If a crisis like COVID-19 hasn’t pushed government to take action to improve broadband access, what can?
In early June, Rural Economic Development Minister Maryam Monsef stated that applications for the government’s $1.7 billion Universal Broadband Fund would finally open “in the coming days.” Nearly three months later, it has yet to open for applications. That plan was first promised well before the pandemic – in March 2019.
The only new concession from Minister Monsef since COVID-19 hit is to say she’s considering making the internet an essential service.
Seven Northern Coast First Nations alarmed by surge of non-B.C. recreationists
“It is very alarming to see licence plates near our communities from places like Texas and Washington where COVID-19 is out of control,” said Chief Judy Gerow of the Kitselas Nation. “The new controls for people through to Alaska have improved the situation, but there are still risks to our people.”
Advocates renew calls for northern travel restrictions after Fox Lake Cree Nation lockdown
“Our Chiefs have taken every precaution to ensure the safety and well-being of their community members, and we are calling on the Manitoba government to work with First Nations leadership to reinstate the order prohibiting travel to northern Manitoba,” MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee stated in the release.
“The call to reinstate the northern travel order is a proactive measure by First Nations leadership to reduce and minimize risk the spread of COVID-19 as access to primary health care is not comparable to our neighbours in the south.”
Coronavirus gets dangerously close to isolated ‘Arrow People’ in Amazon
Given how easily COVID-19 spreads, Marubo fears the worst. “When we in the Javari say there is a possibility of genocide, we’re accused of being alarmist,” Marubo says. “But if one person from an isolated tribe is infected, he’s going to contaminate his entire group. Anyone with familiarity with the Javari knows that could happen.”
Lack of funding leaves First Nations schools unready: NAN
NAN maintains the First Nations it represents have received little to no additional funding to prepare schools for the pandemic. Its 49 communities, located in Treaty 9 and Treaty 5 territory, deliver education to nearly 9,000 elementary and secondary students.
Fox says the organization submitted a proposal for safe reopening to the federal government – which bears responsibility for First Nations education – about one month ago, requesting $33 million for precautions including personal protective equipment (PPE), enhanced cleaning, and additional staff.
Less than three weeks from the scheduled resumption of classes, they have yet to receive a response, he reports.