TORONTO -- The Federal Department of Justice has partnered with a Montreal-based tech company to launch a new web tool that will use artificial intelligence to guide victims of harassment and misconduct.

Following three years of research and trials, Botler AI has launched the first stage of their misconduct detection and response-to-action software. The system is designed to support victims of harassment by connecting them with the right resources to get the legal support they need.

The tool is part of a $50-million initiative by the federal government to address sexual harassment and other related misconduct in the workplace.

The Botler For Citizens web app is a free service that will confidentially ask users trauma-informed questions based on any incident they have experienced. Using artificial intelligence, the software then analyzes the details of the incident to identify if any misconduct had occurred.

Based on the findings, the user is then provided with a breakdown of relevant information to help them understand their rights and the potential legal options at their disposal.

The user is also presented with a list of legal support organizations, from the Canadian Legal Aid System, that can provide them with additional advice on the next steps.

“We’re often unaware of our rights, too scared to ever speak up for fear of being blamed, ostracized or, even losing our jobs, and that’s before even trying to figure out how to navigate the legal system,” said ​Ritika Dutt, Botler AI’s CEO, ​who co-founded the company based on her own experience dealing with workplace harassment.

“There is an urgent, vital need for an easy, accessible solution that empowers individuals to seek justice on their own terms,” Dutt said in a statement.

According to a 2018 study released by Statistics Canada, more than 19 per cent of female respondents and 13 per cent of males reported that they had experienced harassment in their workplace at least once in the past year.

The agency describes workplace harassment as: verbal abuse, humiliating behaviour, threats to persons, physical violence, and unwanted sexual attention or physical advances.

“We know there is a systemic underreporting problem,” Chris Martin, a workplace equity educator at the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region said in a statement. “Botler is a new means for survivors to have their voices heard and connect with the correct resources to get help.”

The company is targeting a multi-stage launch and is currently open to all publicly-funded legal and support organizations to join as members to the program’s referral partner network. 

Individuals interested in trying the Botler for Citizens service can also register for early access as the application prepares for a full roll-out later this year.