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In today's Morning Brief, we look at how the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated Canada's digital divide. We also look ahead to tonight's address to the country by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and what some experts say Ontario should do as its COVID-19 numbers shoot up.

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How COVID-19 worsens Canada's digital divide

When the pandemic thrust most school, work and services online, it further highlighted not just how essential the internet has become but also the urban-rural divide around access. 

Chawathil First Nation lies just 600 metres north of the Trans-Canada Highway in southwestern British Columbia, but it feels much more remote when you try to log onto the internet. That's apparent when band finance manager Peter John attempts to run an online speed test to measure the dial-up connection. It takes nearly two minutes for the page to load, and once it does, the meter shows the download speed is an agonizingly slow one megabit per second (Mbps). With that kind of setup, it means students struggle with online classes, and the band can't hold video meetings. 

"Everything they could get out of the internet, they're not able to really get it because it's not there," John said.

Watch | Slow rural internet making life during COVID-19 more challenging:

Slow rural internet making life during COVID-19 more challenging

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The CRTC recommends that every household have access to broadband with download speeds of at least 50 Mbps, and the federal government has set a goal to have Canada-wide broadband by 2030According to the CRTC, nearly 86 per cent of households overall have that level of service currently, but in rural areas only 40 per cent do. In First Nation communities, it's estimated that just 30 per cent of households have internet connections with the recommended speed. 

In the 2019 budget, the federal government announced $1.7 billion in funding to support high-speed internet in remote and rural areas: $1 billion is slated for a Universal Broadband Fund, for extending internet infrastructure; $600 million for satellites, which can help connect some of the most remote communities; and $85 million to top up an ongoing program called Connect to Innovate, which helps fund specific community projects in rural and First Nation communities.

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) says it is currently working with about 400 rural communities to map connection speeds neighbourhood by neighbourhood. The organization —  a not-for-profit group that manages the .ca domain and advocates for better internet service — also runs a yearly $1.25-million grant program to help communities invest in projects including internet infrastructure. 

"Canada's internet service providers have passed over a lot of communities because they're just not worth it financially," said Josh Tabish, corporate communications manager with CIRA. "This is where we need the government to step up." 

He said experts believe it will cost up to $6 billion to roll out broadband across Canada, and he believes the federal government needs to act faster. The application for the Universal Broadband Fund has yet to open. Read more on this story here.

Public warnings

(Jon Super/The Associated Press)

People walk near public information messages in central Manchester, England, on Tuesday after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out new restrictions to last 'perhaps six months' to slow the renewed spread of the coronavirus. The United Kingdom has reached 'a perilous turning point,' Johnson said. Read more on the situation in the U.K. here.

In brief

Post-tropical storm Teddy is forecast to make landfall along Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore this morning. Forecasters with Environment Canada say the storm is packing maximum sustained winds of 110 km/h. Large waves and heavy surf are forecast to continue over waters off eastern Nova Scotia as well as the southern coast of Newfoundland. Teddy is expected to track into the southeastern Gulf of St. Lawrence this afternoon. Ahead of Teddy's arrival in Nova Scotia, people in high-risk areas in the Sambro area, Peggys Cove and along the Eastern Shore were encouraged to relocate. Read more about the storm here.

Prime ministers rarely ask the television networks for time to address the nation, and when they do it is not always for the most serious reasons — for Lester B. Pearson in 1968, Paul Martin in 2005 and Stephen Harper in 2008, extraordinary appeals were delivered to Canadians only because a minority government was facing possible defeat in the House of Commons. In 2020, there is at least a lot more than that to talk about, writes CBC Parliament Hill reporter Aaron Wherry. So much so, in fact, that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will speak to Canadians on Wednesday evening just a few hours after Gov. Gen. Julie Payette has presented the throne speech. A pair of speeches — from the head of state and head of government, respectively — might befit a moment that is now heavy with both the profound crisis of the present and the restless aspirations for the future that have come up over the last six months. In both cases — whether he is listening to the words or speaking them himself — Trudeau will attempt to command the moment. But nothing about life in 2020 is proving easy to dictate. Read more analysis here.

