Keewaytinook Okimakanak

Masters graduate works with KORI to produce a First Nation research protocol

Aliya Pardhan, a University of Guelph Masters of Science graduate completed the defense of her thesis this past summer. Her thesis, "EXPLORING KEY STAKEHOLDER PERSPECTIVES FOR A COLLABORATIVE FIRST NATION RESEARCH PROTOCOL", is an important publication for anyone interested in working with First Nations in the delivery of health and other services.

Dr. Ricardo Ramirez was her Academic Advisor at the University of Guelph for this work. Aliya visited Thunder Bay, Sioux Lookout and Fort Severn to complete the research portion of her thesis, working with the Keewaytinook Okimakanak team and Fort Severn leadership and community members.

From the abstract ....

This thesis proposes a set of recommendations to assist the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute (KORI) in developing codes of conduct of research with the First Nation. 

It places the discussion of research ethics in the context of cultural world view and the struggle for self-determination as peoples and nations. 

It affirms that the First Nation Peoples have a right to participate as partners in research that generates knowledge affecting their culture, identity and well-being.

To provide the context and rational for the recommendations presented, the thesis outlines how ethics are framed in the First Nation with respect to research design, informed consent, entry into the field, confidentiality, approaches to data collection, participant roles, ownership of data and dissemination of results.

The thesis also describes how First Nation perceptions of reality and ethical behavior contrast with the norms prevailing in western research.  The perspective of community ethics suggests that representation of multiple voices, enhancement of moral discernment, building capacity, empowerment, and self-advocacy need to be critical components of research. 

This study emphasizes that the research process needs to be reciprocal and collaborative, with communities, researchers, research organizations, academic institutions, research councils and funding agencies working together to shape the conception, definition and direction of research in the North.

Click here to read the entire 201 page thesis (918K, PDF document)

Concerning her future adventures, Aliya writes ... "I actually did get accepted into a PhD program here at Guelph in epidemiology/population medicine. I do intend to build on my thesis with more of a health/infectious disease perspective. My research is being funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada."

Keewaytinook Okimakanak congratulates Aliya on her successes and looks forward to working with her on her doctoral research.

Doctoral candidate at UofG successfully defends thesis about work with K-Net

George Ferreira, a University of Guelph doctoral candidate successfully defended his thesis, "PARTICIPATORY VIDEO FOR POLICY DEVELOPMENT IN REMOTE ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES" on Monday, Sept 18, 2006. Doctor George is now available to take on new and exciting challenges that will hopefully further his research and production work.

The two hour session was video conferenced with professors, students, friends, co-workers and special guests (Don Snowden's family members) at the the University of Guelph, University of Toronto and Keewaytinook Okimakanak's Sioux Lookout office linked together for this special event. The video conferenced session is archived for online viewing. Click here to watch George's defense of his doctoral thesis.

George began working with Keewaytinook Okimakanak back in the spring and summer of 2003, becoming part of the Kuhkenah Network's Smart Communities evaluation team (Don Richardson, Helen Aitkin and Ricardo Ramirez). He travelled to each of the KO First Nations providing video production training and capturing how the KO First Nations were utilizing ICTs. His footage has been used in the production of a number of online video presentations about K-Net and our partners. Cal Kenny, K-Net's Multi-media Producer and others worked with George over these past few years to develop some great video material that is available on the K-Net website.

The production of the "Turning the Corner" video in the winter of 2005, provided George with the opportunity to meet with a number of government officials to further his research on the use of video as a means of influencing public policies and programs. Click here to see the KNEWS story about the "Turning the Corner" video presentation in Ottawa.

Click here to see some pictures of George's thesis defense session.

Brian Walmark, Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute Coordinator, was part of George's advisory team and thesis review committee along with Doctors Ricardo Ramirez, Al Lauzon and Isobel Heathcote at the University of Guelph. Dr. Susan O'Donnell from the National Research Council in New Brunswick was part of George's thesis review committee.

From George's thesis abstract (the link to the entire thesis will be added once it is finalized) ...

