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Avalanches : les adeptes du hors-piste pas toujours bien préparés

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Il y a vraiment une augmentation de la pratique du hors-piste, on le remarque même dans les boutiques qui offrent plus d’équipement pour l’arrière-pays, observe la technicienne en avalanche, Laurie Dumas.

Cet attrait se fait sentir : entre 2001 et 2017, Avalanche Québec rapporte une croissance de 741 % de la fréquentation du parc national de la Gaspésie.

Au Québec, les Chic-Chocs sont devenues un incontournable pour pratiquer le hors-piste.

Laurie Dumas, technicienne en avalanche pour Avalanche Québec

Mathieu Caron est bien placé pour témoigner de cette popularité grandissante. Sa boutique de location d’équipement est située à Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, directement sur la route qui mène au parc national de la Gaspésie.

Il replace une botte de ski devant un étalage de bottes et de planches à neige.Mathieu Caron est propriétaire du Caroune Ski Shop depuis trois ans. Photo : Radio-Canada / Catherine Poisson

C’est exponentiel. Chaque année, il y a plus de voitures, les stationnements sont pleins. La fin de semaine, c’est sûr qu’il y a du monde et même la semaine, il y a de plus en plus de gens qui viennent, on ne voyait pas ça avant, affirme-t-il.

Si cet afflux de sportifs en Gaspésie est une bonne nouvelle pour les entreprises de la région, il entraîne également une hausse des accidents répertoriés par Avalanche Québec.

Des accidents évitables?

Ce constat n’est pas une surprise pour Mathieu Caron qui dessert une clientèle constituée principalement de gens des grandes villes comme Montréal ou Québec, qui connaissent peu la réalité des Chic-Chocs.

Montagnes du parc en hiverMontagnes du parc en hiver Photo : Radio-Canada / Adrianne Gauvin Sasseville

Le profil type, c’est un bon skieur de station, mais qui n’a pas d’expérience de hors-piste, ni de poudreuse. Ça fait beaucoup de nouveaux facteurs, souligne l’entrepreneur.

Les Chic-Chocs, c’est un beau terrain skiable, mais pas pour les débutants.

Mathieu Caron, propriétaire du Caroune Ski Shop

L’avalanche qui a frappé six skieurs le 8 janvier dans le secteur du Mont-Albert a d’ailleurs rappelé les dangers liés à la pratique du hors-piste. Bien au courant des risques, Mathieu Caron hésite quant aux conseils à donner aux clients peu expérimentés.

Souvent, le client me demande où est la neige, où aller skier. Je peux te nommer 50 places, mais si j’envoie quelqu’un dans un endroit isolé et qu’il se perd… je ne veux pas être responsable. Alors c’est dommage, mais je me retrouve à conseiller toujours les deux ou trois mêmes endroits sécuritaires, explique-t-il.

C’est la question que je me pose à tous les soirs. Oui, je loue de l’équipement, mais à qui? Qu’est-ce que les gens vont faire avec? Est-ce qu’ils vont se sentir invincibles?

Mathieu Caron, propriétaire du Caroune Ski Shop

À sa boutique, il est possible de louer un équipement de sécurité en avalanche, qui comprend une pelle, une sonde et un détecteur de victime d’avalanche (DVA), mais le propriétaire prévient ses clients que cela ne remplace pas un cours complet de sécurité en avalanche.

Un DVA est une petite boîte verte munie de boutons jaunes qu'on attache sur soi, sous son manteau.Un détecteur de victime d’avalanche permet de trouver quelqu’un même s’il est enseveli sous la neige. Photo : Radio-Canada / William Bastille-Denis

Ce n’est pas un équipement de prévention, c’est quelque chose que tu utilises à la suite d’une avalanche. Je ne peux pas te donner un cours sur le spot, si tu viens dans les Chic-Chocs, tu dois t’informer, tu dois faire tes recherches, rappelle-t-il.

Investir pour sa sécurité

La technicienne en avalanche Laurie Dumas constate néanmoins que chaque fois qu’une avalanche se produit, la couverture médiatique fait en sorte que de plus en plus de gens sont sensibilisés à cette réalité.

