Funding Digital Equity: CIRA Grants $1.25M to Indigenous, Rural, and Student Projects

Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA


OTTAWA, July 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- At a time when internet access has never been more important, CIRA, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, today announced $1.25 million in grants to support communities across the country where the need is greatest. For 2021, CIRA’s Community Investment Program grants initiative placed a special emphasis on grants for internet-related projects in Indigenous and rural communities, along with initiatives that benefit students.

From improving connectivity in Ermineskin Cree Nation in Alberta, to providing laptops and cybersecurity courses in Toronto’s Regent Park, the Community Investment Program funds a broad variety of projects that will help support new broadband infrastructure, digital literacy, civic engagement, and cybersecurity skills for students and Indigenous, rural, and remote communities across the country. These community-led projects funded by CIRA will help provide Canadians with faster internet access, as well as the skills they need to stay safe and secure online. You can find the full list of projects below.

For this year’s grant program, CIRA saw a record number of applications for infrastructure projects, no surprise given our growing reliance on the internet during the pandemic. And there was a groundswell of interest from Indigenous communities.

“It’s inspiring to see communities across the country taking internet access into their own hands,” said Byron Holland, CIRA president and CEO. “More than ever, it is an essential service and CIRA is committed to help improve access for all. This year’s recipients all have great ideas to help their communities and we’re proud to support them.”

“We appreciate the opportunity to create a new internet infrastructure project with help from CIRA,” said Derrick Houle, executive director of the Mamawapowin Technology Society. “For years we have had a dream and a desire to improve our nation’s connectivity. We look forward to presenting them with new opportunities that otherwise wouldn't have been available.”

Through a previous CIRA grant in 2019, the Mamawapowin Technology Society was able to strengthen the do-it-yourself network they built to serve Samson Cree Nation in central Alberta. With this year’s support, the organization will expand its network to the nearby, 2,500-person community of Ermineskin Cree Nation.

CIRA’s Community Investment Program provides grants to fund innovative community internet projects to build a resilient, trusted and secure internet for all Canadians. Since 2014, CIRA has provided $9.2 million for 185 projects across Canada.

Key Facts
Here is how this year’s list of 14 grant recipients breaks down:

  • 8 (57 per cent of) funded projects benefit Indigenous communities
  • 5 (35 per cent) benefit northern communities in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and BC
  • 4 (28 per cent) benefit residents living in rural communities
  • 6 (43 per cent) are primarily focused on serving students
  • This year’s areas of focus are digital literacy, infrastructure, cybersecurity and community leadership.

2021 Community Investment Program Grant Recipients
Alberta
Mamawapowin Technology Society (MTS) | Infrastructure

MTS will build on its existing network in Samson Cree Nation to bring high-speed, reliable connectivity to the neighbouring, 2,500 person Ermineskin Cree Nation.

British Columbia
First Nations Technology Council (FNTC) | Community Leadership

The FNTC will co-create a Digital Equity Roadmap for leaders in First Nations communities to mobilize their communities towards achieving digital equity in 6 areas: connectivity and infrastructure, policy and legislation, skills development, employment and business development, tech and innovation leadership, and governance and self-determination. 

Great Bear Initiative Society (Coastal First Nations) | Infrastructure

The Connected Coastal Nations project seeks to leverage federal and provincial funding to support Coastal First Nations community-owned ISPs to deliver high-speed internet throughout the region. CIRA funding will cover 10% of funding required to increase the network performance among Nations to reach the CRTC’s basic service objective of 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download speed, 10 Mbps upload.

Tsilhqot'in National Government (TNG) | Infrastructure

TNG, I-Valley, and Rock Networks have partnered to assess, design, and implement a cellular and broadband network in the Tsilhqot'in Nation. This project would create a working pilot to provide the foundation for a Tsilhqot'in owned and managed network and identify next steps for development. 

British Columbia Civil Liberties Association | Digital Literacy

BCCLA will create lesson plans, fact-sheets, and informative videos to provide Canadian youth ages 14-24 with an understanding of their digital rights on smartphones in relation to state entities, such as what law enforcement can use from their smartphones during an investigation. 

Minto Communications Society | Infrastructure

Minto Communications Society will invest in broadband last-mile access infrastructure to improve service speeds and capacity limits for the existing network in Bridge River Valley. 

Ontario
CatalystsX Network Communities Inc. | Digital Literacy

CatalystsX will create a toolkit of resources to meet the unique digital literacy needs of four northern First Nations Communities to help their community members and business owners (a) develop digital literacy skills, (b) adopt remote working technologies, and (c) advocate for needed infrastructure.

Long Lake #58 First Nation | Cybersecurity

This project is a part of LL58's Communications Connection & Security project. It will ensure that LL58 has a secure internet infrastructure to avoid cyber-attacks and protect data, develop an internet and information security policy to provide proper governance to their information assets, and provide internet security training to administration staff and community members on the safe use of the internet and governance policies of the administration.

McMaster University, Indigenous Student Services | Infrastructure

This project will create a pilot 'pop-up' Learning Hub in Six Nations of Grand River to provide Indigenous post-secondary students at McMaster University, Mohawk College, and Six Nations Polytechnic with a local, off-campus site to access secure, high-speed internet and connect with student support staff. 

Canadian Association of Journalists | Digital Literacy

The CAJ will provide 13 training sessions (one in each province/territory) to post-secondary students and create a research guide and practical handbook on how to detect misinformation and disinformation online. Their goal is for the national guide to become a gold standard for detecting and combatting misinformation and disinformation. 

Centre for Social Innovation Institute | Digital Literacy

The Technical Lending Library will be for youth and school children in the Regent Park neighbourhood in Toronto to be able to access internet devices and take cybersecurity and device training. They will be able to use the access to attend online school, socialize, and find opportunities for safe online activities and services they need. 

Quebec
Comité de vie de quartier Duff-Court (COVIQ) | Infrastructure

COVIQ will provide affordable broadband internet through a shared infrastructure strategy to low-income tenants in the main building of the Place-Lachine subsidized housing complex, 1830 Duff-Court. 

Techno Culture Club | Digital Literacy

C'est juste en ligne aims to provide teens with access to tools, resources, and support in the form of workshops, toolkits, and online resources, to help them become empowered digital citizens.

Saskatchewan
The Northern Village of Île-à-la-Crosse | Digital Literacy

The Mayor, School Division, and DEPtH Lab will coordinate to develop and embed a citizen-science-based digital literacy program in the Île-à-la-Cross school division curricula to empower students to contribute to long-term digital initiatives currently in place. 

About CIRA and CIRA Grants
CIRA is the national not-for-profit best known for managing the .CA domain on behalf of all Canadians. The organization also offers enterprise-quality registry, DNS, and cybersecurity services to organizations across Canada and around the world. As a member-based, mission-driven not-for-profit, CIRA also has a much broader goal to promote a trusted internet for Canadians. CIRA Grants is one of our most valuable contributions toward this goal and funds projects in infrastructure, digital literacy, cybersecurity and community leadership. Every .CA domain name registered or renewed contributes to this program.

Media Contact
Josh Tabish
Public Affairs Manager, CIRA
613-875-3741
josh.tabish@cira.ca