MCA Named National Finalist In Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge


The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne is excited to announce that it has been named one of five national finalists in Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge.  


Infrastructure Canada asked communities from across Canada to enter their ideas and proposals for improvement projects that would address their community’s issues using a “smart cities approach.”  


“A smart cities approach means achieving meaningful outcomes for residents through the use of data and connected technology,” Infrastructure Canada said in its challenge description.


Beginning in July 2017, MCA began researching ideas for the challenge.


“We are proud to be one of the communities selected as finalists in the Smart Cities Challenge,” noted Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Grand Chief Abram Benedict. “We have and will continue to engage with our community, and as a result, are confident that our Challenge Statement represents an innovative solution to address community priorities.”


“We first reached out to the Akwesasne community itself, by posting a Facebook contest in which community members were asked to share their ideas or visions on what smart improvements would be best for Akwesasne,” said MCA Executive Director Jordan Wapass. “The contest generated many ideas and helped MCA staff have direction in what was lacking in the community in terms of technology and access.  A previous community survey – through the Comprehensive Community Development Plan – also indicated that health was a key priority to Akwesasne community members.”


MCA’s staff, leadership and technicians discussed the Smart Cities challenge over the course of several months and recruited zu, a digital products and services firm, to lead the team in Design Thinking workshops and to help frame the final Challenge Statement submitted for the $5 million category of the Smart Cities Challenge.


It was important that the challenge statement (proposal) would be beneficial to the community at large, would use technology, improve access to services and information, have measurable data to track improvements, incorporate Akwesasne’s culture and values, and, be adoptable by other communities or First Nations as a requirement of the Smart Cities Challenge.


MCA’s Smart Cities Challenge Statement, which is now one of five finalists, is to:

Decrease the rate of new cases of diabetes per year in Akwesasne to the Canadian average (0.5%; 5.9/1,000) by improving community wellness using traditional approaches encompassing holistic Indigenous practices, improved access to community services and health diagnostics.


The statement requires new technologies and services to be implemented, including:

  • an integrated web/mobile system that will improve access to health information and track progress
  • use of electric vehicles
  • smart greenhouses
  • food delivery services
  • health & diabetes education in modernized methods
  • improved access to health services and physical fitness
  • Wholistic & culturally-based approaches

(MCA’s full submission can be read here: )


Infrastructure Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary Marc Miller, well-known for his strides to learn the Mohawk language, congratulated Akwesasne via teleconference this past Monday with Executive Director Wapass and part of the technical team at MCA.  (See Infrastructure Canada’s announcement here:


zu is excited to continue working with MCA on the Smart Cities Challenge project. “As a digital services firm, we are thrilled to use digital first to help improve the health and well-being of the Akwesasne community and decrease the number of new diabetes cases. This is a great opportunity to bring a wholistic, culturally based approach to healthy living and use technology to make the educational aspect more accessible and available to the entire community,” says Ryan Lejbak, CEO and Co-Founder of zu. 


Akwesasne’s proposal will allow Akwesasne to begin leading, empowering and supporting other Indigenous and Canadian communities to enhance diabetes prevention approaches,” said MCA’s Director of Health Keith Leclaire.  “We have a unique strength in that we have been offering health services based on Akwesasne’s cultural and wholistic strengths by targeting prevention approaches for over 40 years. We intend to strengthen and share this using smart technology for the benefit of all.”


As a finalist, MCA receives $250,000 to further the development of its proposal over the next several months for final submission.   Infrastructure Canada will announce the winner of the $5 million award in the spring of 2019.


Grand Chief Benedict added, “The collaborative effort between our community and organization has resulted in this positive outcome. We are excited to further develop our ideas into a final proposal and look forward to earning the $5 million prize.”


MCA encourages feedback from the community as details of the final proposal are determined. Comments are welcome by emailing, with the subject: SmartAkwesasne.