UBCIC Calls for Immediate Implementation of Enhanced 911 for Cell Phones in Rural Communities

For Immediate Release
January 16, 2009
(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, January 16, 2009) In the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, 18 year old Matthew Armstrong called 911 four times pleading for help. Matthew was lost in the woods south of Williams Lake trying to find his way home. Matthew’s frozen body was found hours later.

“Matthew would be alive today if it was not for the mindless and irresponsible squabbling of wireless companies, emergency dispatchers and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission of who should immediately invest the financial resources necessary to upgrade Canada's cellular system. The sole intent of 911 is to render assistance in emergencies. Matthew’s death is directly attributable to the failings of an outdated and dangerously deficient 911 system,” stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.

“While the Union of BC Indian Chiefs supports the CRTC’s decision to compel wireless providers and emergency dispatchers to upgrade their equipment by February 2010, we are deeply concerned that the initial focus is to upgrade equipment in cities such as Vancouver,” said Grand Chief Phillip. “The UBCIC believes that the most urgent need for upgraded equipment is in the rural communities. If such an upgrade was implemented years ago, Matthew’s 911 calls would have saved his life.”

Grand Chief Phillip concluded “The UBCIC strongly believes the contributing factors leading to Matthew’s death were totally avoidable. It is infuriating and heart-breaking to think, it was petty squabbling over money that ultimately cost Matthew his life.”

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Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
(604) 684-0231

UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.