Ministerial Question Period: Digital Readiness

By: The Hon. Marty Klyne

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Hon. Marty Klyne: Minister, my question is in reference to digital transformation, and the mobilization and readiness of young adults located north of the fifty-fifth parallel to compete in the new economy.

As you know, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada is working feverishly to connect all households and businesses in rural, remote and Indigenous communities with 50/10 internet speeds.

Minister, what levels of digital skills, training and readiness are our working-age Indigenous adults at? Are they ready to participate in the new economy? What efforts are being made to close any gaps before they widen?

Hon. Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P., Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario: Thank you. The honourable senator raises a complex question with multiple moving parts.

In terms of capacity of communities, and our capacity as a government to close the digital divide, we have been making historic investments in broadband. We need, again, to work with partners to do that.

The federal government doesn’t have its own broadband company — unlike, for example, in northern Ontario, where I come from, where we can hook homes up to it. In some cases, we have to work with regional providers and, in other cases, provincial providers. Frankly, I think we all have to work to push those regional and provincial providers to consider how they will be equitable in their approach with Indigenous and remote communities.

It can be a challenging conversation when many of those providers are looking at this through the lens of revenue and economic feasibility rather than of equity. That’s where I hope that our investments at the federal level will help to close that divide.

You’re right; access to the digital world is a critical ingredient — not just for education, but also for health delivery and economic capacity. Many communities are growing their own economic capacity, and they need access to high-speed internet and broadband to be able to market their services and goods. We will continue this work with our provincial, territorial and regional partners.

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