Chief Louis and Minister of ‘Citizens’ services, Jinny Sims, who spoke at the ceremony Saturday. (Brieanna Charlebois - Morning Star)

Chief Louis and Minister of ‘Citizens’ services, Jinny Sims, who spoke at the ceremony Saturday. (Brieanna Charlebois - Morning Star)

Okanagan Indian Band receive dividend cheque

“This program actually recognizes the contributions rural communities have made to B.C.’s economy and the unique challenges they face to diversify your natural resources.”

Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations presented a dividend cheque to the Okanagan Indian Band Saturday, April 28.

Joined by Chief Louis, Minister of ‘Citizens’ services, Jinny Sims, spoke at the ceremony.

“It is an honour to be here to announce the B.C. rural dividend program,” said Sims. “This program actually recognizes the contributions rural communities have made to B.C.’s economy and the unique challenges they face to diversify your natural resources.”

Related: Grant improves Purple Springs Nursery connectivity

Ideas for the projects are locally driven. In Vernon, the Okanagan Indian Band gained funding. She said that supporting Indigenous communities is a top priority in the project. Recognizing a digital divide between rural and urban communities, she said a main goal is to allow for technological advances in aiding economic development.

“Having high speed internet is an essential tool,” she said. “You need to be connected and you need to market yourself. We cannot think about Truth and Reconciliation without recognizing a digital divide between big cities and rural communities. One of the things I’ve heard personally from going to First Nation communities across the province is that having a digital footprint is an absolutely essential in moving forward on so many issues.”

She said that since 2017, over 440 B.C. communities have either been connected or are in the process of getting connected — 75 of which are Indigenous communities.

“Do we have a lot left to do? Absolutely. But if we want to modernize the way we do business, then we have to. We can not pretend the internet doesn’t exist.”

The project $25 million per year to fund projects in small rural communities around the province, helping rural communities reinvigorate and diversify the local economies and make them more appealing places to live and work.

Related: Premier John Horgan calls for high-tech investment to boost B.C. economy

Related: College offers emerging technology program

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