Les cours de sécurité en avalanche, comme ceux offerts par l’entreprise Expé Aventures, connaissent d’ailleurs un engouement sans précédent.

On le voit depuis deux, trois ans, nos cours sont toujours pleins et même quand c’est plein, on a encore des demandes, observe la gestionnaire de l’entreprise, Fanny Robillard.

Les cours, qui s’adressent aux amateurs de sports de glisse autant débutants qu’avancés, permettent de vivre une simulation d’avalanche. Un cours dure deux jours et coûte 249 dollars plus taxes par personne.

50 % de la formation se déroule à l’extérieur. On est avec des sauveteurs, et on doit en 15 minutes trouver et déterrer trois DVA sous la neige.

Fanny Robillard, gestionnaire chez Expé Aventures

Les gens viennent de partout avec différents projets : une mère qui veut inscrire son fils, des amis qui s’en vont dans l’ouest canadien, d’autres qui partent au Japon. Il est même arrivé à plusieurs reprises qu’une personne suive le cours seule, et qu’elle décide de payer une seconde fois pour revenir le suivre avec son conjoint ou sa conjointe. Je pense que c’est la preuve que c’est une formation pertinente, souligne la gestionnaire.

L’investissement financier que représente un tel cours, en plus de l’équipement, peut toutefois décourager quelqu’un qui s’initie au hors-piste ou qui n’en fait que quelques fois par année.

Quand les gens viennent de Montréal pour quatre jours, ils ont envie de skier, pas de suivre un cours, admet Mathieu Caron.

Dans ce cas, il conseille à ses clients de débuter leur séjour par une journée guidée, ce que recommande également Avalanche Québec.

Un grand drapeau bleu d'Avalanche Québec permet de repérer le salon rapidement. Il s'agit d'une grande table recouverte d'une carte du parc de la Gaspésie et de plusieurs cartables de documentation. Des cartes, des bulletins d’avalanche et des outils permettant d’évaluer les conditions de chaque secteur selon la journée sont disponibles au salon Avalanche. Photo : Radio-Canada / Catherine Poisson

Depuis quelques années, l’organisme multiplie d’ailleurs ses efforts pour informer la population. En plus des bulletins d’avalanche publiés tous les deux jours, de la documentation et des capsules vidéos informatives sont disponibles gratuitement sur le site web d’Avalanche Québec.

Depuis l’hiver dernier, un salon Avalanche est également installé au Centre de découverte et de services du parc national de la Gaspésie. On y trouve toutes les informations nécessaires pour planifier une sortie en montagne sécuritaire selon notre expérience et les conditions météorologiques.

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Canadian Tech Calling: Moon and Mars and Mobile Phones

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Canadian technological know-how is helping develop reliable mobile communications for next-generation space missions, including manned missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

With many eyes here on Earth now focused on Mars, following the successful journey of ‘Percy’, the roving space exploration vehicle more formally known as Perseverance that is now cruising the Martian landscape, the continued role of Canadian researchers and technologists in space exploration has also drawn more attention.

A team of researchers at Simon Fraser University is working to make LTE/4G and Wi-Fi communications systems on the Moon a reality, along with others in the U.S. and Canada, under the umbrella of the Artemis Program at NASA.

That project will see the return of human beings to the Moon by 2024, and then to the surface of Mars after that.

As part of those efforts, NASA selected Nokia Bell Labs to build a test network and communications infrastructure to build interoperability standards among future cellular and Wi-Fi networks, so that all types of devices can be connected and support Artemis.

The network must provide critical communication capabilities for many different data transmission applications, including command and control functions; real-time navigation and remote control of surface rovers; as well as the streaming of high definition video, applications that are all vital to long-term human presence on a lunar or planetary surface.

“It sounds like far-out stuff, building networks on the Moon, Mars and even further out in our solar system,” says Stephen Braham, the director of the PolyLAB for Advanced Collaborative Networking at SFU. “But we’re actually testing Nokia’s technology right now.”

SFU’s PolyLAB for Advanced Collaborative Networking is doing some of that work at its Exploration Wireless Communications testbed at Vancouver’s Harbour Centre, in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

“(This is) what will allow us to build the ladder of technology standards needed to get cellular networks off Earth and into the solar system,” Braham said in a statement.

