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Stikine MLA Nathan Cullen and Joel Stalund, Executive Director of the Gitanyow Band Office.


Transcript below:


 Welcome to C I C K News, the only news source in the North, truly dedicated to local stories on the ground. C I C K news addresses the diverse needs of the underserved communities. Between Burns Lake and Haida Gwaii through firsthand stories and in-depth interviews. C I C K news funding is made possible by the Community Radio Fund of Canada, the only organization mandated to financially support campus and community radio stations in Canada, as well as the government of Canada.

We are your hosts, Pam Hassan and Dan Messick, and we are on the dial at 93.9 FM Smithers Community Radio. Our call letters are C I C K, and we are broadcasting from the unseated Gitumden territory, home of the Wet Sweat nation. Follow cic k News or follow us on Facebook or Instagram at Smithers Community Radio.

Hello and welcome to C I C K News for March 30th. Since 20 s. The provincial government has allocated over 500 million to expanding connectivity to underserved rural and indigenous communities in bc. So far, the program has funded 184 approved projects, benefiting more than 72,430 households in the province.

To see a complete list of all approved and announced projects supported by the connecting British Columbia program. Head to Northern Development Initiative, trusts website. And now I'm speaking with Stikine mla, Nathan Culin, about the provincial side of the, uh, benefits to this program. Nathan Cullen, minister of Water Lands and Natural Resource, uh, stewardship, and also the MLA for Stikine.

Uh, so the province has been making strides to bring internet to otherwise disconnected, and, um, also, uh, indigenous communities. What was the goal of this project? Well, quite simply to connect people with reliable high-speed internet. And we, we accomplished a couple of other things with the project that we just announced with, uh, GI Ya just this week, last week.

It's, it's all blurring. Uh, we put $3 million towards a project that is, uh, quite, I don't say unique, but very special in the fact that it is an indigenous business partnership between GI, Yao and a company out of Terrace. And so they'll own 51% of the project. The training, the up cre uh, upkeep and maintenance and all of those things will be handled by them and really building up capacity as, as well as connecting themselves in Gitanyow and also the community of Stuart.

So Stuart will now be connected to very good HighSpeed internet, and it's exciting to see communities stepping up and taking on these kinds of, Because it's, it's builds a lot more strength within the north. It also provides, um, better internet for everybody in the north because it's a, it's another loop in the system in case another beaver decides to take out an internet pole.

We won't all lose our internet again as we did just last year. . Yeah, I remember that date. Uh, vividly actually. , yes. Many of us do . So, uh, I guess then, um, who was responsible for spearheading the initiative with, and I believe what, what you're referring to was the Mead Injunction Limited partnership. That's right.

Well, I, you know, I, you'd probably have to ask them for the very, very origins of that coming together. , but we as a province have had a number of, um, efforts across BC to see more partnerships, more indigenous led businesses, be, you know, be they on their own or in partnership with somebody else. Because we know spec, you know, especially for rural and remote service, can often be a real challenge, getting enough service in from some of the larger c.

and knowing and understanding how the north works, uh, is a part, is a particular mindset, a particular skillset when it comes to things like communications. So for, for me, it's such a perfect match because it, it brings together that local knowledge as well as building up people's capacity in the north to, you know, create our own internet systems, be able to maintain them and, and know when service goes.

how critical that is to people who live here. The businesses that we now know rely on good, safe, reliable internet, and, and for the day-to-day things like, you know, so many people are meeting, uh, online, getting counseling or government services online. Like it, it's just expanding from a, a nice to have to a must have.

And so this project and the projects that will follow.  really starting to connect those communities that have been under service for a long time. I mean, just it's night and day for those communities and their abilities to connect to the world and also attract people who wanna live there. What was it that, I mean, what has it been in the past, um, let's say 10 years that made this a must and not a nice to have change, um, for communities?

Yeah. I mean it, the world has obviously been moving in this direction. Um, whether you're in business or accessing, Basic government services as accessing education opportunities. There's, there's more. I, I'm gonna start taking Getan classes in the, in the next couple of weeks though. All be online. We know increasingly, uh, our ability to connect to the rest of the world is important for all those things and so many other reasons.

Yeah. The, the, the, the pandemic really accelerated things.  made more things available online. I think it also, a lot more people got comfortable, uh, doing things online that they didn't think they would wanna do. Mm-hmm. , like seeing their doctors, seeing a counselor, getting advice on all kinds of things. So that's, you know, there's not, there's not much good that came from the pandemic.

I guess this is one small good thing mm-hmm. , is that we've, we've learned to live in that online environment in different ways. It's also a lot more affordable for those of us that live far away from the cities to be able to. You know, specialist services, things that before would've and still do sometimes require a lot of travel and expense.

So those are the kinds of things we're looking at to make sure, you know, how, how fair is the system. Mm-hmm. . And oftentimes the answer for rural and remote people are not very fair. . Having good internet means that it, it levels the playing field a little bit more for, for those of us that live further from the city.

