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The Critical Link

Community connections: Support and partnerships for Indigenous peoples

aerial shot of Iqaluit, Nunavut

Today we celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, an annual tradition established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994. It is a day to recognize the fundamental contributions made by these communities and individuals, and how their achievements have improved our lives.

This day is also an important reminder that we must continue our efforts to find opportunities for continued collaboration and support. Diversity, especially within technology industries, improves innovation and creation that ultimately benefits all of society.

These objectives are inherent in Telesat’s ethos. We have been working with and connecting Indigenous populations for several decades. In Canada, we namely partner with Indigenous-owned ISPs and community leaders in a consultative manner to deliver economically viable, high-quality network solutions. These services encompass community-wide connectivity, which is used to link households, businesses, and institutions to services such as Internet, television, telephony, mobile, and public safety, as well as critical government services.

We continually strive to find ways to empower Indigenous communities. For example, Telesat partners with Indigenous peoples, companies, and organizations to assist with day-to-day support relating to telecom service offerings. Specifically, our engineers and technicians work closely and on a continuous basis with our Indigenous partners to train local individuals on ground infrastructure operations and maintenance — and to ensure highly reliable infrastructure that can withstand harsh environments.

A partnership example is our work with Broadband Communications North (BCN), a Manitoba-based, Indigenous-owned and operated ISP. Together we developed a solution that enhances broadband connectivity to several Northern Manitoba Indigenous communities via a Telesat satellite. To facilitate this service, Telesat provided skills training to BCN technical staff on the installation and maintenance of new equipment for the first site, and then acted as backup support as BCN carried out upgrade work at remaining sites.

To further illustrate our commitment to Indigenous populations, Telesat recently announced an annual fellowship program to encourage more Indigenous youth to pursue studies and careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The program, developed in consultation with the Assembly of First Nations and Universities Canada, will award two Indigenous students with $5,000 scholarships, $15,000 stipends, and eight-month paid internships at one of Telesat’s cutting-edge teleport facilities in Alberta, Manitoba, Nunavut, Ontario, or Quebec. We believe that offering meaningful, hands-on work experience is highly valuable for their future careers, and benefits our entire country’s population.

Looking ahead, Telesat’s activities will play an even greater role in serving Indigenous partners in Canada and around the world. Our next-generation Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation, Telesat Lightspeed, will revolutionize connectivity, bringing affordable high-speed Internet and LTE/5G service around the globe, including every rural and remote Indigenous community.

As a result, we expect Telesat Lightspeed will deliver meaningful economic and social benefits to Indigenous communities worldwide — such as the inclusion of everyone in the modern digital economy, as well as ensuring critical access to education, teleworking, health care, financial services, public safety, government services, and much more.

As we expand our global network of commercial and government partners, Telesat is actively seeking consultation and engagement with Indigenous groups around the world. Our goal is to develop a working strategy that replicates the successful Indigenous partnership and skills-transfer models Telesat has long implemented in Canada, while tailoring to local needs.

Telesat continually seeks new opportunities to engage with Indigenous communities and organizations. We are committed to help solve local connectivity needs in the most tailored, affordable and efficient way – leaving these communities with empowering critical infrastructure that they can independently maintain and operate with the continuous support of Telesat staff when they need it – helping to bridge the digital divide once and for all.

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