The federal and provincial governments are taking a step in the right direction towards connection and opportunities across Manitoba.

On Tuesday, January 9 members of Parliament and numerous indigenous leaders of Manitoba gathered for the announcement of the advancements of internet connectivity in rural northern communities.

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development made the announcement of the government's investment in the north,

"Our government has commited 500 million dollars to enhance and extend high speed internet services across Canada, particularly in rural and remote communities."

"Manitoba has the greatest connectivity gap in the country. I have the honour of announcing projects to be funded under our government's Connect and Innovate program in Manitoba."

"This investment of almost 84 million dollars will fund four important projects. Of the total investment, our federal government will contribute over 45 million dollars."

Bains explains, "these projects will benefit people in 112 communities across Manitoba in the northern region. This includes 48 First Nations communities. 16 of these communities will move from utilizing satellite connectivity to fibre. More than three-quarters of the total investment today is going towards Indigenous owned and operated ISP's. This will empower Indigenous communities to own, operate, and control their connectivity investments. Not to become just users, but owners and operators of their place in this new digital economy."

He continues, "Affordable, high-speed internet can no longer be considered a luxury. The internet is a basic, essential tool for all Canadians regardless of where they live."

Bains notes, "This high-speed revolution isn't just about large cities. Canadians in all regions of the country need access to faster, more reliable networks. High-speed internet connects Canadians to each other... and to the world... Canadians, young and old, can learn new skills and upgrade their education online. Businesses will create welcoming jobs for the middle class. "

The Honorable Premier Brian Pallister shared his thanks to his federal colleagues, community, and Indigenous leaders.

He says,"I have particular empathy for rural and remote communities... We were limited, as young people... There were no resources that we can now create. And today we celebrate creating. A cause for celebration for all of us is the lifting of the limits on young people."

"We are the province with the greatest potential to benefit from the development of our northern remote communities. We are the province that leads in terms of population in those communities. We are the province that stands to gain the most from working together in partnership on these important files... The only thing that will be better than today in Manitoba is tomorrow in Manitoba."

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs grand chief Arlen Dumas of Mathias Colomb First Nation attended the event to extend his welcome, thanks and pride for such a momentous occasion.

"It is the true way forward...Manitoba will no longer be the worst area for internet connectivity in the country... This will be the tangible example of reconciliation in the country. We can prove and show a result. As we push forward, we will provide something tangible and deliverable to the word 'reconciliation' to the people of northern Manitoba and Manitoba overall."

MKO Grand Chief Sheila North-Wilson attended the event as well to share her thanks,"It's an about time occasion... I'm very pleased to hear of the new investment to improve internet connection to Manitoba First Nations through a fibre optic network."

She explains, "high-speed internet is critically important to the health, transformation, and education work the MKO has been directed to do in partnership with the government of Canada and our MKO First Nations. Longterm success and sustainability depend on a pool of highly trained and educated First Nations youth to advance health transformation in the north. It's 2018... it's about time that this happened."

Manitoba Hydro will allow Clear Sky Communications, a Manitoba First Nations-owned and -operated Internet service provider, to access and utilize existing fibre-optic cable network and related assets. Once completed, it will include 10-gigabit ethernet fibre connections to provide 72 communities and 88 institutions with access to high-speed internet services. These services will be on par with southern ubran areas. 37 of the communities affected are First Nations and 18 of the communities are located in remote regions of northern Manitoba.

 At the end of the conference, the staff of Clear Sky Communications gifted Premier Brian Pallister, Minister Navdeep Bairns, and other leaders Star Blankets.