ISED, Spectrum Outlook 2022-2026, and FMCC

On January 12, 2023, the Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (ISED) published the Comments received for the Consultation on the Spectrum 2022 to 2026. FMCC participated in these hearings and our submission can be found here. 

Writing for The Wire Report, Jenna Cocullo noted the emphasis put on the issue of Indigenous Spectrum Sovereignty by a number of parties including FMCC. In the article, Cocullo offers a summary of the position a number of entities have taken on Indigenous access to radio spectrum. The submissions reveal that First Nation leadership has begun to address the issue with Chief Andrew Victor of Cheam First Nation in British Columbia arguing that ownership of the resource  “will critically benefit” access to emergency response, climate change response, economic independence, participation with the rest of Canada, food sovereignty and reducing barriers to the judicial system.

Citing FMCC’s submission, the journalist puts forward the argument that as spectrum is a natural resource that existed prior to colonialism and who has jurisdiction over it is unclear. FMCC recommended that an Indigenous Priority Window be established, and a specific consultation on the issue of spectrum sovereignty  be held. FMCC also registered concerns with the proceeding itself:

“These recommendations stress that the Canadian government has an express duty to consult and has the power to meaningfully engage and consult with entities working with Indigenous communities. Until these concerns are addressed, we believe that the Spectrum Outlook 2022-2026 is in contravention of UNDRIP and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act,” (FMCC submission).

As Cocullo observes the big telecommunications companies have varying responses to the issue; Bell Inc. hasn’t explicitly addressed the question of Indigenous connectivity in a fulsome manner, while Rogers has worked with some First Nations to develop subordinate licensing agreements, the company maintains its control over its spectrum licenses. 

The article cited FMCC member organization, Eeyou Communications Network, as well as other First Nation submissions, indicating increased awareness of Indigenous issues, participants and their position.