The issue: Unlimited internet
We say: It’s about time
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) left no mystery around its decision to allow Northwestel to start offering internet packages with unlimited data options on an interim basis.
The reasoning detailed in the telecom order issued Tuesday afternoon was plain: “in order to address customers’ increased internet data needs and alleviate their increased internet usage costs in the circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Mental health experts were just as clear at the outset of the widespread lockdowns that came into effect in late spring here and around the world. Isolation measures put more pressure, increasing pressure, probably, on the mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of everyone. People, children included, were in many cases trapped with their abusers and cut off from their supports and safe havens.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), the prevalence of suicidal thoughts jumped in May as the first wave of the pandemic and ensuing public health measures raged.
Data on the CMHA’s website indicates that 2.5 per cent of Canadians had suicidal thoughts sometime in 2019. That figure jumped to six per cent in May, meaning one in 20 Canadians had experienced thoughts or feelings “of suicide” recently. It follows that this affected some groups more than others: the rate of recent suicide-related thoughts or feelings at that time was about one in five individuals who already had mental health issues, about one in six Indigenous individuals, one in seven with a disability and one in seven who identify as LGBTQ+ and one in 10 parents of children younger than 18.
Individuals with existing mental wellness challenges were twice as likely to say the state of their mental health had declined, five times as likely to say they felt depressed and four times as likely to have suicidal thoughts.
Internet access is not a magic wand but it can help connect people to critical supports available from a distance, and circling back to the CRTC’s order, how else are we to access those supports when the pandemic throws up so many barriers to in-person interactions?
Today is the middle of National Addictions Awareness Week. The GNWT has a website devoted to content related to the cause. One of the highlights is a chart of the community events that are taking place from Fort Smith to Ulukhaktok and beyond. Many are virtual or take place over the airwaves.
To mention a few, a poster contest, online jigging, twist and gospel contests in Tuktoyaktuk, a weeklong raffle and Facebook events in Fort Smith and a Gabor Mate podcast, which offered call-in door prizes as it was beamed out from the Deline radio station.
In Yellowknife, the Tree of Peace Friendship Centre organized a march through the downtown.
Some of the online resources available right now are listed in a fact file table on page 2 of this newspaper. The CRTC’s order won’t affect every Northerner, but it will help anyone who needs to reach out and ask for help.
On page 9 of this newspaper, Jack Bourassa, Public Service Alliance of Canada executive vice-president for the North, says “having and showing compassion for others is the single biggest contribution we can make.”
With an unprecedented holiday season upon us and public health advice that is trending away from more freedoms and frowning upon travel, the CRTC could not have found a better time to make the biggest contribution it could make.