NASA and the CSA handed that critical testing to Braham and the scientists at PolyLAB, the Canadian component of what’s called the Exploration Wireless Communications (ExWC).

“Before space agencies can adopt these technologies, we need to prove we can operate between multiple vendors and different agencies, which is why NASA and CSA supports the ExWC testbed,” he continued.

The ExWC testbed launched back in 2018, testing high-speed wireless communications systems for space use, including 5G-forward LTE solutions and advanced Wi-Fi.

The SFU radio transmission systems, in the lab and on masts in the mountains in B.C. and the Yukon, are tested with various vendors and leading telecom providers, such including Vancouver-based Star Solutions and Sierra Wireless, another local company, as well as international telecommunications firms like Nokia.

Braham and associate professor Peter Anderson, who directs the SFU Telematics Research Laboratory that includes PolyLAB, both have extensive track records working on communication systems for NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

It includes extensive research on very early cellular and Wi-Fi networks in the Canadian High Arctic, where advanced field communications systems were set up to support the SETI Institute and Mars Institute-lead NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) up on Devon Island. 

That’s where Braham and his team tested the technology (developed in Canada) that became a big part of modern Wi-Fi, LTE, and now 5G technology, in order to meet up-front needs on human lunar missions if not all manned space flights.

From those early beginnings, the SFU team has now worked with other collaborators for the ongoing design and development of Canada’s prototype lunar/Mars surface communication networking systems, specifically the ExoMars rover, including Canadian space technology company MDA and the Canadian Communications Research Centre.

Braham is also an Associate Member on the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems (CCSDS), supporting CSA during discussions and development of international standards for computing, networking, and communications in space. He also worked for many years as a member of the CSA’s nine-member Space Exploration Advisory Committee (SEAC), providing community leadership and representation in aspects of human space exploration in Canada.

But, when space agency officials announced recently that a Canadian will be aboard when NASA returns to the Moon in 2023, well, Braham was not named as that astronaut.

Nevertheless, with his and his team’s help, that astronaut will make Canada the second country in history to have someone travel into deep space and fly around the Moon.

And maybe use a mobile phone to call us and tell us all about it.

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Canadian Consumer Coalition Calls for Affordable Internet on National Day of Action

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Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 16, a national day of action will be staged by Canadian consumer advocates, social justice groups, telecom policy experts, digital activists, and independent ISPs, or Internet Service Providers.

In a series of scheduled virtual events, there will be calls for the federal government and telecom regulators to take action and ensure affordable Internet and wireless services are available to all Canadians.

The free online event is open to the public, and planners and scheduled participants in the Day of Action for Affordable Internet hope consumers themselves will them in urging a range of actions be taken by the federal government, the CRTC and the country’s Competition Bureau.

Advocating for a more affordable Internet will be: ACORN Canada; Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship; activist and author Cory Doctorow; Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law Michael Geist; The Internet Society Canada Chapter; OpenMedia; Public Interest Advocacy Centre; Ryerson Leadership Lab; Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic; and TekSavvy Solutions.

And while a lack of competition has long been cited as a reason for high prices in Canada, the fact that a majority of subscribers stick with the ‘Big Three’ is also a stumbling block to leveling the playing field, at  least price-wise.

Canada’s Competitive Network Operators, a trade organization made up of Internet and telecommunications service providers that own/operate telecommunications networks across the country, is also fighting for a fair Internet pricing and accessibility structure.

Pandemic Pressures

Affordable Internet activists point out that, throughout the current COVID-19 crisis, reliable and affordable connectivity became even more essential. So did many things, in fact: many we had never deemed as so important, relevant or even as noteworthy as high speed Internet.

“The affordability and accessibility of the [I]nternet has never been more critical,” says Franca Palazzo, one of the event participants and the executive director of the Internet Society, Canada Chapter. “More than ever, we are being asked to work, learn and connect online.”

While it is true that many of our fellow Canadians are struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic, and they struggle, the coalition says, to pay some of the highest telecom bills in the world (while others can’t even get high-quality reliable connections), it is also true that many of us are using our high-speed connections more than ever with no increase in cost or decrease in service as a result of our pandemic-related stay-at-home, work-at-home or school-at-home activities.