And that's something that's really of interest to me. As somebody who represents the north, do you know what the, um, kind of what the map is for the next communities, uh, to receive internet on the North Coast? . Yeah, we've been, there's a, there's a submarine cable project that we've been laying down that should be, be going live.

Uh, if it's not live already, uh, that's gonna connect a lot of, uh, some of the more and most remote coastal communities. Uh, we have some projects lining up for even further north where when you get really far north, you start to talk to the Yukon, uh, services quite a bit because the access is right there, they're close to the grid and, and whatnot.

So it's, it's unique to every remote. , but we have a, an ambition, uh, to connect every single British Columbian, regardless of where they live, to reliable high-speed internet in the next few years. Not cheap. It's, it's costing hundreds of millions of dollars. . But again, we know, you know, in a sense of fairness and wanting to do right by people, uh, it, it's not gonna be cheap to get those last mile connections, but they're, um, they're coming and more and more coming every day, which for me is exciting.

Some of the projects, indigenous led, some of them, uh, cooperative, um, they're, they're a real mixed bag depending on which community we're talking about. Mm-hmm.  and I guess are, is the kind, is the goal as well to.  l seek out more, um, local, if not, uh, regional like service providers and technicians as well to maintain, uh, lines, much like with Mead in Junction Limited partnership to kind of find a partner in that.

Yeah. You know, it's a good question. It, it's, it's always gonna be a combination. The, the, the backbone of much of our communication system will still. The larger carriers and tho those are billions of dollars of investment of those, those main spines that connect the province now, who brings the service into the remote communities?

Rural communities that can often and is better done by smaller outfits. Often, you know, your city Wests and your, and some of these very specific partnerships. Yep. So it'll, it'll depend place by place. We're always gonna need the, the large, the Telus, the bells, the, the Rogers. Um, we're expanding. Um, this summer should be all done having cell service all the way down Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

And that has been a long project for some of us, knowing how important for issues of safety, predominantly having good cell service all the way down the line has been so that, that one we're doing with Rogers and a couple of other region carrier. , we'll always need them, but I'm, you know, I, I pull for the little guy.

I like to see some of the smaller carriers. If they have capacity and they can deliver the good service that we need, why not? Why not? Uh, give 'em a, a leg up And, um, again, it's always gotta be to the service of the community. It's gotta work. Um, but with projects like this, I feel very confident in their ability to deliver the service.

Is there anything else to add that I didn't ask you from kind of a regional, provincial, um, stance on this that you think is important for people to know about this project? You know, one, one thing that was pointed out when we were in Gitanyow yell this week was the ability of Gitanyow members who no longer live in the territory, to be able to connect back home for language classes, for cultural opportunities.

Just even, even the basic video connection to be able to chat with with folks at home. That was really emphasized and I thought that was something that I, you know, was something I hadn't really contemplated much, but when people move away, being able to stay connected culturally with. Uh, it's really hampered If your internet is that spinning wheel of doom all the time, waiting for a connection to happen and doing things like language classes almost becomes impossible.

So the cultural component of this, the family component really struck home for me, for some of our communities. It's not just connecting out, it's also connecting back. And I thought that was a, a beautiful sentiment that was expressed. Oh, excellent. Well, thank you so much for speaking with me. . Yeah. Thanks.

Thanks for the interest. Anytime. I, I love these projects. They're exciting and they're local and they, they make a lot of sense. But I appreciate the interest, Pamela. It is, it is nice to have good news too. So, , sometimes I flick on the radio and it's like, oh, okay. It's important to know all this stuff. But man, if you wanna see the communities connected by the high voltage ac submarine cables, uh, a formerly DC submarine cable system that Minister Culin mentioned in his interview.

You can view a map Just enter British Columbia in your search window and you can see the lines that travel from Laks to Bella to Hai Deua. That project is called Connected Coast. Next, I'm speaking to Joel Starland from the Gitanyow Band Office about the Ziad Injunction partnership plans to bring high-speed internet to each house in GI and Stuart bc.

Hello, I'm Joel Starland. I'm the executive director of the GI Hereditary Chiefs Office. Can you tell me about the partnership with Mein Injunction Limited? Yeah. Mein Junction is a fully owned GI out business. It's a camp, uh, restaurant and a convenience store located at me Injunction. It has a shareholders of, uh, GI.

Which is a hereditary organization, and the GI Ban Council, uh, formed the, uh, entire business of me injunction. We formed a partnership with, um, CNN Networks, who is a telecommunications operator, uh, who owns a lot of the infrastructure in Stewart, and we formed Sienna Telecommunications. And so what does the connectivity of high speed internet mean for the residents of gi?

I think first and foremost is around safety. A lot of the community members in GI now have, uh, got rid of their hard, uh, telephone, telephone lines. Oh, yeah. Like landlines, op. Yeah. And they've opted into, uh, wifi. And, uh, right now it is a bit patchy within our community, especially during, uh, evenings 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM when a lot of people are on the internet.