This research is based on the Fogo Process which used film to bridge communication between a group of remote Newfoundland fishing communities and government policy makers and politicians in the late 1960’s.  The research expands the scope of the Fogo Process by integrating principles from participatory video, a development strategy used to build local capacity around socio-economic issues, participatory action research and advances in video technology.

This thesis is an investigation of the role of participatory video as a tool to influence government policy making. The research is set within the context of a group of five remote Aboriginal communities in northwestern Ontario, Canada. These communities, collectively know as Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO), were part of a federal pilot program to encourage innovative broadband infrastructure development across the country.  These communities represent a rare research environment because prior to the introduction of broadband services, they were minimally serviced in terms of telecommunications, with one telephone available for all the communities needs.

The research was initially made possible because of the need for program evaluation data. Video was used to gather testimonial stories in support of KO’s Smart Program evaluation report. Video was chosen because it was felt by the evaluation team and KO leadership that Industry Canada, the primary funding agency, could make a more informed assessment if the data was contextualized through the provision of real life accounts and experiences with broadband. Very few Canadians have ever visited communities such as these and the impact that broadband was having on health care, education and community development required a communication mechanism beyond conventional evaluation approaches.

Local leadership quickly realized the potential of video to link their needs with policy makers located thousands of kilometers away. Research continued into the development and dissemination of locally produced videos in the service of policy needs. During the course of the initial video productions, I provided training workshops in the communities thereby creating a critical mass of people who could produce their own video media and, in turn, teach others.

After the collaborative production of twenty two videos, and numerous others produced independently by former trainees, the research culminated in the production of Turning the Corner. This was a 17 minute video produced in cooperation with the Privy Council of Canada’s Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat and KO leadership. The purpose of the video was to relay the message that bottom-up planning and funding strategies were essential to the success of broadband expansion across Canada’s Northern Aboriginal communities. This message was based on the lessons and experience of the KO communities where broadband had transformed community life from telehealth applications and internet assisted education to overcoming isolation and community development. The video made real the need for local planning and initiative to be brought into the planning process for broadband infrastructure through a series of screenings to senior policy makers in the nation’s capital, Ottawa. 

Grade 8 Online Supplementary English Literacy fall course open for registrations

G8 Program Registration is Now Open
The G8 Supplementary Courses Program ("G8 Program") was created to help First Nation students prepare for the demands of high school. This program provides First Nation grade 8 classrooms with online courses that highlight key skills and knowledge in the areas of Science, Math and English Literacy as outlined by the Ontario Ministry of Education.

All courses are free and run for about 2 months. It is important to stress that these courses are supplementary in nature. While a number of grade 8 curriculum expectations are covered throughout this program, these courses are not meant to act as a substitute to the regular classroom instruction. 

The first course (English Literacy) will run from Oct 8, 2006 to Jan 26, 2007. Students are required to be online for at least 3 hours per week (anytime). Registration is now open. 
The goals of the G8 Program are as follows:

  • Promote academic skills and knowledge in the core subjects of Science, Math and English Literacy.
  • Promote an understanding the high school system (ex. What is a credit?  What is the difference between elective and compulsory courses? How are different courses connected to different career paths? Etc.)
  • Promote pride and awareness in First Nation communities, issues and people
  • Promote computer literacy (file management, word processing, Internet research, graphics editing).
  • Promote communication between students and teachers in remote and rural First Nation schools.
  • Provide teachers with practical examples of how computers and the Internet can be used to enrich the learning of their students.

The courses are delivered via a secure online platform that was adapted to showcase First Nations communities across Ontario.  Students and teachers can use their online profile to exchange messages, chat and share pictures.  Students are asked to log in three times per week (the local teacher determines the actual day and hour). During this time, students review lessons and complete assignments.  The flexibility of the G8 Program allows teachers to make the program fit their local schedule. The course content is geared explicitly for Aboriginal students. Lessons often use subjects, places and situations that promote or reflect First Nations topics and environments. To find out more about the G8 Program, please visit

Researcher from Argentina meets with K-Net to discuss development process

Leonor Slavsky ( is working with the National Institute of Anthropology (National Culture Secretariat) in Argentina.  She is also working with an IDRC-ICA support community project to develop connectivity services in the Indigenous communities across Argentina. The project web site can be seen at

She is in Ottawa doing research on the Canadian cultural policies towards indigenous peoples. She is also networking with potential partners for developing broadband connectivity solutions for the rural and remote communities in her country. Luis Barnola, Senior Program Specialist at the Institute for Connectivity in the Americas/IDRC ( introduced Leonor to the work K-Net is doing. The 2003 ICA funded publication, "Harnessing ICTs: A Canadian First Nations experience - K-Net Program", detailing the K-Net story are available online at (it is also available in Spanish).

