At every step, highly qualified and dedicated professionals are involved in our operations.
John Millar, B.A., M.A.
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.
Kendra Driscoll, M.Sc., EP
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. 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 passion for water protection through science education.
Jag Saini, B.Eng., E.I.T., O.I.T
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.
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.
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.
Jesse Wright, M.ES.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Heidi Fuller, B.Sc., OCT, BCCT
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 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 is from Thunder Bay, on the North Shore of Lake Superior, the traditional lands of the Fort William First Nation. He holds a BCom in Marketing Management from Toronto Metropolitan University and is passionate about supporting good work with his skills in communications and fundraising. Mason has years of communications, marketing, outreach and administrative experience with social and environmental businesses and organizations such as MakeWay Charitable Society, Ontario Nature, Patagonia Toronto and for the past 2+ years with Water First. He is passionate about combining his communications and design experience with his love for water and community engagement to support Water First’s communications and fundraising objectives.
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.
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.
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.
Krysta is an OACETT Certified Environmental Technician (C.Tech.) who graduated from Mohawk College with an Environmental Technician Diploma and from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor’s degree in Geography. Her passion is water treatment and she has worked in different Ontario municipalities and industrial settings as a Class 2 Drinking Water Operator, as well as a Class 1 Wastewater Operator. She is an active volunteer within her community, mentoring girls in the FAB (Fit Active Beautiful) program and women as the Grand Valley OACETT Women in Technology Representative and former Chapter Chair. Krysta enjoys any opportunity to share experiences and to learn. Working at Water First, Krysta hopes to further her understanding of how to care for water and to share her experiences and knowledge of water treatment.
Cory’s M.Sc. research at the University of Waterloo helped develop a water monitoring program for a vast floodplain in Northern Alberta to address concerns over industrial expansion that were expressed by local Indigenous communities. Cory has also previously worked alongside a team of knowledge producers from First Nations communities, government, and universities to inform conservation of water resources in the Northwest Territories. At Water First, Cory looks forward to meaningful engagement with Indigenous communities while sharing her love for water science and ecology.
Stephen holds an Honours Bsc in Indigenous Environmental Studies and an MSc in Environmental Life Sciences from Trent University. Stephen’s experience has been focused on environmental pollution, fisheries and community-based programs with First Nations.
Catherine is an Ontario Certified Teacher in the Primary/Junior Divisions. She is passionate about environmental education and providing students with enriching experiential learning opportunities. Her background includes experience working for outdoor education centres, conservation authorities, as well as in-class teaching. Catherine is looking forward to collaborating with Indigenous communities to deliver water science programming for students, with a goal of fostering environmental stewardship.
Brooke graduated from Trent University with a degree in Environmental and Earth Sciences, during this time she worked at the Peterborough Water Treatment Plant growing her interest and knowledge in clean drinking water. Before coming to Water First, Brooke worked at Georgian Bay Forever conducting research and education on microplastics in freshwater ecosystems, working towards legislative change to stop microfibre pollution at the source- our washing machines. At Water First, Brooke is excited to work alongside First Nations communities who share a love for the aquatic environment. Brooke is lucky to call the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula home.
Jacey, a member of the Piikani Nation in Southern Alberta, first began her educational journey at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. Following her graduation from the Chemical Engineering Technology program, she pursued her Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at Lakehead University, from which she graduated in the Spring of 2022. Proud of her identity as an Indigenous woman in engineering, Jacey is excited to share her passion for STEM with other Indigenous youth and play a part in training and providing resources for current and future generations of water protectors.
Chris has 25+ years in environmental program development, implementation, evaluation and monitoring for private, public and not-for-profit organizations. Chris’s work as an environmental regulator in the Northwest Territories, leadership of a Canadian NGO and water and wastewater operations has him uniquely positioned to contribute to the success of the Water First team. Chris holds a Masters’s degree in Environment and Management from Royal Roads University.
Maria Hypponen B.A., M.A.
Maria has more than 15 years of experience in communications and marketing in the not-for-profit, association and government sectors. Her passion is writing compelling stories that lead to action and connection. As an editor and writing coach, she helps others communicate clearly and with intention. Maria has a Master’s degree in English Literature from Queen’s University.