So it is a safety, safety issue. Uh, the other thing is around education. During the pandemic, a lot of our students, uh, were working from home and had a lot of difficulty trying to, uh, continue on with their education, uh, through remote. We also do have different opportunities to the Guinear Ary Chief's office.

Uh, we have the Guinea Education and Training Institute, and this offer, uh, this offers a lot more, uh, remote learning for our community members. Okay. Yeah, that's very cool. And I guess kind of if there was any sort of alert system in place, it would be via cell phone, would it not? Yes. And uh, we do have an opportunity now to, uh, bring cell phone service to the community of gi.

Uh, that's one step removed from this current process, but it does give us that opportunity to, uh, provide cell phone service potentially in gi. When will the internet be up and running? It, uh, we are planning to have both communities up and running GI out and Stewart by December of this year. It could be sooner, but our target is December now.

Is there anything that I didn't ask that is important for, um, our listeners to know either about this partnership Gitanyow territory? Uh, anything else about the, the internet. Well, I think this is a great project, uh, that shows, um, collaboration between her hereditary governance, the band council and partnership with Stewart British Columbia, and, uh, also with the province of bc.

A lot of these opportunities go towards the. Big telecommunications of the world, Rogers tells, et cetera. And, uh, this is a, uh, great partnership that we have in place, uh, and we're looking forward to implementing it. We also have an opportunity to beaver proof the North Coast, uh, potentially in, I think it was 2021, the entire North Coast had.

Uh, lost their internet service due to, uh, beaver falling a tree on a line. We have an opportunity, uh, to provide some redundancy to, uh, the North Coast, uh, by providing a back feed to Terrace, uh, through this new project, uh, which would, uh, uh, potentially prevent, uh, something similar happening, uh, to 2020.

But, uh, that's gonna take some additional work. But, uh, that's gonna set the groundwork for us, uh, to be able to do that. Is that using those submarine cables, like connected coast? Is that what you mean? For like a backup, we'd be able to microwave, uh, internet back through terrace. So Terra, the light, the internet goes, uh, through a line all the way to Terrace and it actually.

Back feeds all the way to Houston. So that's why when the internet went out, uh, the entire North Coast, uh, went dark all the way from Houston to Terrace mm-hmm.  to Prince Hubert, we would be able to potentially microwave internet, uh, back through to Terrace and provide some redundancy so that if the line did go down, the entire North Coast would not go down.

That's gonna take a little bit of groundwork, but that opportunity is now there. That didn't exist before. There is a line, uh, going up from Highway 37 to the northwest transmission line. Uh, it'll travel up to Ellsworth Camp, which is about, uh, 20 kilometers south of Meia injunction. We're gonna be plowing, uh, another line from the northwest transmission line up to me junction and using that internet and microwave in it.

Into the community of Stuart that's, uh, sending the internet into the community steward and being able to disperse it that way. In the community of Gik, it's gonna be pure fiber, so that actually means that, uh, there's gonna be a strand of fiber brought to every single house in the community that goes directly to the supplier of the internet.

That there's no, um, no lagging when the, uh, community is using a lot of internet at the same time because every single house has direct. Called pure fiber to their home. But to Stuart, we're gonna be microwaving it from MEK injunction into the community, and we have an opportunity to do the same thing from, uh, potentially Cranberry Junction or me injunction itself, microwaving internet into terrorists to provide a.

Back feed, uh, that would allow some redundancy. And if the line did go down, it wouldn't shut down the entire North Coast to bc. Uh, but the infrastructure is already in place, uh, for the community to gi We just need to connect, uh, each ho each house now. And I guess, uh, one other thing is, uh, what, uh, one of the things that we've heard from, I don't know if you contacted the, uh, Stewart Mayor.

Uh, they've talked about how, um, this will be able to attract more business into, into the community because, uh, that is a big factor for them. Uh, when, uh, companies are talking about setting up in town to having reliable internet is a big part of, uh, their decision making and having that in place, that will open up a lot more opportunities for the, uh, community of Stuart.

Yeah, I guess that's a, that is, that would. A big boon for them as well is just because of their remoteness. People might wanna be there, but you can't really work remotely if you don't have the internet. So yeah, for sure. Yeah. Okay. Thank you so much for speaking with me. Yep. Take care.

You've been listening to C I C K news. If you have any hot tips or news stories you think we should cover, contact us at cac k news smithers or follow us on Facebook at CAC k News cac. K News is made possible by the government of Canada and the Community Radio Fund of Canada, the only organization mandated to financially supporting campus and community radio stations across Canada.

You can also catch our fresh shows each. At the or subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, wherever you find your podcasts. Thanks to our producer, Pam Hassen and all of our roving reporters. I'm Dan Maik. Thanks for listening.


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