Leonor is spending a month in Ottawa learning about the cultural policies towards indigenous peoples on a grant from the Canadian Government. Working with Industry Canada's First Nation SchoolNet team, Leonor was able to connect via video conference with the K-Net team on Sioux Lookout on Thursday, Sept 14.

K-Net staff meet with Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong officials about broadband

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept 12 and 13), I travelled over to Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations to meet with local officials to identify strategies to develop local broadband connectivity solutions.

Grassy Narrows First Nation is working with North One Communications ( to develop their community connections to the internet. Robert Williamson, Project Manager is overseeing the development of this local resource for Grassy Narrows. A local wireless network is now operational with both businesses and homes being connected to it by a local team of technicians trained by Richard Lajeunesse ( Richard is the owner of North One and is a Grassy Narrows band member.

Industry Canada's FedNor's Telecommunication program is funding K-Net to support First Nations across northern Ontario to develop local community broadband solutions. One investment of these funds was to fund North One and the Crescive network to install two radios on Bell towers that would connect Grassy Narrows to the Kuhkenah Network. This construction work was successfully completed over this past spring and summer, connecting the community to a broadband network that supports video conferencing and high speed internet access.

The K-Net visit provided everyone the opportunity to learn about how the connections are working and how Grassy Narrows can begin working to develop local economic initiatives using these connections. Trevor Ashopenace is working at the local school under Industry Canada's First Nations SchoolNet program. He is now working with Richard's and K-Net's team to get the video conferencing equipment and connections working at the school.

A meeting with the Wabaseemoong Independent Nation Chief and Council was an opportunity to introduce the concept for bringing a Bell Canada T1 connection into their community. An interest in working with Richard's team at North One and arranging a visit to Grassy Narrows to learn about their connectivity development work was expressed. Glen Cameron, Public Works Manager, is leading this work on behalf of the council.

Tribal councils partner to build broadband network in 4 First Nations

Keewaytinook Okimakanak's K-Net team is working with Matawa First Nations Management in the construction of local community broadband networks in four Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities.

Constance Lake, Marten Falls, Pikangikum and Sandy Lake First Nations will be seeing local cable systems being installed throughout their communities over the next few months.

Meetings last week with K-Net and Matawa staff clarified roles and responsibilities as the Matawa team leads this community broadband network construction project.

Each First Nation is contributing support for the development of their community network. Matawa was successful in obtaining over $900,000 from Industry Canada's Broadband for Rural and Northern Development. Keewaytinook Okamakanak's K-Net Services received funding from Industry Canada's FedNor program to help support the purchase of the network equipment and support the construction work.

Thunder Bay Telephone officials meet with K-Net and partners to plan next steps

The initial meeting with Thunder Bay Telephone on Friday, Sept 8, resulted in many new exciting opportunities for the various projects that Keewaytinook Okimakanak and their First Nation partners are undertaking. Angela Crozier of NAN, Rob Wesley of Matawa, Franz Seibel of KORI, Brian Beaton and Adi Linden of K-Net, along with Carl Seibel of FedNor were able to meet with several key Thunder Bay Telephone officials (including John Lyon from Superior Wireless who is now on contract with T.Bay Tel for the transition period) to discuss the various initiatives that K-Net and our partners are developing.

Thunder Bay Telephone officially took over ownership of all Superior Wireless assets on September 1, 2006.

The Superior Wireless team was working over the past few years with the K-Net team to develop broadband connectivity solutions in a number of First Nations and locsl organizations. All indications from our initial meeting with Thunder Bay Telephone, is that everything will "business as usual" with our new partner.

