The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

Connecting Canadians

Life-changing connectivity coming to Wood Buffalo

Dec 2, 2022

This article originally appeared on Windspeaker.com



Blair Lemaigne was midway through an online final exam for a pharmacy assistant course last year when the internet on the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation crashed.

Faced with a failing grade, he had to get a note from his internet provider to prove to his instructor the service had dropped.

“There was a lot of anxiety,” recalled Lemaigne, who works in education and training on the 1000-member First Nation, located in northeast Alberta.

The situation wasn’t unexpected: spotty and lagging internet services have long been part of life in this region.

According to the CRTC, 87.8 per cent of all Alberta households have reliable broadband internet; that number falls to 33.2 per cent in rural areas. Among First Nations reserves, just 19.6 per cent of households have access to the CRTC’s minimum service levels.

“It’s a real struggle,” said Lemaigne.

But times are changing. TELUS, with co-funding from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, has started construction on its world-leading PureFibre network.

The $21-million investment marks TELUS’ first PureFibre build on Indigenous lands in Alberta and will bring lightning-fast and reliable internet, on a par with urban centres, to three First Nations and four Métis communities, including Chipewyan Prairie, by the end of 2023. That, in turn, will enable increased opportunities for training and education, improved access to healthcare and cultural and language programming, and economic development.

Lemaigne, like many here, can’t wait.

“It’s like gold,” he said. “Fibre optics will change not only education, but also a lot of things here in Chipewyan Prairie. It will actually bring us into the modern world.”

TELUS is also working with all seven Indigenous communities to ensure the network build is both environmentally and archaeologically sensitive. Before breaking ground in the Conklin Métis community, for instance, the tech company, working alongside the community, used ground-penetrating radar to ensure the work did not disturb an ancient burial site known to be in the area, said Valerie Quintal, Director of CRDAC and president of the Conklin Métis Local 193, a rural hamlet of Conklin. Quintal added the partnership with TELUS is good for her community, including small businesses, schools and individual households.

“It means better quality of everything,” she said.

Shane Janvier, a councillor with Chipewyan Prairie, agreed, noting many members of his community rely on the internet to connect with family outside the community.

“Our ability to communicate on Facebook is probably the biggest thing in our community. It’s like the Daily Bugle back home,” he said. “If this brings us to the same standard as anywhere else, it’s a great thing.”

Network investments in Wood Buffalo are a timely example of TELUS’ ongoing commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. 

TELUS has formalized an inclusive, culturally relevant process, in collaboration with Indigenous governments and organizations, to ensure Indigenous Peoples have access to the life-changing power of high-speed internet and mobility solutions– when and where it’s needed. The result? Better health care and education outcomes, stronger communities, economic development, and language and cultural revitalization. 

Many of these powerful, Indigenous-led outcomes are shared within TELUS’ 2022 Reconciliation and Indigenous Connectivity Report, released Nov. 22. The report outlines the tech company’s Reconciliation goals and provides clear updates to ensure accountability. This year, for instance, TELUS donated $200,000 to recipients of the newly established Indigenous Communities Fund, which supports Indigenous-led social, health and community programs.  One of the first four recipients of the fund was the First Nations-led and Alberta-based not-for-profit Indigenous Knowledge and Wisdom Centre (IKWC). TELUS provided a grant to support IKWC in growing their Treaty Resource Kits program to band-operated schools within the Treaty 6, 7 and 8 Territories. The kits are designed to introduce concepts from an Indigenous perspective for educators, students, administrations, community members and parents. 

Under its Indigenous Reconciliation Action Plan (IRAP), TELUS continues to push for innovation and connectivity by responding to the needs of Indigenous communities. 

“At TELUS, we have a longstanding dedication to working collaboratively with Indigenous Peoples through meaningful engagement to provide world-leading connectivity, tools and resources that enable unique community, social, economic, and governance goals as showcased throughout the report,” said Tony Geheran, Executive Vice-president and Chief Operations Officer for TELUS.

Learn more about TELUS’ commitment to supporting connectivity for Indigenous Peoples and read the 2022 Indigenous and Reconciliation and Connectivity Report here.

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