Our inspired government has just sent out a cunningly timed zap. Quickly and quietly it axed the Community Access Program late in the evening (with a late night email!) before Easter weekend. Sneaky.
This program has been carefully developed since 1995 “to provide Canadians with access to the Internet and its economic benefits”, which the document goes on to admit has been a success. They are letting us know that the job is now done and no one needs this any more. This is nonsense!
What CAP has done is provide computers and internet access to any member of society in their own community for free or very inexpensively. (There are still communities without even this.)
Life these days revolves around the internet: for access to government programs – go to this website, apply for a job – go to this website. The list is long: start a small business, medical information, technical resources, books, etc. Without internet access, the world is being denied to you, especially considering that since the 1990’s most of our economic, social, and institutional intercourse has moved to the internet. So we are now being told that if you have no money or power, you really don’t need access to the information and other resources the rest of us take for granted and even view as essential.
Many fiscally responsible people cannot afford the expense of mobile data plans, monthly internet subscription, or justify the purchase of ephemeral computer equipment for a just a modest amount of use, or, since it was never a part of their lives, even have the knowledge to use this equipment and appreciate the possibilities this could open for them. The CAP sites have been places where people could learn basic computer literacy, where homeless (temporarily or otherwise) people have been given a chance to connect with relatives and services, where older people have been introduced to the wonders of the internet and the world wide web as part of a community of citizens.
In addition, the effort put into maintaining and managing these sites in many small villages has rekindled a community spirit, a spirit lost since the local schools and small stores have gradually been closed. We need people living and working in rural areas to keep the country alive. CAP sites provide an enormous return in social good for what is really very little financial investment by the government.
Once again, as a society, we are disenfranchising the old, the young, the disabled, the poor, the homeless: we are letting them know that they should not expect much, as our society only values the financially well-off, the politically powerful, and the physically able. This is just wrong, totally unfair. My own feeling is that the better we care for all members of our communities, the happier and more peaceful we will be as a society.
Please pass this information on to any Canadian friends and tourists planning to visit Canada this year.