Water First is a Canadian charity that collaborates with First Nations communities in Canada to address boil water advisories and environmental water challenges.

Our model focuses on local education and training, so that First Nations communities have the tools to address water challenges independently and sustainably. One in five First Nations in Canada are under a boil water advisory. In Ontario, four out of ten First Nations are under a boil water advisory, twice the national average.

Why education and training? Over half of First Nations communities under a long term boil water advisory in Ontario do not have a certified water treatment plant operator, which underscores the critical need for local education and training regarding water management.

At every step, highly qualified and dedicated professionals are involved in our operations. Please, click on photos below for brief biographies.
Volunteer Board Members
Leah Hagreen, B.Sc.
Director
Leah Hagreen, B.Sc.
Director

With a background in environmental consulting and program management, Leah’s experience and skills inform her passion for education and water, both at home and abroad.

Ian Heaps
Director
Ian Heaps
Director

An entrepreneur with 20 plus years in building brands and sales through creative marketing and communications initiatives, Ian is co-founder of Blundstone Footwear Canada. Starting with one store in 1994, Blundstone’s distribution has grown to over 600 locations across Canada.

Edward H. Kernaghan, M.Sc.
Director
Edward H. Kernaghan, M.Sc.
Director

Ed sits on the boards of four publicly listed TSX Companies, is President of Kernwood Ltd., a private investment holding company and has over ten years experience working in the financial markets. Ed also has a passion for science and the environment, having completed undergraduate and graduate degrees in physics.

Eric King, M.S.W., R.S.W.
Director
Eric King, M.S.W., R.S.W.
Director

A recognized leader in adolescent mental health therapy, Eric is Director of family programs at the Pine River Institute, a therapeutic boarding school. Eric also runs a private practice and he teaches at the University of Toronto in the Department of Child Psychiatry and the Faculty of Social Work.

Teza Lawrence, B.A.H.
Director
Teza Lawrence, B.A.H.
Director

Teza is an award winning television and film producer and co-founder of Amaze Film & Television, working with YTV, HBO & Disney among others. She balances the bright lights of the entertainment industry with the bucolic pasture of her Duntroon farm.

Barbara Mann, M.A., M.L.S.
Director
Barbara Mann, M.A., M.L.S.
Director

Barbara worked in the library and information science profession as a practitioner, teacher and consultant for several years. She has taught part-time at the University of Toronto and has been an active member of the Board of the Ontario Federation of Ornithologists, the Purple Hills Arts and Heritage Society, and is currently doing volunteer work for the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy.

Heather Murphy, Ph.D.
Director
Heather Murphy, Ph.D.
Director

Heather specializes in water treatment engineering at Temple University. Previously, she was a research fellow with the Canadian Public Health Agency and also worked with UNICEF managing large-scale projects bringing water and sanitation resources to over 1000 communities in the developing world.

Gary Pritchard
Director
Gary Pritchard
Director

Gary is from Curve Lake First Nation and is an Environmental Project Manager at Neegan Burnside, a First Nations focused engineering firm. He has worked with and travelled to over 280 Indigenous communities and has over 14 years of work experience regarding environmental assessments, policy, project planning and permitting.

Staff
John Millar, B.A., M.A.
Executive Director & Founder
John Millar, B.A., M.A.
Executive Director & Founder

John has extensive experience in non-profit management and a track record of organizational growth and capacity building. John has worked with a variety of organizations in education, international development and environmental sectors and has overseen the development and growth of many successful non-profit programs.

Carli Lang, Ph.D.
Vice President, Environmental Scientist
Carli Lang, Ph.D.
Vice President, Environmental Scientist

Carli’s Ph.D. research in parasitology brought a community-based water sampling program to rural Panama, for greater understanding of the intersection between human and environmental health. At Water First she applies her experience and passion for water and community engagement in her work with First Nations communities.

Kendra Driscoll, M.Sc
Water Quality Specialist
Kendra Driscoll, M.Sc
Water Quality Specialist

Before working for Water First, Kendra was the Environmental Coordinator for Wahnapitae First Nation, and she also taught Environmental Science at Cambrian College. Kendra has a background in water quality monitoring and environmental chemistry. She completed a Masters of Chemical Science from Laurentian University in Environmental Chemistry. Kendra has a passion for water protection through science education.

Katie Vander Wielen, Hon.B.Sc., B.Ed.
Education Program Manager
Katie Vander Wielen, Hon.B.Sc., B.Ed.
Education Program Manager

Katie has an Hon.B.Sc with an emphasis on aquatic and ecosystem sustainability and a B.Ed in the primary, junior, intermediate and senior divisions. Katie applies her passion for providing engaging and authentic learning experiences while developing and overseeing Water First's Education Programs.

Jag Saini, B.Eng., E.I.T., O.I.T.
Project Coordinator & Instructor
Jag Saini, B.Eng., E.I.T., O.I.T.
Project Coordinator & Instructor

Jag has a background in chemical and environmental engineering and has experience with mining and environmental projects. Jag's experience with cross cultural work environments, including First Nations, together with his Operator-in-Training designation and volunteerism with Professional Engineers Ontario, position him to make valuable contributions to Water First's work.