The big three providers in Canada – Bell, Rogers and Telus – are among those companies that lifted data caps on cable and fibre-based residential Internet services; it’s a corporate goodwill gesture made as a result of pandemic and public pressures. The caps have been lifted until the end of June, where and when possible. (The Liberal government has directed the country’s largest telecom providers to cut specific cellphone prices in general.)

Not everyone is eligible for the pandemic discounts, however: some folks still using cellular (where, for example, high speed networking is not available) for their Internet connections are unable to get discounts because, the telecoms say, bandwidth and capacity would be threatened if caps were removed from cellular service.

“The digital divide in Canada is sometimes portrayed as exclusively a rural-urban divide,” says Sam Andrey, the director of policy and research at Ryerson Leadership Lab, where research and analysis into Internet usage is conducted. “But even in Canada’s largest cities, there are persistent gaps in access to digital services, devices and affordable [I]nternet at sufficient speeds that map onto other socioeconomic inequities, including income, age, race and ability,” he adds.

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Brim Financial Raises $25M Series B to transform the way people bank and shop

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TORONTO, March 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ – Brim Financial (Brim), a Canadian next-generation Fintech company and certified credit card issuer, today announced the close of a $25M Series B, co-led by Desjardins Group and US-based EPIC Ventures with strong participation from Canadian and US based investors including goeasy Ltd., White Owl and Impression Ventures.

Brim’s state-of-the-art technology stack and credit cards infrastructure leverages the company’s ability to directly access the payment rails as an issuer, enabling Brim to deliver a fundamentally transformative ecosystem of financial products for consumers and businesses.

The Series B financing will bolster Brim’s Platform as a Service (PaaS). Brim’s B2B2C strategy enables any bank, credit union, fintech or large commercial partner to seamlessly roll out Brim’s financial products platform, credit cards and integrated buy-now pay-later solutions, mobile and digital banking, and behavior-driven customer engagement, all embedded with a best-in-class globally open loyalty and rewards ecosystem available in real-time at all merchants worldwide. With Brim’s Platform as a Service, partners have the ability to customize every element of the platform and leverage Brim’s end-to-end services, on a modular and turnkey basis.

Our technology stack powers banking, loyalty and integrated e-commerce on a single platform, with the customer experience at the center of it all” said Rasha Katabi, CEO and Founder of Brim Financial. “Today’s digital environment has brought a new sense of urgency for institutions to assess how they will interact with their customers. We are well positioned to be at the forefront of this transformation that’s shaping the way we live, connect and engage for decades to come, and we’re excited to be working with investors who share the same vision.”

Brim has expanded beyond the direct-to-consumer space enabling large partners to leverage their digital first platform, suite of credit cards and financial products, and a globally open rewards and e-commerce ecosystem. Brim seamlessly integrates buy-now pay-later capabilities in all of its revolving consumer and business credit card products, providing ultimate flexibility for customers with a uniquely and strongly differentiated ecosystem.

“We’re thrilled to be part of Brim’s next chapter. There is tremendous potential in the industry, both in Canada and in the US, and Brim is uniquely positioned to deliver a significant and much needed transformation.” said Ryan Hemingway, Managing Director at EPIC Ventures. “Brim is combining banking and commerce like we haven’t seen in North America.”

Merged with its scalable technology platform, Brim has the largest open loyalty and rewards ecosystem as Brim’s technology stack directly leverages the global payment network. Brim’s Loyalty and Rewards are live at all points of sale globally, both in physical stores and online.  Any merchant can be live and part of the ecosystem in less than 3 minutes.

“Brim’s platform delivers industry-leading payments technology to their customers at an astonishing pace,” Martin Brunelle, Vice-President, Growth, Acquisitions and Development at Desjardins Group.  “Desjardins has earmarked $100 M to invest in technology companies and investment funds who can support our different business units in their digital transformation needs.  We’re very excited to be partnering with Brim.”

With its platform built entirely from the ground up and directly on the global payment network, Brim is positioned to transform the future of the credit card industry and digital banking products with the world’s largest open loyalty and rewards ecosystem. Brim has notably on-boarded hundreds of merchants to its rewards ecosystem since its launch, and rapid expansion will continue to be a key focus for the company going forward.

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