Recent news cycles have turned to the durability of remote work and life: as of June 2020, one in five remote workers in Canada expect that they’ll be working from home indefinitely. Telework, however, is an opportunity afforded by broadband access, and the CRTC suggests that less than half of rural and remote households have access to high-speed internet. In June 2020, First Nations Technology Council (“Technology Council”) CEO Denise Williams sat down remotely with ICTC's analyst Faun Rice to talk about the impact COVID-19 has had on Indigenous peoples living in BC. Immediate impacts on First Nations communities extend far beyond the ability to work remotely and include access to education, healthcare, and benefits.
What kind of policy response or support from British Columbians would you like to see in response to these challenges? Any measures that people in BC should be taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to Indigenous communities or offer support in another way?
I think that a lot of communities have closed, and it’s important to be mindful of community safety. At the Technology Council, we’ve stopped all travel into communities for a year and will likely continue to do so until there’s a vaccine, just because of the population density on reserves, crowded homes, numerous generations of individuals who may have underlying health concerns, and healthcare access issues. It’s important to support communities’ right to manage who comes in and out.
Beyond that, we’d like to see immediate access to cellular coverage across the province. We’d like to see the cost of internet go down, especially during this period and during recovery. We recognize that infrastructure-building takes time and money, but something that can happen immediately is better affordability, and more subsidization for all British Columbians and specifically for First Nations communities. I also think that the data caps that are in place — for example, a connected community may only be able to buy a certain amount of bandwidth — should be removed. I’d like to see communities being given full access to whatever internet access they can get, and for that to be subsidized. Those are some things that can be done today.Read more...