Government cutbacks threaten community internet access

“If you have CAP sites closing, where are these people going to go?”



Nunavummiut will lose their access to free computers and Internet services by next year unless they protest government cutbacks, says the territory’s main organizer for the program.

The federal government is ready to pull the plug on their popular Community Access Program, or CAP, that brought computer labs to 15 communities across the territory.

Some communities will keep their computer sites, but only if they can find volunteers to replace part-time youth interns after the cut-off date of March 31, 2006.

Darlene Thompson, the secretary treasurer for the non-governmental organization overseeing the project in Nunavut, predicts other communities such as Cape Dorset will have to shut down their labs, because they’re already running on a shoe-string budget out of a community centre.

Thompson said low-income and unemployed residents will be hit the hardest by the closures. She estimates around 100 people use the sites every month in the smaller communites. Nearly 500 people use the site in Iqaluit every month.

“This helps… people who can’t get jobs because they don’t have basic computer skills,” Thompson said in an interview from Pond Inlet.

“If you have CAP sites closing, where are these people going to go?”

For the past ten years, the program has allowed Nunavummiut without their own computer to do research on the Internet, work on resumes, and learn how to use various software packages. Most sites are located in libraries, college campuses, and hamlet offices.

The program was part of a Liberal government policy under former prime minister Jean Chrétien to boost computer and Internet access across the country, especially in remote locations.

Ottawa contributed more than $600,000 in funding to Nunavut since the program began. The government of Nunavut chipped in about $200,000 more.

But even though Nunavut can keep the computers and other equipment, there won’t be any money to pay the 30 youth interns who run the program.

Thompson is optimistic that funding can be reinstated. Her group, N-CAP, is calling on supporters of the program to visit the CAP sites in their communities during the last week of March, to sign a petition demanding that funding be reinstated.

Sanikiluaq’s site is bound to garner a lot of support.

“This is an incredible program,” said John Jamieson, co-principal at Nuiyak school, where youth run the CAP site. “It’s been extremely rewarding, not only for our school, but for the community. It’s been responsible for us and the community getting computers.”

In the past four years, Sanikiluaq residents have used the CAP program to start a 24-hour TV station, launch a digital photography class, and produce several cultural videos. They also launched a web site,, and published three community yearbooks.

One young entrepreneur, Sarah Qavvik, used CAP equipment and training to make two videos, one on how to make fish-skin dolls, and another on how to make fire with the friction from a bowdrill.

Elders from the community hold phone-in shows every few weeks on the station. Sometimes, they participated in video-conferences with elders from far-away communities, like Pond Inlet.

“None of these things would have been done without CAP,” Jamieson said.

Industry Canada, the federal department funding the CAP program, confirmed that they can’t guarantee more money after next year.

But officials said they are currently working on new funding proposals that they hope the cabinet will approve to keep the program going.

“This is just the way government works,” said Lise Reid, acting director for the division in charge of the program.

Nunavik closed all six of its CAP sites three years ago. Regional reps for Industry Canada said the sites shut down because none of the site workers applied for new funding.

Share This Story

(0) Comments