Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) is becoming increasingly prevalent in our daily lives, from language learning models to AI image generators. However, the use of AI in decision-making processes is raising novel legal questions. A recent decision by the Federal Court in Canada has shed light on the legal implications of using AI in the administrative decision-making process.

In Haghshenas v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2023 FC 464, the Federal Court considered the case of Majid Haghshenas, a citizen of Iran who applied for a Labour Market Impact Assessment-exempt work permit under the C11 category. Mr. Haghshenas argued that the immigration officer’s decision to refuse his application was procedurally unfair because it was reached through the assistance of AI, specifically the “Chinook” software application. He further argued that the decision was unreasonable due to concerns about Chinook’s reliability and efficacy.

Chinook is a Microsoft Excel-based tool developed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) for temporary resident application processing. According to IRCC, Chinook displays information stored in their processing system and system of record in a more user-friendly way to simplify the visual representation of an applicant’s information for the benefit of the decision-maker. IRCC denies that Chinook uses AI or advanced analytics for decision-making and that Chinook features no built-in decision-making algorithms.

The Federal Court accepted that AI had been used in the decision-making process but found that the officer’s decision was not made by Chinook, but instead by the officer, while acknowledging that the officer’s decision had input assembled by AI. The Court emphasized that the use of AI was irrelevant to the application for judicial review because the officer ultimately made the administrative decision.

The Court’s analysis in Haghshenas may prompt greater adoption of AI in government decision-making. However, concerns about decisions made with heavy reliance on information provided by AI and the amount of human input needed in the decision-making process may need to be addressed by courts in the future.

As AI becomes more prevalent, we can expect further legal questions to arise around its role in decision-making processes. It will be interesting to see how courts will balance the benefits of AI with the need for human input in administrative decisions.

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