Watch | Trudeau plans nationwide address after throne speech:

Trudeau plans nationwide address after throne speech

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With Ontario reporting its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases since early May, there are mounting calls for the government to take more actions to slow the spread of the coronavirus now, in an effort to avoid a full-scale lockdown later. The average number of new cases reported daily over the past week was 383, double what it was just nine days earlier. The daily case count has exceeded 400 on four of the past five days. The government has tightened the limit on private social gatherings, shrinking it to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, but some experts suggest that indoor service at bars and restaurants should be halted. "Enacting stricter measures does send the message that this is an emergency and we should take it seriously," said epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan. "We don't want people putting their lives on hold for the next six to nine to 12 to 24 months. We want them to live their lives but with restrained behaviour." Read more on Ontario's rising case numbers here

RCMP are investigating after an anti-racism event in Red Deer, Alta., on Sunday became violent when organizers say counter-protesters arrived. Videos posted on social media show that at least one person was struck by an opposing protester at what was supposed to be a peaceful gathering. Before organizers had even started the event at the Rotary Recreation Park, counter-protesters showed up with megaphones. The event's volunteer security team attempted to build a human wall so the counter-protesters wouldn't disturb the anti-racism gathering, but the wall was breached. "Within the first five minutes, at least two fists were thrown from their side," said Cheryl-Jaime Baptise, creator of the Red Deer Against Racism group. Read more on this story here.

Watch | RCMP investigate violent confrontation at Alberta anti-racism rally:

RCMP investigate violent confrontation at Alberta anti-racism rally

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A Mi'kmaw community in Nova Scotia is addressing a decades-old conflict head-on. Last week, the Sipekne'katik First Nation launched its own Mi'kmaq-regulated, rights-based lobster fishery in St. Marys Bay, about 250 kilometres west of Halifax — believed to be the first of its kind in the province. It came 21 years to the day after a Supreme Court ruling that affirmed a treaty right to hunt, fish and gather in pursuit of a "moderate livelihood." That decision affected 34 Mi'kmaq and Maliseet First Nations in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and the Gaspé region of Quebec. The problem is "moderate livelihood" was never clearly defined. And so the Sipekne'katik's move last Thursday sparked anger, protest and violence in nearby Saulnierville, N.S. Read more here on what's behind the current tensions.

A state funeral will be held on Oct. 6 to honour former prime minister John Turner, who died on Sept. 19 at the age of 91. A statement from Canadian Heritage explained that there will be a church service at St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica in Toronto that will strictly follow public health pandemic protocols. "The church service is by invitation only. At the request of the family, there will be no public lying in state or lying in repose," the statement said. Only a limited number of guests will be invited, and they are being selected by Turner's family. The burial will take place in private, and no reception will follow the church service. The family has asked that instead of flowers, donations be made to the World Wildlife Fund Canada and the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation. Read more about the funeral for Turner here.

Now for some good news to start your Wednesday: An Alberta program connecting people with a passion for telling stories with seniors who are feeling isolated during the pandemic is proving to be a big success. StoryShare is run by Storytelling Alberta, a non-profit promoting the tradition of oral storytelling. The program is a partnership with the Calgary Seniors' Resource Society. Since May, a team of volunteers have been busy connecting with seniors via phone calls and video conference calls, telling them stories and giving them an opportunity to tell one back in return, to just chat or ask questions about how to access different resources. Volunteers speak English, Spanish, Dutch and Urdu, helping seniors from different background and cultures connect. "This was a pandemic response, and we've done upwards of 120 sessions now since the beginning of May," said Storytelling Alberta president Doreen Vanderstoop. She says the need will likely intensify again in the fall and winter months as people head back indoors and deeper into isolation. Read more about the storytelling program.

Front Burner: Is COVID-19 airborne? The CDC said yes, then no

This weekend, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sparked a major controversy after updating, then removing, a warning about the airborne spread of COVID-19. Today, CBC News senior health writer Adam Miller joins us to explain why this has reignited questions about just how easily COVID-19 travels through the air and whether the CDC is being influenced by the president's political goals.

Today in history: September 23

1871: Louis-Joseph Papineau, leader of the French-Canadian Patriotes and organizer of the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1837, dies at age 84.

1908: The University of Alberta opens in Edmonton with 45 students and five faculty members.

1987: Free trade negotiations between Canada and the United States are halted. Ottawa disagrees with the U.S. positions on culture, regional development and settling trade disputes. Negotiations eventually resumed, and the deal was signed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on Jan. 2, 1988.

2007: Famed Canadian artist Ken Danby dies at age 67 while canoeing in Ontario's Algonquin Park. Danby was recognized as one of the world's foremost realist artists and was best-known in Canada for his hockey painting At The Crease.

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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