Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut April 20, 2012 - 10:12 am

Ottawa takes the axe to Nunavut community internet access

“The only free public access location in Iqaluit”

Many people come to the May Hakongak Library and Community Centre in Cambridge Bay to surf the web on computers, which were paid for by the Community Access Program. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Many people come to the May Hakongak Library and Community Centre in Cambridge Bay to surf the web on computers, which were paid for by the Community Access Program. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

People across Nunavut who don’t have computers or internet access at home will soon feel the direct impact of a federal government cost-cutting measure.

If you come to use computers and surf the web in libraries and schools from Kugluktuk to Iqaluit, you may find the computers shut down and your access to the internet limited or completely cut.

That’s because federal government has decided to cut the $98,000 that Nunavut receives from Ottawa for its public internet access program.

The Community Access Program helps pay for public internet terminals in libraries, community centres and other public locations across Canada.

CAP, which had been set to expire at the end of March, will not be renewed.

Explaining the cancellation, an Industry Canada letter sent out in early April said the government “is committed to prioritizing expenditures” as it trims $1.5 billion in spending over the next year.

The Iqaluit Centennial Library will no longer receive any money to maintain 18 computer terminals, paid for by the community access program.

“Our CAP site is the only free public access location in Iqaluit and it had over 13,000 users last year,” said Catherine Hoyt, president of the friends of the Centennial library in an open letter circulated April 19.

Hoyt urged people “who share our disappointment to write their own letters” to Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)).
“We feel that this is a very important service to our community and we hope that you will join us in expressing this importance to the federal government through our member of Parliament,” Hoyt said.

People in Cambridge Bay who use the community computer access site at the May Hakongak library and community centre will also be affected by the cut, said Kim Crockatt, director of the Nunavut Literacy Council, who also sits on the board of N-CAP, the non-profit organization that administers CAP funds in Nunavut.

“The CAP program provided us with funding to support the operation of our CAP site.  The site is part of the range of services that we provide (library, cultural centre, free use of computers and training for people new to computer use),” Crockatt told Nunatsiaq News.

Replacing the lost money will be “a huge challenge,” Crockatt said, because most other programs don’t support those services.

“I believe the Prime Minister made a comment about the fact that most people now have computers and internet access at home.  While that may be the case in the South, I know that is not our reality here in the North,” Crockatt said.

“Even if people have their own computers, the cost of internet here is such that most families cannot afford it.”

The cuts will also have a big impact on literacy and education, Crockatt said.

“Many families suffer from poverty and removing access to such an important learning and communication tool will further marginalize the already marginalized children and adults,” she said.

Statistics Canada says fewer than 54 per cent of households in the lowest income bracket — less than $30,000 annually — have home internet access.

With files from Postmedia News

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