Ted Stableforth, M.Ed., B.PHE.
School Outreach
Ted Stableforth, M.Ed., B.PHE.
School Outreach

Ted was a Principal in the Simcoe District School Board for 10 years and a teacher for 25 years. Ted brings to Water First a wealth of educational and and administrative experience and a passion for educational program development and school outreach.

Brad Holden, B.A., B.Ed.
Program Manager
Brad Holden, B.A., B.Ed.
Program Manager

Brad's experience and Bachelor degrees in Geography & Education allow him to bring a wealth of knowledge to classrooms. Brad spent a decade working as a community journalist and has experience teaching outdoor education.

Dan Mongrain
Temagami First Nation Projects Coordinator
Dan Mongrain
Temagami First Nation Projects Coordinator

Dan's Algonquin heritage, roots in the Kipawa region of Quebec, and knowledge of the Temagami area inform his extensive outdoor experience. He works as a community coordinator, fishing guide, educator, and has participated in various collaborative partnerships including mercury studies in fish and fish habitat restoration projects at Temagami First Nation.

Jesse Wright, M.E.S.
Fish Habitat Project Coordinator
Jesse Wright, M.E.S.
Fish Habitat Project Coordinator

Jesse's professional background includes extensive work as a wilderness fishing guide and environmental educator. His work at Water First focuses on fish habitat restoration in partnership with First Nations communities. He holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Studies from York University.

Riva Dawson
Accounting
Riva Dawson
Accounting

Riva's extensive experience with bookkeeping spans nearly 30 years. With both commercial and non-profit experience, she previously worked for McDonald's Ronald McDonald House Charities. She also runs her own independent bookkeeping business, Better Bookkeeping Solutions.

Alli Myles, Hon.B.A
Education Coordinator, Summer Student
Alli Myles, Hon.B.A
Education Coordinator, Summer Student

Alli is a graduate from the Honours Environmental Studies program from Wilfrid Laurier University, and is currently pursuing her Masters Degree in Climate Change at the University of Waterloo. As an Education Coordinator she applies her background and experience in the environmental field to education by assisting in delivering water science workshops

Marissa Pinto, B.A.Sc.
Education Coordinator, Summer Student
Marissa Pinto, B.A.Sc.
Education Coordinator, Summer Student

Marissa is a Bachelor of Arts and Science graduate from Lakehead University and is currently working towards her Bachelor of Education for primary and junior divisions. Marissa applies her passion for learning by developing and delivering water science education programs.

Trisha Cao, Hon.B.A, B.Ed
Outreach Instructor
Trisha Cao, Hon.B.A, B.Ed
Outreach Instructor

Trisha is currently a Master of Environmental Studies/Juris Doctor candidate and is committed to creating valuable legal change for Indigenous justice in the realms of education and the environment. As an Outreach Instructor at Water First, Trisha applies her background and experience in education while delivering our Education Programs.

Brittany Harding, Hon.B.Sc, M.Ed
Outreach Instructor
Brittany Harding, Hon.B.Sc, M.Ed
Outreach Instructor

Brittany is trained in Intermediate/Senior Biology and Chemistry, Outdoor Experiential Education, and recently completed an M.Ed investigating the role of outdoor, environmental education in encouraging sustainable action. She has a strong belief in the importance of student-centered inquiry-based learning partnered with practical and meaningful experience. When not teaching with Water First, Brittany teaches in the Faculty of Education at Trent University.

Olga Kalomiris, Hon.B.A., B.Ed
Outreach Instructor
Olga Kalomiris, Hon.B.A., B.Ed
Outreach Instructor

Olga is an Ontario-certified teacher in the junior, intermediate and senior divisions, specializing in Geography, the Social Sciences, and Health and Physical Education. As an Outreach Instructor with Water First, Olga is committed to engaging and empowering youth, while raising awareness about First Nations water challenges.

Lisa Lemieux, B.Sc, B.Ed
Outreach Instructor
Lisa Lemieux, B.Sc, B.Ed
Outreach Instructor

Lisa has a B.Sc/B.Ed in Mathematics and Earth Science. She has worked as a classroom teacher for the past ten years and also works as an outdoor educator and archery instructor. Lisa volunteers for Atlantic Salmon restoration projects in the Peel and Toronto regions. At Water First, Lisa highlights the importance of First Nations water challenges when delivering our Education Programs.

Katelynne Lo Presti, B.A, B.Ed
Outreach Instructor
Katelynne Lo Presti, B.A, B.Ed
Outreach Instructor

Katelynne graduated from Nipissing University with a B.A English and B.Ed in the junior, intermediate and senior divisions. She has several years experience teaching and tutoring in the Durham Region. Katelynne promotes interactive and inclusive learning environments while delivering Water First's Education Programs.

