Betty Nippi-Albright, along with other NDP members, have called on the Saskatchewan government to address the lack of cell service in northern Saskatchewan communities like Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation.
“I was shocked and dismayed that this community of over 1,000 people on the reservation had no cell coverage.” said Nippi-Albright
They were joined by Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation Chief Leon Crookedneck, who stressed that the lack of cell service is dangerous.
“The number one thing is safety and we don’t have cell service to contact the emergency resources we need,” Crookedneck said.
Regina-Rosemont MP Trent Wotherspoon agreed with Crookedneck, saying cell service is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.
“The fact is that in 2022, connectivity like cellphone coverage is not a luxury, it’s an essential service and it’s about basic security,” Wotherspoon said.
Nippi-Albright said the government is close to completing new cell towers in the province, but there are missing indigenous communities.
“In the fall, this government announced that it was in the final stages of creating 74 new cell towers. Yet there is not a single cellphone tower near an Indigenous community.
Nippi-Albright added that this is just another example of how Indigenous communities are being treated.
“That example is systemic racism and how some citizens of this province are treated like second-class citizens,” Nippi-Albright said.
In a statement to CTV News, Crown Investments Corporation Minister Don Morgan said the following:
“Our government understands how important wireless communication services have become in the modern world, especially for those who live and work in rural and remote areas. Although SaskTel’s wireless network reaches over 99% of the province’s population, we recognize that some areas of Saskatchewan remain underserved. In 2013, SaskTel created the Community Partnership Program, which has served as an effective framework for communities in Saskatchewan looking to expand their wireless service. SaskTel and Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation have been actively engaged through the Community Partnership Program to improve wireless access in their region.
In 2020, SaskTel applied for funding through the federal government’s Universal Broadband Fund to improve wireless coverage in Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation. Despite submitting its proposal nearly two years ago, SaskTel has yet to receive a response to its request for support from the Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation. We urge the federal government to work with SaskTel to improve wireless coverage in northern Saskatchewan.
CTV News has also contacted the federal government regarding the Universal Broadband fund and is awaiting a response.