All the staff and resources from Superior Wireless are now moved into the Thunder Bay Telephone resulting in many more options and efficiencies in how best to design and deliver the planned connections. Some of the planned work will now be able to migrate to existing fibre connections.

Existing connections will be maintained and developed in partnership with Thunder Bay Telephone, the new owners of Superior Wireless. All new connections will be developed in partnership with Thunder Bay Telephone and their partners. One example of this is the new fibre interconnection at the water tower in Sioux Lookout. This new connection that was installed last week will now support a redundant route for K-Net’s existing 100Mb connection back to Thunder Bay.

The K-Net team is looking forward to working with Thunder Bay Telephone to develop these opportunities for improved broadband connectivity in the First Nations.

Funding cuts to First Nation schools continue with the end of SchoolNet program

The CBC news story, "Reserve schools worried about internet cuts", (see below) highlights a funding problem that will be affecting First Nation schools across the country starting in early 2007.
Keewaytinook Okimakanak has delivered Industry Canada’s First Nations SchoolNet program in its present format in partnership with First Nation schools across Ontario since December 2002. The program has included working with the schools to develop subsidized broadband connections to better serve the students, staff and community. These connectivity subsidies from the Industry Canada’s First Nations SchoolNet program will end as of December of this year for the First Nation schools across Ontario.

Presently there are no other plans in place from the Federal government to support First Nation schools to sustain these broadband connections starting in January. Many schools have T1 connections that support video conferencing and other broadband applications. Some of the schools are sharing the costs of these connections with other local community organizations (the health centre and the band office). The school connectivity subsidy is helping remote and rural schools to access resources too often taken for granted in urban centres.

There is a need to make sure that all Members of Parliament are made aware of the impact of this decision. Hopefully additional press coverage and discussions in Parliament will provide the pressure required to ensure the Federal government announces an alternative program and the dollars necessary to help First Nation schools to stay connected with the rest of the world.

For more information, contact ...

Brian Beaton
Coordinator, K-Net Services
Keewaytinook Okimakanak
Box 1439, 115 King Street
Sioux Lookout, ON, P8T 1B9
Tel: 807-737-1135 or toll free at 877-737-KNET(5638) ext 1251
Fax: 807-737-1720
IP and ISDN Video conferencing available


From CBC Online ...

Reserve schools worried about internet cuts
Sept 8, 2006 - CBC News

Some cash-strapped schools on Saskatchewan First Nations reserves are worried they may soon lose their internet connections — a move some educators say could be a disaster for learning.

Early next year, the money will run out for the federal First Nations SchoolNet program, which providing internet access to reserve schools across Canada, including 170 in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The program has been in place since 2002.

A spokesperson from Industry Canada, which runs the program along with regional  management groups, said there's no plan to reinstate funding. The department doesn't know if there will be more money available later.

With the program gone, some schools would need to come up with an extra $1,000 a month — money they say they don't have.

Brian McCarthy, a teacher in the northern community of Patuanak, said he's not sure how the school will adapt when the money runs out, although research materials are always a crucial requirement.

"Our whole media studies program is based on the internet," he said. "Our library is very ill-equipped, so all of our classes use the internet access for research."

Teachers, too, are dependent on the net connection.

"Between eight and nine in the morning, at least two-thirds of our teachers are on the internet researching material for the classes," McCarthy said.

Researchers from three universities visit KO to learn about community wireless

Five researchers from the Universities of Ryerson, York and Toronto arrived in Thunder Bay on Tuesday and then travelled to Sioux Lookout and Lac Seul.

The Community Wireless Infrastructure Research Project, funded by Infrastructure Canada is another spin off initiative from the Canadian Research Alliance for Community Innovation and Networking ( As part of this project, the researchers are producing a series of publications about four case studies about the use of community wireless networks in Fredericton, Montreal, Toronto and Lac Seul First Nation.

From their Background Information .. Purpose of the Study ...

