing the role that digital technologies play in our everyday lives, the public and private sectors are increasingly assessing the impact that technology has on human rights. Examples of this progressive approach include the City of Toronto’s Equity Lens, that “helps to ensure City policies and programs result in equitable outcomes for all residents,” and the Government of Canada’s Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) process, which examines policies, programs, initiatives or services for human rights impacts. The goal of all these efforts is clear: to identify and mitigate potential human rights impacts arising from a policy, program or project.

In order to inform Waterfront Toronto’s evaluation of Sidewalk Labs’ proposals for Quayside, we have engaged a team of world-leading experts in human rights impact and risk assessments for large-scale development and construction projects with particular experience in assessing the human rights implications of AI deployment and data governance in Canada to conduct a Preliminary Human Rights Impact Assessment on Sidewalk Labs’ proposals for Quayside.

This important piece of work will help us proactively address questions and identify risks and mitigation strategies, should they be required. This assessment, together with the results of the technical evaluation and other input from Waterfront Toronto’s advisors, will help management and the Board make informed recommendations and decisions on the future of Quayside and ultimately protect the public interest.

What’s involved in the Preliminary Human Rights Impact Assessment?

As a starting point, the Element AI team (see description below) is reviewing project materials, including feedback received through public consultations while the MIDP was being developed as well as Waterfront Toronto’s consultation since the draft MIDP was published. Several meetings will also be held with stakeholders, local and international subject matter experts, advocates and non-profit organizations that represent a range of interests, such as housing, employment, community services, accessibility and equity seeking populations.

The Element AI team will lead the meetings with stakeholders and interested parties independently of Waterfront Toronto. Once the work is completed, the Preliminary Human Rights Impact Assessment will be published online on Waterfront Toronto's corporate and Quayside websites.

Element AI 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 Sidewalk Labs proposal:  


About the team

The expert consortium being led by Element AI includes Fair/Square Research, a leader in the human rights impacts of AI deployment and data governance in the Canadian public sector, and Ravi Naik, a respected litigation and subject matter expert in privacy, data protection and human rights.

Element AI is an artificial intelligence solutions provider that develops scalable AI products and solutions to make organizations safer, stronger and more agile. Their network includes 100+ PhD holders and AI experts, including engineers, developers, architects and policy experts. Their clients include private sector clients and government partners.

Fair/Square Research is a company that conducts human rights impact assessments for organizations as well as private corporations. Based in the UK, Fair/Square has worked with clients internationally, including the Institute for Human Rights and Business, the BBC, Amnesty International in addition to private companies in the agriculture, construction and transportation sectors.

You can read more about the team here.

post contributor

  • Emma Loewen

    Emma Loewen was previously an Innovation and Sustainability Analyst at Waterfront Toronto.