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The Short Report: Supporting Black tech professionals, high-speed Internet for rural Quebec, and more

Mark Lowey
August 5, 2020

NuEnergy.ai, an Ottawa-based intelligence management software and professional services firm, has been selected to deliver Transport Canada’s first educational program to help guide the department’s governance on artificial intelligence in technological innovations. NuEnergy’s interactive AI Governance program is designed to educate and build awareness within Transport Canada regarding the extensive capabilities and potential risks of implementing AI. – CISION

The Toronto-based Black Professionals in Tech Network (BPTN) has partnered with eight Canadian companies, including TD Bank, Bell Canada, and Rogers, to create a more reflective, supportive and transformational space for Black tech professionals in Canada. Other new BPTN partner organizations include Hootsuite, Rangle.io, Top Hat, PointClickCare, and MaRS Discovery District. BPTN, which has more than 10,000 members, aims to help bridge the tech talent gap by giving Black developers, engineers, sales, and marketing professionals access to sponsorship, training and networking opportunities. – BetaKit

The Government of Canada is providing $1.94 million, through its Connect to Innovate program, for five new projects to connect rural communities in Quebec with high-speed Internet. The funding includes just over $1 million to Bell Canada for three projects in the communities of Saint-Pie-de-Guire, Lac-à-la Truite, and Saint-Séverin and Saint-Frédéric. Groupe Maskatel LP will receive $927,938 for two projects in the communities of Saint-Lucien and Lac Bolduc – CISION

UNIVERSITY RESEARCH

Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C., has been chosen for a new research chair focused on improving abilities to forecast, prevent and respond to wildfire emergencies. B.C. Forest Minister Doug Donaldson said the government will contribute $5 million to fund the B.C. Research Chair in Predictive Services, Emergency Management and Fire Science. – CBC

The University of Victoria has created a new fund to enable donors to support researchers working on solutions to strengthen communities and accelerate recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The UVic Research Accelerator Fund empowers world-class researchers to respond to communities’ urgent needs in areas of economic sustainability, health of individuals and populations, and Indigenous wellness. – University of Victoria

Memorial University of Newfoundland has a new “Research Impacting Indigenous Groups” policy. The policy is designed to ensure Memorial University researchers are accountable to the existing research, priorities and ethics processes of Indigenous groups. It requires researchers to engage with Indigenous groups at the very start of research to put them on a good path as projects develop. – Memorial University

The University of Saskatchewan-led Indigenous health research network is moving to a new home into Station 20 West in a core neighbourhood of Saskatoon’s west side, to become better integrated into the community, said Caroline Tait, a community-engaged research leader at the USask College of Medicine and member of the Metis Nation-Saskatchewan. Tait and USask Indigenous studies professor Simon Lambert lead the new national co-ordinating centre for the nine Network Environments for Indigenous Health Research across Canada, with $1.5 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. – University of Saskatchewan

COVID-19

The Department of National Defence (DND) has awarded a total of $2 million to two Canadian companies developing diagnostics and testing technologies for COVID-19. London, Ontario-based Diagnostics Biochem Canada Inc will receive just over $1 million to develop kits for detecting antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus; the kits can be used separately or in combination to diagnose current or previous COVID-19 infection. Toronto-based Custom Biologics will receive $1 million to develop and qualify a rapid point-of-care diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2. – Mirage

The federal government’s COVID Alert, a mobile COVID-19 contact tracing app, is now available to Canadians for free download. However, the app’s download requirements restrict some Canadians from accessing and using it. COVID Alert requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years and a relatively new operating system. That makes the app inaccessible for older Canadians and other marginalized groups, said Christopher Parsons, a senior research associate at the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Policy, University of Toronto. The issue of needing an app that works with older smartphones was known from the start, Parsons said, adding: “This is a failure of policy.” The app helps notify users if they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Use of COVID Alert is voluntary, and the app has “strong measures” to protect any data it collects, and doesn’t track a user’s location or collect personally identifiable information. – CISION, The Canadian Press

The Government of Canada plans to move as many out-of-work Canadians into the employment insurance system when the $80-billion Canada Emergency Response Benefit winds down in the fall. The change signals a potentially sweeping overhaul to the social safety net, criticized in recent years for not keeping up with a modern labour force marked by increasing contract and gig work. Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said the government is promising a parallel, transitional benefit with EI-components for those who can’t yet get into the EI system. The federal government also announced on July 31 that it’s extending a commercial rent-relief program through August as a lifeline to many small businesses whose revenues, while slowly returning, still lag behind their fixed costs. The Canadian Press

STARTUPS

Angel investment reached a new record of $163.9 million in 2019, bringing angel activity to more than $1 billion in Canada over the last decade, according to National Angel Capital Organization’s 10th annual report on angel investment activity. The $163.9 million in funding was tracked across 299 investments in 2019. This is the highest annual amount of angel investment in the last decade and an increase of approximately 15% from 2018. – BetaKit

INVESTMENT

Deutsche Bank is ending financing for new oil and gas projects in the oil sands and the Arctic region effectively immediately, and will review all its existing business in the oil and gas industry. Deutsche Bank unveiled an updated Environmental and Social Policy Framework to set new limits on financing business activities that involve oil, natural gas or coal. Meanwhile, French energy giant Total said it is writing off $9.3 billion worth of oil sands assets in Alberta and cancelling its membership with the Calgary-based Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Total now considers oil reserves with high production costs that are to be produced more than 20 years in the future to be “stranded” given the company’s carbon-reduction targets and because the resource may not be produced by 2050, Total said. Oil Price.com, The Canadian Press

GRAPEVINE

JP Gladu has joined Steel River Group. Inc. as the Calgary-based company's new chief development and relations officer and president of Steel River Infrastructure, Gladu will oversee Steel River Infrastructure and be responsible for implementing the company's new People-Public-Private Partnership (P4) Model, developed by Steel River to enhance Indigenous ownership opportunities in major projects. Gladu's career spans 25 years, including nearly eight years as the president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business. Steel River Group is a privately held Indigenous-owned and -operated company. Cision

The appointment of James DeHart as the U.S. coordinator for the Arctic signals the region’s growing importance to Washington as an arena of geopolitical competition with Russia and China, Canadian and American defence experts said. DeHart, a career diplomat with extensive experience in global defence and security issues, is stepping into a position left vacant for nearly three years after retired U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Robert Papp left it in early 2017. Rob Huebert, a Canadian defence expert who teaches at the University of Calgary, said DeHart’s appointment reflects the fact that the Trump administration is becoming much more concerned about Arctic issues. – CBC


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