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Rotary Club of Nanaimo
Programs for Seniors
Nanaimo Family Life Association (NFLA) has a number of online programs now available through TAPS - Therapeutic Activation Programming for Seniors. This program aims to improve seniors’ independence and autonomy to age in place. Programs include Chair Yoga, Healthy Eating Habits, Coffee Chat and Exercise with an Occupational Therapist. To register, call 250-754-3331 or email Sacia, Program Coordinator, at with your full name and the programs you are interested in. Learn more about NFLA at
Meeting Notes January 15, 2021
President Bob Janes called us to action on time and welcomed our visitor Melanie McDonald, soon to join as a new member.

O Canada was sung by the Canadian Tenors, helped by all their friends across the nation from Coast to Coast, an inspiring collation.


Jason Bradley gave his inspiration for the Heart of a Volunteer. Exemplified by the volunteers in Youth Exchange working hard to prepare for the next year, but also for all volunteers.


President Bob informed us that the Board has approved the application for membership from Melanie McDonald. She is an MBA student at VIU and was the swim captain at the University of Toronto. She has volunteered to coach our Rotary swim team.

He was excited to see pictures of the Book Boxes made and decorated last week by club members for Literacy Central Vancouver Island.

Dawn Hankins reminded us that the next social on Friday, January 22 will be a trivia quiz night, starting at 5 p.m. Have your A-B-C-D cards ready for the answers. More details to follow by email. The new Centennial golf shirts have arrived and will be available for pick up, email to follow.


Dave Hammond was pleased to introduce Dr. Ralph Nilson, President Emeritus of Vancouver Island University (VIU), and now retired as President and Vice-chancellor of VIU. Ralph is still active in post-secondary education.

He wished us each a very Happy New Year. COVID-19 has had a big impact of students in this region, but also particularly on students in the North and in remote communities. Ralph has been working with the four post-secondary institutions in the north, Coast Mountain College, Northern Lights Community College, University of Northern BC and the College of New Caledonia, both in Prince George. 

The biggest issue is broadband connectivity. This is generally lacking in First Nations communities and for many schools. At best there is a connection to the band office, but no further to provide any access to students. The problem is failure of policy over the last 40 years. Government and railway company fibre optic trunk lines were passed on to the telcos, in turn they are only prepared to provide further service on a cost recovery business case. For his work with the four colleges, Ralph identified an issue with IT. Does each college need its own IT department?  Each can afford a medium talent, but if combined they could afford a top rate group.

After COVID-19 shut everything down in March, Ralph was able to continue his work by phone, but as the students were sent home, many found they had no way to connect and continue their studies. Many of the students at these four colleges are First Nations, with no internet connection at home. They are not allowed to hang out in the band office, and even if they parked outside, there would not be enough bandwidth to handle the traffic. Up to 40% of students were not able to continue their studies.

Ralph worked with the foundations that he knew from VIU, and in the end a generous donation from the Mastercard Foundation was used to provide laptops for many students. But the issue of connectivity remained.

A graduate of University of Northern British Columbia owns a company in Hong Kong that makes and distributes Wi-Fi hubs around the world. They first looked at the Prophet River First Nation, south of Fort Nelson. The limitation was in the capacity of the main line into the reserve to handle the future traffic, although Super Wi-Fi could be installed for $50,000, the cost to upgrade the incoming line was exorbitant. They next looked at Doig River First Nation, just north of Fort St John. That was a more successful project, and the system went online at the end of September. The next was Tsay Keh Dene First Nation, about 250 km north of Prince George. Part of the reserve was already serviced, but the Super Wi-Fi was used to connect the part of the community located across the river.

Ralph is working on the Canada Education Bond program. There is lots of education money available for those living below the poverty line in the north, including $75M which has not yet been mobilised. Ralph is working with Ottawa to get it into the bank accounts for the kids.

Back here on the Island, he’s working with Kwùmut Lelum. They have provided community and child development services for nine First Nations from Malahat to Qualicum for over 25 years. With COVID-19 isolation, they found that most of the kids did not have connections to continue their studies. Ralph worked with the MasterCard Foundation, the Nanaimo Foundation, the Nanaimo Ladysmith Schools Foundation, and others to provide nearly 1,000 iPad and Chromebooks.

The Kwùmut Lelum did not have status with CRA to receive the grants, so these had to be assigned to the Nanaimo Ladysmith School Foundation, which in turn entered into a service contract with Kwùmut Lelum. Even with equipment, many kids did not have a connection, or the ability to pay for one. Ralph included some extra money in the application, and Telus and Shaw provided connections for a nominal fee. 

Connections and service are still a challenge here on Vancouver Island. The Lake Cowichan Band is beyond the available connections at Lake Cowichan. The Penelakut Band (opposite Chemainus) only gets coverage on the Vancouver Island side. Of interest is the fact that youth sent home with an ankle bracelet by the justice system cannot be tracked on most of the reserve!

