Reliable cellular service proves to be life-saving on Quebec's Lower North Shore

The residents of the Lower North Shore region of Quebec know full well what it means to be without cellular service and reliable Internet connectivity. Before 2019, community members and visitors lived without access to essential services that many Canadians take for granted to stay connected with loved ones, do business online and even access search and rescue emergency services.

Thanks to the Government of Canada's Connect to Innovate (CTI) program, the region welcomed two 170-metre cell towers to the remote community of Bonne-Espérance, relaying signals as far as 70 kilometres away.

Not only do these towers serve communities in the region, but they also provide cell service to portions of the iconic White Trail, a 400-kilometre snowmobile trail that links the region's 5,000 inhabitants living in 14 villages during the winter.

For some residents on the Lower North Shore, having reliable cellular service has been life-saving. Just ask Normand Bellefleur, who experienced the benefits of having a new cellular lifeline first-hand.

Bellefleur, then director of the Unamen Shipu Band Council, was boating on the Gulf of St. Lawrence one October evening when his boat struck a shoal and he was plunged into icy waters. Thankfully, a crew member onboard was able to call for help. If not for the new cellular service towers to relay the call, he would have had to wait for hours for members of his community to realize the party was missing and begin their rescue efforts. By the time help arrived, hypothermia could have been fatal for Bellefleur.

"Without connectivity, it would have taken many hours for our community to realize that we needed help and search for us. Hypothermia could have had serious consequences," says Bellefleur. "I will be forever grateful to have been able to call for help."

"Without connectivity, it would have taken many hours for our community to realize that we needed help and search for us. Hypothermia could have had serious consequences. I will be forever grateful to have been able to call for help."

Normand Bellefleur, resident of Lower North Shore, Quebec
 

Connecting the Lower North Shore through the CTI program

CTI is a Government of Canada-led program that funds projects that bring improved Internet speeds to rural and remote communities in Canada. The program has committed $585 million to improve connectivity in over 975 rural and remote communities, including 190 Indigenous communities, by 2023. This program primarily supports new "backbone" infrastructure to connect institutions, such as schools and hospitals. A portion of the funding is also allocated toward providing upgrades and "last-mile" infrastructure to households and businesses.

In May 2018, the Government of Canada announced a CTI project to improve telecommunications services in the Lower North Shore region through a combined investment of more than $23 million from the Government of Canada, the Government of Quebec and TELUS.

As of February 2021, the region has benefited from access to mobile telephone service and an improved Internet network. More than 2,000 households in 14 communities on the Lower North Shore, including the Indigenous communities of Pakuashipi and La Romaine, can now access a new 4G LTE wireless network and are experiencing the numerous advantages that connectivity brings.

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring each and every Canadian has access to a reliable high-speed Internet and mobile connection, so that community members, like those of the Lower North Shore region, can stay connected and have access to all present and future opportunities in the digital world.

To learn more about connectivity efforts, visit the High-speed Internet for all Canadians page.