October 4, 2023
Check against delivery
Before I begin, I would also like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional territory of many Indigenous peoples, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinabeg the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples. Toronto is also covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit, and is home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. There is history here since time immemorial. Let us acknowledge this history and learn from it in the spirit of reconciliation.
Congratulations on the 10th anniversary of Connected North! I’m so very happy to be here with all of you this evening, with so many people that I know have worked hard to get to this point.
So, how did we get to this point?
From 2006-2012, I was president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. During that time, we examined the challenges of education in Inuit Nunangat. One outcome was the ten recommendations in the National Strategy on Inuit Education, one of which called for access to quality, culturally relevant early childhood education for Inuit. This access is important to the well-being of children, parents and our communities.
This particular recommendation has a link to another outcome, one that we are celebrating here today: the partnership formed with CISCO, which became Connected North.
This partnership was anchored in Connected North’s vision—a vision of using technology to bridge the gap and increase access to provide equitable learning opportunities to students and teachers in remote communities.
There were many challenges in the early days of CISCO; many hurdles to overcome on the way to the successful model we know today.
I will never forget my very first conversation with students across the Arctic, during my presidency of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. It was so important to connect with them, to talk about their priorities and their needs for education in the North. It was inspiring and a milestone moment for connectivity.
There are youth here with us today, and students across the country, who have benefited from Connected North. They have grown with the program, matured with the program. They are the “Connected Generation,” who are now making a difference in their communities, using the knowledge they have gained.
There is so much here to be proud of and today, we celebrate this success.
Connected North has created something lasting, particularly for remote communities and Indigenous peoples. And you did this through collaboration with so many who are here today.
But, as you know, there is still so much yet to do. And I know you’re up to the task.
One of the most pressing concerns is access to reliable high speed internet. A recent report by the Auditor General of Canada stated that less than half of Inuit households have access to the Internet. This creates daily hardships, whether it is in accessing medical or mental health care, teleworking, or simply staying connected with family and friends.
Connectivity is vital for education. It is vital for remote communities. Connected North is rising to the challenge, with the support of all levels of governments, with partners and influencers across the country, and with the communities they serve.
I applaud the young people here with us today and across Canada who are committing to education and who are supporting Connected North in their programming. You give me hope for our future.
To all of you, I would like to leave you with this message: “I believe in you. You give me hope.”
Once again, congratulations to all of you celebrating this milestone anniversary. I wish you many more years of success.