Ontario providing funding to expand high-speed internet service and enhance mental health services in Hiawatha First Nation

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The Ontario government is providing more than $409,000 to bring high-speed internet to Hiawatha First Nation, the area’s MPP announced Wednesday morning.

Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini announced $409,742 in funding, which he says will help connect up to 174 homes and businesses in the First Nation community located kilometres south of Peterborough.

The funding is part of $14.7 million for 13 projects in 42 communities (including remote and First Nations communities) under the Improving Connectivity for Ontario (ICON) program, which was launched last year to help provide high-speed internet and cellular projects to underserved and unserved communities.

“There’s more to be done, and the good news for our community is that we’re continuing to accelerate these projects,” he said.

Hiawatha First Nation Chief Laurie Carr says it is “essential” for the community to have reliable, sustainable and affordable high-speed internet access, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This initiative will allow Hiawatha citizens to access new educational approaches such as virtual classrooms, to virtually connect to various cultural and other community activities, as well as inquire about or address any health and safety concerns,” she said.

“It’s also a vital component for business owners as it opens the door for enhancing and creating new economic opportunities. There needs to be equal access to high-speed internet, not only for Hiawatha, but for all First Nations and all Indigenous people. Programs such as the ICON are a step in the right direction toward achieving this equity and building for the future.”

Piccini says the Ontario government aims to achieve 100 per cent connectivity after committing nearly $4 billion to ensure all Ontarians have access to high-speed internet by the end of 2025. The government says it is the largest single investment in high-speed internet, in any province, by any government in Canadian history.

Mental health services funding

Piccini also announced the province is providing $10,300 to Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child and Family Services in Hiawatha First Nation. Located on Hiawatha Line, the organization provides support and services to eight First Nations and urban Indigenous families and their children. Wraparound services include Native Youth Justice, Youth in Transition and Child & Youth Mental Health and Addictions.

“This funding amount will enhance and assist in increasing much needed mental health and addictions supports and services for First Nations youth and families,” said Carr. “We must continue to provide our children and youth with services that meets their needs so they can live the good life, the life Creator intended for them.”

This funding is part of the government’s commitment to invest $3.8 billion over the next decade to implement the Roadmap to Wellness, Ontario’s plan to build a comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions system.

“With today’s funding, we continue our important work through Roadmap to Wellness to enhance existing services, fill urgent gaps in mental health and build a treatment network that will support children and youth, families, and communities on their journey to wellness,” said Piccini.

“This funding will help ensure child and youth clients can receive the appropriate care and support they need in a timely manner and in the right setting, helping improve outcomes and avoiding hospital admissions.”

SOURCE: Greg Davis | Global News