At every step, highly qualified and dedicated professionals are involved in our operations. Hover over an individual for a brief biography.

Staff Members

Water First Staff: John Millar

John Millar, B.A., M.A.

Executive Director & Founder
John has extensive experience in First Nations engagement and non-profit management and has collaborated with nearly 50 Indigenous communities over the last 14 years. Throughout his career he has worked for and partnered with a variety of non-profit organizations focusing on community development, drinking water systems, environmental projects, education and training.
Water First Staff: Kendra Driscoll

Kendra Driscoll, M.Sc., EP

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 and is a certified Environmental Professional through ECO Canada. Kendra has a passion for water protection through science education.
Water First Staff: Jag Saini

Jag Saini, B.Eng., E.I.T., O.I.T

Project Manager & 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.
Water First Staff: Dillon Koopmans

Dillon Koopmans, B.A., B.Ed., OCT

Educational Programs Manager
Dillon is an Ontario Certified Teacher of Potawatomi descent who holds Bachelors degrees in geography and education. He has collaborated with schools and community members in over twenty FNMI communities in Ontario, Manitoba & Quebec to deliver STEM-based science workshops and complete watershed restoration & conservation projects. He has significant experience designing and delivering in-class and land-based educational programs at the Primary, Junior, Intermediate and Senior divisions.
Water First Staff: Ami Gopal

Ami Gopal

Director of Development & Communications
Ami has over 19 years experience and a proven track record in fundraising, resource development and marketing. She enjoys nurturing relationships with Water First donors and developing customized strategies to meet their needs. Along with sharing Water First's stories and increasing awareness of our work.
Water First Staff: Carli Lang

Carli Lang, Ph.D.

Scientific Director
Carli’s Ph.D. research in environmental parasitology brought a community-based water sampling program to rural Panama, for a 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. Carli enjoys the collaborative process of designing environmental water projects with communities and supporting them to complete these projects.
Water First Staff: Jen Atkinson

Jen Atkinson

Director of Operations
Jen is a graduate of Sir Sandford Fleming’s Ecosystem Management Program and has over sixteen years’ experience in the environmental and non-profit sector. Jen is an accomplished field technician, manager and educator with extensive knowledge in water protection, conservation, sustainability & design, finance management and collaborative program development.

Jesse Wright, M.ES.

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.
Water First Staff: Brenda Lapell

Brenda Lapell

Digital Communications Manager
With over 20 years of marketing and communications experience, Brenda has successfully developed online marketing campaigns and strategies for a variety of non-profits. She shares her vast experience to help Water First build effective public communications initiatives.
Water First Staff: Riva Dawson

Riva Dawson

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.
Water First Staff: Kristen Engel

Kristen Engel

Director of Finance
Kristen is the owner of a local accounting business and brings 25+ years of unique business experience working with entrepreneurs. This experience has given her great insight in assisting business owners and managers to utilize accounting reports for streamlining organizations.
Water First Staff: Ryan Osman

Ryan Osman

Water Resources Specialist & Field Photographer
Ryan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering and a Master's degree in Water Resources Engineering from the University of Guelph with a focus on hydrogeology and climate change monitoring. He also gained experience in photography while working along with environmental organizations and with the surf industry.
Water First Staff: Ashley Doucette

Ashley Doucette

Office & Development Coordinator
Ashley has over 5 years experience in office management and is one of the first happy faces you see when you walk through the door. She brings with her the excitement to learn and the skill of organization, as well as many other skills to assist you in your journey with Water First.
Water First Staff: Adrianna Bilinksi

Adrianna Bilinski, B. Ed., B.A.

Indigenous School Engagement Coordinator
Adrianna is an Ontario Certified Teacher, and a woman of Ojibwe descent from Beausoleil First Nation. She holds Bachelors degrees in History, Gender Studies, and Education. As an educator — both outside and within Water First — her primary focus is to raise awareness of the historical and current question of equity and equality in Canada through First Nations, Métis, and Inuit views.
Water First Staff: Heidi Fuller

Heidi Fuller, B.Sc., PDPP, OCT, BCCT

Learning Specialist
Heidi is a professional educator with over 16 years of experience in designing and delivering environmental and science-based youth and adult education programs. First teaching high school chemistry and biology in China. Then programs on household water treatment technologies and training of trainers in Afghanistan, Haiti and Zambia. Most recently, e-Learning courses for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières. She is passionate about making scientific and technical information hands-on, accessible and engaging.

Greg Allan

Programs Communications Specialist
Greg has worked with brands in an array of sectors across Canada and Australia in graphic design, interactive design, and film and video. He is excited to be using his passion for videography to share the wonderful work of the Water First team.

Mason Prout

Communications & Development Specialist
Mason lives on the North Shore of Lake Superior, on the traditional lands of the Fort William First Nation in Thunder Bay. Mason has a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing Management from Ryerson University and has supported the environmental nonprofit community in positions such as Environmental Point Person and Social Media Coordinator for Patagonia Toronto and Shared Platform Coordinator at MakeWay Charitable Society. Mason is passionate about combining his experience with social media and design with his love for water and community engagement in support of Water First’s digital communications.
Water First Staff: Sam Murray

Sam Murray

Development Manager
Sam Murray is an enthusiastic fundraiser with over four years of experience in the field, specializing in third party fundraising and community engagement. She uses her creativity to make fundraising fun, and has built multiple programs from the ground up. Coming from an international development background, she is excited to focus on a local cause to raise funds for the important work that Water First does here in Canada.
Water First Staff: Casey Remmer

Casey Remmer, Ph.D.

