Connected North — a unique partnership between governments, private sector partners, community leaders, non-governmental organizations, and Cisco — uses collaboration technology like Cisco TelePresence to connect people in the North to essential educational and mental healthcare services.
Initiated and funded through Cisco’s Connected North program, linking northern classrooms in Nunavut with sister classes in the south is helping to build self-esteem, expand horizons, and introduce students in the south to northern culture. Cisco President, Nitin Kawale states: “In the old days, if the train went by your town, you had an economy. Today’s train happens to be high-speed broadband networks and if we can get these communities lit up, get them connected, then we can start impacting health care, education, government services, employment.”
Being socially isolated from society can take its toll on mental health and lead to depression. Being geographically isolated from resources can make travel difficult if impossible and limit access to essential healthcare, information and support. Isolation removes opportunities for advancement, education, training and social connections that contribute to our wellbeing, self-esteem and mental health. Residents in many Inuit communities feel this sense of isolation all the more, enduring poor internet speeds and less than adequate communications.
First Nations communities are also dealing with devastating rates of suicide. There are more than 1,000 attempted suicide calls each year in Nunavut, a territory of just over 30,000 people. The suicide rate for Inuit is 11 times higher than the national average and the majority of deaths by suicide are people under 30, according to Statistics Canada. The causes are complex but factors include severe depression, unemployment, substance abuse and lack of education.
The Government’s Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs chaired by Andy Fillmore MP is currently reviewing, examining and reporting on issues affecting Aboriginal Canadians and northerners. Connectivity should be high on the agenda.
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