Sarah Prior, B.A., B.Ed
Outreach Instructor
Sarah Prior, B.A., B.Ed
Outreach Instructor

Sarah's B.A. and B.Ed degrees have a focus on Environmental Sciences and Outdoor Experiential Education. She has taught both locally and abroad, including in several remote First Nations communities in Ontario. Sarah is committed to engaging and empowering youth through delivering Water First's Education Programs.

First Nations Advisory Council

Mia Bourque, Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne

Sue Chiblow, Garden River First Nation

Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, Wikwemikong First Nation

Deborah MacGregor, Whitefish River First Nation

Dan Mongrain, Temagami First Nation

Ray Owl, Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation

Willie Pine, Mississauga First Nation

Cheryl Recollet, Wahnapitae First Nation

Barry Strachan, Keewaytinook Okimakanak Council

Volunteer Advisors
Murray Richardson, Ph.D.
Advisor
Murray Richardson, Ph.D.
Advisor

An Associate Professor of Geography at Carleton University, Ottawa, Murray’s research focuses on watershed hydrology and mercury sensitivity, and spans geographic regions from southern Ontario to the Canadian arctic. Murray actively incorporates community engaged scholarship practices into his research at every opportunity.

Jonathan VanderSteen, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Advisor
Jonathan VanderSteen, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Advisor

Jonathan was an engineering professor at the University of Guelph before he joined GM BluePlan as a Water and Wastewater Project Engineer. He has extensive experience related to civil and mechanical engineering, humanitarian engineering, and instructional and training program design.

Craig Johnson, Ph.D.
Advisor
Craig Johnson, Ph.D.
Advisor

An Associate Professor of International Development & Political Science at the University of Guelph, Craig's research and field work has been conducted with the Canadian, UK and Swiss International Development Agencies on numerous aid projects.

Fraser Kent, Ph.D.
Advisor
Fraser Kent, Ph.D.
Advisor

Fraser Kent has a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Guelph. He has 15 years experience in water and wastewater treatment. His expertise is in membrane filtration and he is the Manager of Wastewater at H2O Innovation, a water treatment engineering firm.

George Powell, P.Eng.
Advisor
George Powell, P.Eng.
Advisor

George has 47 years of engineering experience focused exclusively on water and wastewater infrastructure. He has worked in Canada and internationally on various projects. His positions have included President of Gore & Storrie Ltd. and Senior Vice President of CH2M Hill Canada.

Jim MacPherson LL.B
Advisor
Jim MacPherson LL.B
Advisor

Before joining Water First, Jim practiced commercial law in Toronto from 1972 until his retirement in 2010. Jim's previous community volunteerism has spanned a variety of roles, such as President of the UofT Schools Parent Association, President of the Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce; Chairmain of Lawyers Associated Worldwide; and Chairman of the Purple Hills Arts & Heritage Society.

Barbara Bell Angus, Ph.D.
Advisor
Barbara Bell Angus, Ph.D.
Advisor

Barbara is a Psychoeducational Consultant with the Toronto District School Board and a Lecturer in the B.Ed. program at U of T's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Barbara helps develop the capacity of schools and teachers to meet the educational needs of individual students from a range of cultural backgrounds.

Operations Volunteers
Katie Campbell, M.Eng., B.A.Sc.
Water Treatment Specialist
Katie Campbell, M.Eng., B.A.Sc.
Water Treatment Specialist

Katie has a background in water management and water treatment engineering for remote industrial sites. She brings an in-depth understanding of the interaction between human activity and water, and contributes to the capacity of communities to engage with water science and water management. Katie earned her Masters at the University of Toronto's Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry program.

Kelsey Scarfone, B.E.S.
Education Coordinator
Kelsey Scarfone, B.E.S.
Education Coordinator

Kelsey has previous experience working with the Sudbury Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) engaging youth, and the community at large, in stewardship and resource management projects. She is currently a Master of Sustainability (MS) candidate and holds a bachelors degree in Environmental Studies from Laurentian University.

Nansy Matijevic, B.A., B.Ed.
Education Coordinator
Nansy Matijevic, B.A., B.Ed.
Education Coordinator

Nansy has years of experience in education spanning early childhood to adult education. In addition to her experience teaching in the classroom, Nansy owned and operated her own certified childcare facility where she managed inquiry-based outdoor education programs. Nansy also has corporate experience building relationships through community outreach and employment equity education.

Moriah Noordegraaf, B.A. & B.Ed. Student
Project Assistant
Moriah Noordegraaf, B.A. & B.Ed. Student
Project Assistant

Moriah is a fourth year student at Nipissing University where she is currently pursuing a B.A. with a major in Geography and two minors in History and Native Studies, along with a B.Ed in primary and junior divisions. She has 4 years experience working with youth in a variety of educational environments.

Sara Bentham, B.A.
Community Outreach
Sara Bentham, B.A.
Community Outreach

Sara has over 10 years experience in international education and training, and has worked in Canada and abroad delivering educational programs to students of all ages from 15 countries. Sara is proficient in four languages, has extensive teaching experience, and has developed curriculum for a variety of Simcoe County programs.

Michael L’Ecuyer, B. Des.
Web Designer & Developer
Michael L’Ecuyer, B. Des.
Web Designer & Developer

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