Senior Environmental Program Specialist
Casey's PhD research focused on understanding water quality and quantity in a deltaic landscape in Northern Alberta to address community concerns and inform First Nations and Canadian government conservation efforts. She has an interdisciplinary background that combines biology, chemistry and geography to find the best approaches to solving water issues. Her goal at Water First is to contribute to work that furthers environmental equity through meaningful collaboration and knowledge production that centers the pressing needs of First Nations communities and recognizes the value of braiding traditional and western knowledge.
Water First Staff: Justin McGregor

Justin McGregor

Internship Coordinator & Trainer
Justin’s passion for understanding Indigenous water challenges began when he had the opportunity to work in his community's water treatment plant in Whitefish River First Nation. Although his time there was short, Justin more deeply appreciated the need for safe, clean water and the impact that water treatment plants have in communities. Shortly after graduating from the civil engineering technology program at Cambrian college, Justin worked for his First Nation’s tribal council where he conducted GIS mapping work on his and affiliated First Nation communities.
Water First Staff: Keegan Smith

Keegan Smith

Technical Coordinator & Trainer
Before Water First, Keegan worked on hydrology projects around Canada as a Research Technician at McMaster University. His first community-based project was during his M.Sc. at Carleton University, studying snow hydrology with students from Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit. With Water First, he looks forward to empowering communities with new scientific tools.
Water First Staff: Jill Rajewicz

Jill Rajewicz, M. Sc.

Technical Trainer and Project Coordinator
Jill is a settler of European descent who lives on the traditional lands of the Fort William First Nation in Thunder Bay. Jill has a Masters of Science in Geography from Carleton University, Ottawa, with a focus on cryosphere (land ice and sea ice) and climate change in the Canadian High Arctic. Prior to joining Water First, Jill worked in Nunavut with communities to design and implement collaborative conservation and natural resource management projects. She has extensive experience doing fieldwork in remote places and loves to be on the land. Jill is keen to make science inclusive and approachable, and expand her understanding of the world through multiple ways of knowing.
Water First Staff: Tanya Sackaney

Tanya Sackaney

Indigenous Schools Engagement Coordinator
Tanya is an Ontario Certified Teacher and holds a Graduate Diploma of Education in the Primary and Junior divisions, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Physical Geography. Her background includes several years of teaching experience on a First Nations reserve, as well as time spent delivering environmental programming. Her goal is to provide engaging and empowering, land-based learning opportunities for the Indigenous youth she works with.

Board of Directors

Water First Volunteer: Leanna O'Brien

Leanne O'Brien

With a 15-year career engaging audiences in business and non-profit sectors, Leanne holds a Master's degree in professional communication. She is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Water First mandate, which addresses what she considers to be the most important issue of our time in Canada. Leanne is a descendent of dual heritage, of which Métis is a part, and grew up in Toronto, where she learns tai chi.
Water First Board: Leah Hagreen

Leah Hagreen, B.Sc.

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.
Water First Board: Ian Heaps

Ian Heaps

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.
Water First Board: Teza Lawrence

Teza Lawrence, B.A.H.

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.
Water First Board: Gary Pritchard

Gary Pritchard

Gary is from Curve Lake First Nation and is the Manager of Energy & Environment at Cambium Aboriginal, a First Nations engineering and technical consulting 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.
Water First Board: Heather Murphy

Heather Murphy, Ph.D.

Heather is an Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair specializing in One Health at the University of Guelph with a focus on waterborne diseases. Previously, she was an Assistant Professor at Temple University and held a variety of post-doctoral fellowships including one focusing on water challenges in Canadian First Nations communities. She also worked with UNICEF managing large-scale projects bringing water and sanitation resources to communities in the developing world.

Polly Bobiwash

Polly Bobiwash is the Director of Labour Market Development at the Anishinabek Nation, which has 39 member First Nations communities. She has spent over 35 years providing counsel to First Nations individuals, organizations, and communities in the area of employment and training services, guiding individuals to secure both fulfilling and meaningful employment.
Water First Board: Edward H. Kernaghan

Edward H. Kernaghan, M.Sc.

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.

Volunteer Advisors

Water First Advisor: Murray Richardson

Murray Richardson, Ph.D.

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.
Water First Advisor: Jonathan VanderSteen

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

Jonathan was an engineering professor at the University of Guelph before becoming a project engineer working in the Water and Wastewater field.He has extensive experience related to civil and mechanical engineering, humanitarian engineering, and instructional and training program design.
Water First Advisor: Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson, Ph.D.

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.
Water First Advisor: Bob Rae

Bob Rae

Bob Rae is a former Premier of Ontario and a former interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. He now advocates for First Nations on a number of issues, including the right to safe drinking water.


Nadia George

Nadia is an award winning Mi'kmaw-Canadian actor, media personality, public speaker and now officially a Water First Ambassador. Her work focuses on uplifting young Indigenous voices by giving space for them to be seen and heard. She challenges the idea of what it means to be a contemporary Indigenous person by addressing stigmas and having open communication around contemporary Indigenous identity. Nadia advocates to bring awareness about equity within Indigenous communities around accessibility, health, mental health, and addiction. She seeks ways to improve the quality of life for all Indigenous Peoples; building bridges by providing learning opportunities to others and fostering positive reconciliation friendships.

Operations Volunteers

Water First Volunteer: Jocelyn Andrews

Jocelyn Andrews

Salesforce Administrator
With a Master’s in Library Studies and over a decade of library systems experience, Jocelyne has more recently re-directed her database expertise to work with a variety of clients on the Salesforce platform. When she’s not in front of a computer, she can often be found hiking or paddling a canoe with her family in the Canadian wilderness.
Water First Volunteer: Daisy Enright

Daisy Enright

Youth Education
Daisy holds an Honours Bachelors of Arts degree from the University of Toronto, with a double major in Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies. Passionate about Human Rights and water health and accessibility, Daisy is excited to learn and grow with Water First, executing lesson plans and workshops for children across Canada.