Is this a sign of the future? Industry Canada recently notified CAP sites that their funding had been cut as of March 31

Industry Canada pulls Community Access Program funding across Canada

Industry Canada’s decision to cut all funding to the Community Access Program, CAP, has left many centres reeling.

Around the corner from the School Board office is the computer-filled CAP site where anyone can go use a computer and a printer if they need one. It’s a pretty busy place that sees 4,000 or so visits each year. But apparently the feds don’t care how many people are helped.

Federal government department Industry Canada’s decision to cut all funding to the Community Access Program, CAP, effective as of March 31, 2012 has left many centres reeling.

“This decision to cease CAP funding came out in a letter on April 4, 2012 which explained the funding had stopped on March 31, 2012,” said CBAL co-ordinator Liz Gillis, “There was no apparent lead up to this decision and as we speak, we are operating in the ‘red.’”

Until the belated notice in early April, Nakusp’s CAP site had received $4,000 a year from Industry Canada for operating expenses: rent, telephone and internet connection. Funding for salaries and supplies for programs has been provided by Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL).

The government’s decision to axe the funding is based on the idea that CAP is “mission accomplished,” said Gillis, which isn’t true.

“The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of a nationally accessible digital infrastructure and narrowing the digital divide,” responded Stéfanie Power from Industry Canada Media Relations, who claimed that “by summer 2012, when all Broadband Canada projects are completed — and taking into account other provincial and private sector initiatives — fewer than 2 percent of Canadian households will be without access to basic broadband service of 1.5 megabits per second.”

This simply isn’t the case where we live, said Gillis, who says visitors to the CAP site include people who may not have a computer or internet for a variety of reasons.

“Fixed income folks who can’t afford a computer or internet connection, beginners who need help with computer skills, people looking for information on the internet, people who cannot get high speed in the area because of geographic challenges,” listed Gillis.

Tourists also round out the visitor numbers, with many people coming to check their email or do some online banking when they’re travelling, or searching out information about the area.

But the CAP site is more than just an internet café, noted Gillis.

“There is much more that takes place here,” said Gillis, “For instance, through CBAL, we offer free beginner computers courses to older adults and many workshops. Over the past three years, we have also donated approximately 70 refurbished computer packages to families in need through donated used computer parts.”

Although the CAP site won’t be closing its doors right now, the withdrawal of support from Industry Canada is a severe blow, and Gillis is working to reinstate the funding or find other sources. She encourages everyone to contact MP David Wilks and urge him to reinstate the funding so the CAP site can remain a resource open to the community.