Nunavik university student says slow internet prevents her from studying at home during pandemic

“I made the difficult decision to leave my family and stay alone in Montreal as the quality of internet in Nunavik is too unstable and inconsistent to support my online courses”

A modem sits on a windowsill overlooking Kangiqsualujjuaq, where customers have had slow-to-no bandwidth for the last couple of months. Andrea Brazeau, a McGill university student who hails from the community, says she made the difficult decision to remain in Montreal rather than return home during the pandemic because she worried local internet connections wouldn’t be stable enough for her online courses. (Photo by Felix St-Aubin)

By Andrea Brazeau

Open letter to Premier François Legault

Dear Premier Legault,

I am writing this letter on behalf of all Nunavimmiut regarding the quality of the internet in Nunavik. Before I delve deeper into the issue regarding the poor internet quality, I am aware that the Kativik Regional Government has a plan in place to deliver high-speed internet to certain communities in Nunavik by 2025.

This letter is to ensure that the 2025 deadlines for providing high-speed internet to Nunavimmiut are respected. In addition, it is to keep our federal, provincial and regional governments accountable in ensuring they provide adequate funding.

As you know, Nunavik is a region located in the northernmost part of Quebec. I was born and raised in the small Inuit community of Kangiqsualujjuaq. In 2014, I relocated to Montreal to pursue my post-secondary education. Kangiqsualujjuaq is an isolated community and is only accessible by plane, or snowmobile in the wintertime.

I feel fortunate to have grown up in Kangiqsualujjuaq. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains where the berries grow during the fall season, near the ocean that offers plenty of Arctic char and roads that allow us to travel to campgrounds. I grew up going out on the land—fishing, hunting and camping with my family. It was, and is, absolutely wonderful.

Kangiqsualujjuaq, like Montreal, is a municipality in the province of Quebec, yet the access to services differs drastically. In the year 2020, one of the most prevalent differences is the quality and stability of the internet connection. As an individual who has lived both in Montreal and Kangiqsualujjuaq, I have come to realize the privilege and benefits that come with high-quality internet.

In fact, since the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become apparent that access to quality internet has shifted from a privileged choice to an essential service. Nunavimmiut are denied the right to have access to functioning internet and this has had, and continues to have, serious adverse consequences on our education and health-care systems, industry and economic development and most importantly our mental health and well-being as individuals from Nunavik.

In December 2016, Jean-Pierre Blais, chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, stated that the federal agency had adopted a new rule that declared high-speed internet a basic service essential to the quality of life for all Canadians. Despite the federal, provincial and regional governments working to improve the internet infrastructure, five years later Nunavimmiut still do not have access to stable high-speed internet.

High-quality internet in Nunavik would improve the overall quality of life, especially as a region that consists of communities that are isolated. In addition, high-quality internet would allow Nunavimmiut to connect with the rest of the world.

I am currently completing my fourth year of university in the kindergarten and elementary teaching program at McGill University. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, all of my classes this semester are online. While everyone else is studying from the comfort of their homes and staying connected to family, I made the difficult decision to leave my family and stay alone in Montreal as the quality of internet in Nunavik is too unstable and inconsistent to support my online courses. Not only would I be unable to join regular Zoom courses, I would not even be able to conduct basic research necessary for me to succeed in my classes.

For Nunavimmiut, access to high-quality internet also means having access to mental health services. There has always been a lack of mental health services in Nunavik. It has always been a struggle to get mental health professionals to come into the community and stay long enough to give patients the proper treatment required. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven that in-person mental health services can be accessed via Zoom, except for Nunavimmiut. The poor internet quality does not allow Nunavimmiut to access mental health services.

Having access to high-quality internet would give Nunavimmiut the choice of mental health services. This is yet another area wherein Nunavimmiut’s basic charter rights to health care are compromised.

I am requesting clear, transparent, and timely public updates to all remote and semi-remote communities throughout Canada of how the federal and provincial governments are progressing on their commitment to provide high-speed internet to all Canadians.

Andrea Brazeau

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by Needs a major overall on

    So unfortunately sad. There needs to be a major overall in the staff at KRG also. Those supposedly in charge of implementing the future of the internet services are not qualified to be in their positions. Get rid of those hand picked friends of friends in vital jobs doing nothing for the pay they’re getting. We all know that there are other issues with the internet, then just the staff, but having qualified staff makes a big difference.

    • Posted by Unsurprised on

      I think KRG has the most aimless/useless direction and management out of any Nunavik org, which is really saying something to be honest…
      My assumption is because it is largely staffed by Quebecois in the important roles, the desire to really work and do well in Nunavik is lower than other places. As you say, they prioritize hiring their friends and people they like rather than good applicants. I know of countless stories of qualified inuit applying for positions and receiving zero interviews even while a position stays vacant until they can find someone from the south who applied… how much can you really understand a region and what work needs to be done in it when its often lots of turnover amongst southern employees there for some money and a good vacation?

  2. Posted by Willing to bet on

    I’m willing to bet that it’s the staff , not the internet itself. We have people in these job positions that can’t read a book. Their main goal is the time sheets, they understand enough to make one out before pay day. Then it’s on to charting vacation time. KRG, get rid of them. Charter a plane, give them a months notice that the reservation is made, one way.

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