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How technology supports wetland environmental rehabilitation

Feb 7, 2022
“S’olh Temexw te ikw’elo. Xolhmet te mekw’stam, it kwelot.” -- "This is our land. We have to take care of everything that belongs to us."

- Chawathil prayer, shared by Chetlámetleqw (Norman Florence), Vice Chief, Chawathil First Nation.

Located in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, the People of Chawathil First Nation (Chawathil) have been caretakers of this territory for time immemorial. Chawathil are Stó:lō people or “River People” who depend upon the river and land for their survival and livelihood. 

Today the community has multiple offices and growing infrastructure as they work to build a sustainable future for future generations.

“Our community has several ongoing strategic initiatives in progress,” says Chetlámetleqw (Norman Florence), Vice Chief, Chawathil. 

“Internet connectivity has been a missing piece in Chawathil’s growth, and in our ability to operate in the digital age. We were on dial-up, but to stay competitive and fully execute on our long term strategy, we needed to upgrade our Nation's access to the best high-speed connectivity available. Participating in virtual meetings, sharing large land files; high-speed internet is needed for all these basic government needs today.”

In late 2020, TELUS and Chawathil partnered with the Government of B.C. through the Connecting B.C. program, Economic Recovery Fund Intake, administered by Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT) to accelerate the deployment of next-generation TELUS PureFibre to the community, alongside 16 Indigenous communities across B.C. in 2021.

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Chawathil had several priorities to consider when partnering with TELUS, including protecting Chawathil IR 4 wetlands. 

“Leadership, administration, and membership are excited for the new possibilities that high-speed internet will enable,” shares Florence. “However, with every project it is most important to include all considerations, like our existing wetland preservation project.” 

Preserving the habitat and species of the wetlands is a key priority and a vital part of cultural restoration for Chawathil. While TELUS typically follows existing utility pole line infrastructure to minimize impacts to the land, on Chawathil the existing infrastructure crossed a slough that was part of the Nation’s active revitalization plans to bring salmon back to the people. 

“It is a part of our identity, our culture, and the ecosystem. There are a lot of different things that we want to protect in the community,” says Florence. “The wetlands that we steward are home to several species, including Coho, Coastal Cutthroat Trout, Red legged frog, Western Green toads, and the Salish Sucker, which are listed under the Species at Risk Act. We’re working to increase the habitat area, to build a healthy channel to create a path for salmon to run, and to create resting pools along the way.”

Understanding this, Chawathil and TELUS worked closely to support the Nation’s wetland environmental rehabilitation work. Together, Chawathil and TELUS identified an alternative buried route, which benefits Chawathil’s rehabilitation efforts, while also serving to bolster TELUS’ network integrity and resilience goals by removing the risk of pole rot. 

“Our work together is a clear example of finding a gentler path forward together to ensure our members and Elders experience the full use of this water course and witness the migrating salmon, while also enabling the benefits of broadband connectivity. In Halq'eméylem I would say, Chawathil qas te TELUS Lexw síyó:les, which means Chawathil and TELUS working as one, yálh yuxw kw’ashó:y (thank you)”, says Florence. 

Through world-leading network technology, underpinned by a long-standing passion for creating stronger, healthier communities, TELUS is committed to supporting the goals of Indigenous Peoples. TELUS believes that connectivity, in concert with human compassion and ingenuity, is intricately linked to positive economic, social, health and community outcomes. 

Understanding shared history, developing, and deepening meaningful, productive relationships with Indigenous Peoples including First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, has led to productive partnerships, many of which resulted in advanced connectivity for Indigenous Peoples and communities.

In partnership with Indigenous governments and through co-funding arrangements with the governments of BC and Canada, TELUS has connected 48 communities in 2021 alone. 

In 2021, TELUS also released the Reconciliation Commitment, the first step in the Reconciliation strategy that weaves together intent, values and priorities with four guiding pillars:  Connectivity, Cultural Responsiveness & Relationships, Economic Reconciliation, Enabling Social Outcomes. Underpinning these pillars is the integration of Indigenous ways of knowing and ethical space into TELUS. Ensuring that Indigenous ways of knowing and ethical spaces are embedded into the fabric of our commitment to reconciliation, is a priority. The full action plan was released in the 2021 Indigenous Reconciliation & Connectivity Report featuring  commitments and more stories of outcomes supported by connectivity. 

A man sitting on a rock in nature working on a laptop.

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