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Connecting First Nations communities

BCBusiness + Rogers Today's wireless technology means people are connected like never before. While there are still some gaps when it comes to coverage in some rural, remote and northern communities, Rogers Communications is working to change that through partnerships with B.C. First Nations. The Canadian company's collaboration with various Indigenous groups is...


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Rogers is helping bring the latest generation of wireless coverage to remote and northern B.C. communities

Today’s wireless technology means people are connected like never before. While there are still some gaps when it comes to coverage in some rural, remote and northern communities, Rogers Communications is working to change that through partnerships with B.C. First Nations.

The Canadian company’s collaboration with various Indigenous groups is about improving connectivity in these communities, as well as supporting a broader commitment to inclusion, diversity and reconciliation.

Approximately 50 percent of First Nations in Canada are located in B.C., and while Rogers wireless coverage reaches 96 percent of the province, many First Nations groups are situated in remote, rural and northern communities without cellular service. 

 “We are committed to bringing wireless connectivity to rural, remote and northern parts of Canada,” says Rick Sellers, President of British Columbia, Rogers Communications. “We are proud to work with the provincial government and Indigenous communities to identify parts of the province that would benefit from improved wireless coverage to help increase economic opportunities for local residents and businesses as well as improve public safety.”

Rogers and Nisga’a Nation, for example, recently collaborated to connect four Nisga’a communities throughout northwestern B.C.

LTE wireless coverage has connected approximately 1,200 residents in the villages of Gitlaxt’aamiks, Gitwinksihlkw, Laxgalts’ap and Gingolx. This reliable, consistent and fast coverage from Rogers has had vital, tangible effects. For instance, Nisga’a communities have experienced economic benefits such as increased eco-tourism to the famous Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park as well as improved access to education and health-care delivery.

The Rogers network also provides essential emergency coverage so residents and visitors alike can call 911, having immediate access to urgent and at times life-saving services.

Rogers also recently established wireless and emergency coverage for Witsuwit’en Village (Witset First Nation, which consists of seven communities), previously the only First Nation to have been without cellular service along Highway 16.

A partnership of Witset First Nation, Rogers Communications, Northern Development Initiative Trust and the Province of B.C., the project means continuous network coverage from New Hazelton to Smithers. This new connectivity benefits residents, tourists and businesses in Witset First Nation and contributes directly to economic development, helping youth looking for opportunities as well as community safety and security for indigenous peoples in northern B.C.

Rogers has also expanded wireless service in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation. Rogers and Fido customers near Mount Boucherie and Upper Okanagan Mission are among those who now have access to world-class LTE service, the fastest generation of wireless service in Canada. That means they can do things like use maps to navigate the Lakeshore Wine Route or share photos from Jim Lind Arena.

“Our local team is working hard to identify ways to best support First Nations communities in British Columbia,” Sellers says. “We know that helping connect communities so they have access to all socio-economic services like health care, education and tourism which benefits the entire province.”

Senior Vice-President at Rogers and Chair of Rogers Inclusion and Diversity Council, Nyla Ahmad, believes empowering Indigenous peoples through wireless connectivity is helping preserve and enrich First Nations’ culture. 

“The most fundamental benefit we’ve seen through the Indigenous communities we’ve worked with are families remaining in their home communities or moving back,” says Ahmad,  “connectivity has eliminated the need of having to leave, which is a much better starting point for economic growth and empowering  their culture to thrive. We’re equally passionate about our technical network connections as we are about the human connections that these enable.”

Rogers collaboration with First Nations in Canada reflects efforts towards reconciliation that exist within the organization itself. The company continues to educate its employees about the role Indigenous people have played and continue to hold in the fabric of the entire country.   

The Legacy Space in Rogers head office in Toronto was created in partnership with the Downie Wenjack Fund, an initiative born from the Tragically Hip lead singers commitment to reconciliation.  This unique conference room serves to generate awareness and understanding of Indigenous art, history and culture with corporate teams and community members. More than 20 creatives, including Indigenous muralist and storyteller Philip Cote, contributed art, historical artifacts, images and other works to the serene room. Rogers is one of 20 companies in Canada to open a Legacy Space.

“We’re going through a reconciliation process, and we want to participate in it as best we can and reach a new level of understanding within our own company,” Ahmad says. “Real change comes from the things we do every single day and the message we are sending to our employees is diversity is important, it brings fresh, innovative, diverse, transformative thinking to our business.”

Created by BCBusiness in partnership with Rogers