This study is invertigating various models of public internet infrastructure provision and the benefits associated with them. In particular, the study is considering how wireless internet access can be made available to Canadian citizens in ways that ensure access to everyone, regardless of georgraphic location, income or other potential constraints. The study will do so by investigating cases of wireless internet in a number of communities in Canada. Results of the study will be made available to the project funding agency, Infrastructure Canada and to all interested parties.

Benefits of the Study:

The research investigates issues to the development, deployment and use of wireless internet. As a public policy issue, it is important to understand the benefits and disadvantages of both private and public ownership and control of wireless internet infrastructure. The researchers will be reporting their results back to Infrastructure Canada, the funding agency, and it is hoped that the findings of this study will be taken into account in future public policymaking with respect to the stucture of ownership for wireless internet infrastructure in Canada.

Click here to see the pictures of the meeting at K-Net

Click here to see the pictures of the meetings in Thunder Bay (KORI)

Two Water Plant Operator training courses to start in August

Two very interesting training courses are coming to the KO Water Plant Operator Training Centre.  

The first course starts August 22 and is a two day leak detection course with CEU’s value. For more information about this course visit

A two day Confined Space course is being offered Sept. 13-14 with the M.H.S.A. featuring their specially designed training trailer. Check out the course description at

Please see our web site for links and info at and visit for a listing of all the available courses being offered at the centre.


Article about INAC's Safe Water Panel from Saskatchewan hearings ....

Sask. reserves offer example for safe water - Federal panel praises improvements in quality
Zak Markan - The StarPhoenix - Thursday, July 27, 2006

Efforts made by Saskatchewan aboriginal people to make water management and consumption safer on reserves have impressed a federal panel studying First Nations water issues.

"There's been some very good presentations today, very much from the front-line folks," said Harry Swain, chair of the independent panel that will advise the federal government on improving poor-quality water on First Nations reserves.

Swain and fellow panellists Steve Hrudey and Grand Chief Stan Louttit were holding an informal consultation at the Radisson Hotel in Saskatoon Wednesday and Thursday. The panel has been travelling across the country for more than a month, talking with aboriginal health experts, water technicians and First Nations politicians about ways to deal with the poor treatment facilities and water management on reserves.

The panel was chosen by Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice in consultation with Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Swain said that efforts made by aboriginal people in Saskatchewan -- particularly the Yellow Quill and Gordon First Nations -- to improve water management on reserves could be beneficial for other First Nations in the Canada.

"The lessons they learned are applicable all over the country," said Swain.

Swain, who is also the director of the Canadian Institute for Climate Studies at the University of Victoria, draws a lot of his experience during these consultations from when he chaired the research advisory panel of the Walkerton Inquiry.

"The policy question (at Walkerton) was, 'What do you do to assure public health?' " Swain said. "In some sense, that's the same question here."

He adds that these general health concerns, coupled with an historically paternalistic, top-down approach that the federal government has had when dealing with aboriginal concerns, have made the water issue on reserves more difficult to deal with.

"Most of the time, the approach that is applied is a sort of top-down approach," said Dr. Mandiangu Nsungu, medical health officer for the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA). The authority is an organization that regulates various health services, including water management, in 33 First Nation communities across northern Saskatchewan. Nsungu said NITHA was a model organization for assuring safe water management because its members are given a strong voice in the decision-making processes.

"I wish there were more NITHAs around the country," said Nsungu. "There has to be in-depth discussions between the different stake-holders, and this must include the First Nations."

Nsungu adds that mid-sized organizations like NITHA are the best way to assure good water management on reserves because larger, inter-provincial regulatory bodies would become too distant and bureaucratic, while individual bands have too few resources to guarantee safety standards.

Another measure that would assure safer water on reserves would be aboriginal federations or associations starting up their own environment departments, said Justin Scott, water technician for the Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation.

"As stewards of Mother Earth, we're supposed to be the ones to sustain her for the next generation. But it's not happening," Scott said. "We talk about regulating water, but the thing is, if we're stewards, why don't we have an environment department?" He adds having an environment department on reserves and actively regulating water systems will allow the water issue to be dealt with more completely.

Swain says he hopes the panel's recommendations to Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, expected to be submitted in September, will give some practical alternatives for aboriginal peoples.

The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2006