First Nation Breaks Ground for Fibre Optic Network and Launches BlackBerry AtHoc for Critical Event Management

2016

PINE CREEK FIRST NATION, MANITOBA – Today, Clear Sky Connections (CSC) announced that PINE CREEK First Nation will be the second of many communities who will have access to high-speed internet via CSC partnerships through a Build that spans the province. In conjunction with the fibre optic build, CSC is launching Pine Creek FN as the initial pilot site to use the BlackBerry® AtHoc® critical event management solution to improve how the First Nation communicates with the community during critical events and emergency situations, such as natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. The First Nation will also use the tool to incorporate training opportunities to assess information encountered online while also using media technologies, including social media, smartphones, email and even landline alerts during the COVID-19 pandemic planning. It is a unique opportunity to use several sources of funding to maximize on the community’s needs.

Building Manitoba’s Network of the Future and the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Centre of Excellence in partnership with BlackBerry, IndigenousTech.ai, Indigenous Services Canada, and the Digital Citizen Contribution Program (Department of Heritage), Clear Sky Connections is set to: 1) Begin the installation of Fibre Optic cable to Pine Creek First Nation located about 110 km North of Dauphin along the southwestern shore of Lake Winnipegosis; and, 2) Work with Pine Creek FN to implement the BlackBerry AtHoc critical event management solution, enabling the community to alert its members of dangerous weather conditions such as forest fires and floods, and provide the latest updates on the COVID-19 pandemic. In parallel, the community will also undergo training to understand and identify credible online news sources regarding COVID-19 and assess information encountered online while also using media technologies, including social media and smartphones; and educate users to know the opportunities and risks in digital media in sharing of disinformation.

Clear Sky Connections Chairperson Chief David Crate, of Fisher River Cree Nation stated, “Today marks ongoing economic development & training opportunities – a historic moment for us as First Nations, as the mandated organization by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) to build the high-speed network, we launch our 2nd fibre build to a southern site. At the same time we will implement a communication system to form a network within the community for the leadership to know which members are safe and which ones need help during any crisis. It all started with Chief Batson reaching out after her community had a forest fire and they had no connectivity to see which community members had already received the evacuation notice, that then led the leadership to prioritize communication on a higher scale and continue vying for critical cellular service”.

“Pine Creek First Nation is both pleased and excited to be selected as the 2nd First Nation in Manitoba to be receiving a new tie in to the CSC Fibre Optic Network. In addition, the BlackBerry AtHoc Communication system which is also being launched will be a great asset to our community and will go a long way to ensuring we have an effective and efficient way of communicating vital information to our community members during an emergency or pandemic outbreak. Access to high- speed internet will provide our community with the opportunity to truly connect and interact locally and globally and will increase access to economic, health, education, and other socio-economic benefits. We are looking forward to working with Clear Sky Connections and all other partners involved in this much anticipated project.” said Chief Karen Batson of Pine Creek First Nation.

Chief Clarence Louie, Osoyoos Indian Band, British Columbia, Chairman of IndigenousTech.ai Corporation, states, “IndigenousTech.ai is pleased to support Indigenous communities like Pine Creek First Nation and Indigenous technology companies owned by communities such as Clear Sky Connections.”

“We are proud to work with IndigenousTech.ai Corporation and Clear Sky Connections to keep members of First Nations inManitoba connected and safe during times of crises. BlackBerry AtHoc has been implemented in every Canadian province and territory, and Canada’s Federal Government trusts BlackBerry AtHoc to secure Parliament Hill for all emergencies and crises. It is our privilege to support Indigenous communities and to ensure that they receive the same level of technological support to protect their families,” said David Wiseman, Vice President of Secure Communications, BlackBerry.

“First Nations communities are often the most at-risk to disruptions and complications caused by the COVID-19 virus, and access to high-speed internet is vital to ensuring that residents remain safe and connected to essential information and services. I congratulate Pine Creek First Nation on the groundbreaking to begin installing a Fibre Optic Network in their community. That, along with the BlackBerry AtHoc Communication Solution, will help to ensure the community is well- equipped to deal with the current and future emergencies.” Pam Damoff, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services.

“We are grateful that organizations such as Clear Sky Connections are leading the way to develop digital media literacy inCanada, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage. “The AtHoc Crisis Communications Solution project is a great example of leveraging partnerships, expertise and knowledge to help fight the spread of online disinformation and ensure Indigenous communities have access to learning resources.”

“I have said it before and I will say it again…..we are mandated to lead the fibre optic build to Manitoba’s First Nations and we will continue to do that, and build on all of our exciting partnerships that are coming to fruition. We look forward to accessing additional funding and will be announcing more joint ventures within the next few months that show the rest of the world that we no longer come last and our youth will be the next leaders in this industry”, said Chief Cornell McLean, Chairperson of CSC’s For-Profit Partnerships, Lake Manitoba First Nation.

Since 2017 Indigenous Services Canada provided funding support to CSC in the amount of $7.7M for fibre optic builds to as many Manitoba First Nations as possible. The specific allotment to the Pine Creek FN build totals $1.6M. Canadian Heritage is allocating $40,000 dollars for The BlackBerry AtHoc Crisis Communications Solution to equip participants with necessary skills to understand and identify credible online news sources regarding COVID-19 and all the other creative ways that the CSC team is utilizing the “seed” funding for the 1st community to launch the amazing communication tool.