Talking with Bill Yoachim, he explained that to get a donation for his soccer program, he had to flow it through a third-party charity who charge him 8% fee for the privilege! Kwùmut Lelum has now made application to Canadian Revenue Agency as a Community Foundation, one of the first First Nation foundations in Canada. Ralph is bringing in advice and help for them from all the existing local Foundations that we know and recognise.

Ralph is grateful to have the opportunity to give back to the community and to apply his skills and contacts developed while it VIU.

Rebecca Taylor asked if Ralph was working with the Connected Coast project, headed by the Strathcona Regional District. Yes, Ralph is aware of one of their great projects with City Cable out of Prince Rupert. Still a challenge to get the final mile to individual users. Under discussion is who will own the cable service in the community, should it be the local band.

Kathy Smith recollected that she went to high school with Ralph. Is there any data that relates connectivity to graduation rate success in school and post secondary? He does not have any national data, but they are collecting all the information in the Step Up program of Kwùmut Lelum. He is trying to establish a Social Impact Bond that recognises the upstream investment and downstream benefit, $25,000 spent now for education as against $750,000 later to deal with social problems.

Ross White commented that COVID-19 has highlighted many issues and wondered if the CRTC had any policies, and if there were any talks of a consortium of the cable companies to address this connectivity problem. Ralph is meeting next week with a deputy minister for northern development to discuss this. A great deal of money has been set aside for the issue, but very little has been spent so far due to the challenges. Telus has some very supportive programs but is also aggressive in their business plans. Shaw will not allow third parties to connect to their equipment for technical reasons.

Paul Manly thanked Ralph for his work and noted that he would email for some more specific information next week. In turn, Ralph thanked Paul for his support in Ottawa.

David Woodward formally thanked Ralph for this presentation and told the anecdote of his first Chamber luncheon in Nanaimo, when he found himself sitting next to Ralph and realised it was his new boss at VIU. Ralph was completely invested in his role at VIU and has received many awards for that commitment. He is now a citizen of BC on a grand scale.

Happy & Sad Bucks

Sergeant at Arms Dave Hammond observed how beautiful the day was, and how fortunate we are to be in our part of the country.  For Happy Dollars the theme is how everyone feels about living where we do.

Keith McFarlane and Wendy went to the Shady Rest in Qualicum for lunch, then to Little Qualicum Falls for a walk and on to Englishman River Falls after. For a COVID-19 friendly activity nothing beats these two places.

Kathy Smith had met Roy Bennet at the Book Sale and invited him to introduce himself. His company, Antenna Management, manages cellular antennae across Canada for private property owners. He used to be a member of the Vancouver Sunrise Rotary Club and moved to the Island four months ago. He is looking to get back into Rotary here.

Lucy Gosselin had a thank you to Jason Bradley for posting a recommendation for a hike around Hart Lake. Lucy and a friend hiked it last week, got lost and wandered up and down Holland Creek. They went back a few days later and hiked the beautiful trail around Hart Lake but got lost again until dusk.

Leigh Blaney is happy with the low level of COVID-19 here. She has Zoomed with friends in England where they are in a terrible state, also with her brother in Toronto where they are now in lockdown.

Joan Ryan recently watched a webinar on fundraising by auctions, and all four women on the panel were Rotarians.

John Hankins was feeling surreal dining out safely at the Cactus Club when everywhere else, including England and Alberta, is shut down. We should all be very grateful that we live where we do. He is also grateful for the nutritious and slimming meals that Dawn has been preparing for them.

President Bob joked that he and Terry spent time searching Colliery Dam Park for the tree that marks the place where Keith and Wendy had a liaison.

Paul Manly wanted to change his Zoom background to show that he was in Mexico like other politicians, but his parliamentary account will not allow him to change the scene. He and Sam did the Holland creek trail last weekend. There was no trail when he was growing up. When he was 9 he camped at Hart Lake with his older brother, in January, in the snow, without a tent – only a plastic sheet.

Debbie Narver and Doug have been walking more gentle routes along the beach in Rathtrevor Park, on the beach at Qualicum, and at Buttertubs Marsh.

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Only one birthday this week, Bruce Ryan on Monday. One Club Anniversary for Henry Jiang, 6 years.

Rotary Club Links
There are a number of ways to keep up to date with all the happenings within our Rotary Club. Click on the following links to view photo albums, read about some of our latest projects and to connect socially through Facebook and Instagram! And remember that ClubRunner is also a great resource for members to view a wide variety of club information.
If you have Rotary Club news, photos or videos to share, please email the details to Rebecca Taylor and Denise Wittkofski so they can share through our multiple online channels.
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