Cindy has worked with charitable organizations for most of her 30-year career. She has an undergraduate degree in Psychology as well as a CPA designation. Before working for Water First, Cindy worked for various non-profit organizations that provide services to children, federal inmates and seniors. At Water First, Cindy is looking forward to facilitating changes that support the organization’s mission.
Alex Lynch, M.Sc.
Alex has extensive experience working with environmental non-profits, municipal and territorial governments, and in the private sector. He spent the last six years working in communities in the Northwest Territories as a regulator on various environmental and water management projects. Most recently, he was part of the senior management team leading the Giant Mine Remediation Project. Alex holds a Master of Science in Integrated Water Resource Management from McGill University.
Sarah is an Ontario Certified Teacher and has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies. She has worked with students of all ages teaching environmental and outdoor education programming at multiple outdoor education centres, as well as teaching at a forest school. Sarah loves integrating curriculum with hands-on outdoor and experiential learning opportunities. She is excited to work with and learn from Indigenous communities and students, sharing her passion for the environment, outdoor activities, and environmental stewardship.
Jenny is one of the first happy people you see when you come into the office. When she isn’t in the office, you can find her hiking local trails, camping or canoeing. She jumped at the opportunity to work at Water First and takes pride in being part of an organization that is taking action with the water crisis.
Michelle brings 20+ years of experience with a family-run display advertising company and 10 years in freelance bookkeeping, business development, and sales. These roles gave her a solid foundation in administration at a management level, as well as the ability to work effectively with both internal and external stakeholders. She also serves on volunteer Boards of Directors. Michelle loves to find efficiencies in processes, business writing, and supporting the vision and mission of the Executive Director & Founder.
Adam graduated from Nipissing University with a degree in Environmental Geography with a focus on Environmental Management. After completing school, he opened an Environmental Inspection Company working within the oil and gas industry. Always having a passion for conservation and environmental protection, he started working at a local Tribal Council as an Environmental Technician before an opportunity to work with Water First grabbed his interest. At Water First, Adam is excited about helping inspire a new wave of young Water Treatment Operators.
Sarah Jayne Kendall
S.J. (Sarah Jayne) is a member of Alderville First Nation who equally embraces her Anishinaabe and settler ancestry. With over 20 years’ experience in the community mental health and wellness sector, SJ’s career has been rooted in addressing the inequities Indigenous people experience when accessing culturally appropriate health care, safe and affordable housing and meaningful community supports. Community work experience led SJ to her current role with Water First, facilitating ongoing Indigenous historical and cultural awareness learning paths to ensure the Water First team continues its reparation work with Indigenous communities in an informed, inclusive and respectful way. Being an Anishinaabe Kwe, SJ understands her inherent role as a Water Protector and supports meaningful collaboration with community partners.
Jacob is a Red River Métis Artist and Musician with a passion for language and film. Since 2019, he has released 3 studio albums under the artist name JV-1. Serving as an executive member of the Peterborough & Wapiti District Métis council since 2022, Jacob embraces his Métis culture and hosts music nights for his local community. In 2019, Jacob founded Safe Water Studios, a grassroots, Métis led organization that intersects art, health and water through workshops and seminars.
Board of Directors
Leanne O’Brien, MAPC
Leanne is a communications practitioner in global technology who has spent nearly two decades reaching audiences to help organizations grow in the tech, renewable energy, HR, and writing industries. She is a descendent of Irish, French Canadian, and Métis ancestors, and is from Treaty 13, otherwise known as Toronto. As board chair, Leanne is honoured to be involved in what she believes to be one of the most innovative and profound initiatives of our time: the co-creations that happen at Water First.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Bob has over 25 years of experience providing auditing, accounting and advisory
services for not-for-profit, public and private sector companies. His clients have
included organizations in healthcare, education, retail, food services, construction and
manufacturing. In addition to his assurance work, he provides advisory services on
business operations, corporate structuring, tax planning, succession planning and financial
solutions. Bob’s practice is composed of multiple clients in the health sector, including
hospitals and health-related NPOs. Bob’s skills include recognizing clients’ needs and
bringing in a team that can provide the most effective services to BDO’s clients.
Indigenous Advisory Council
Water First does not identify as an Indigenous-led organization. As such, our Indigenous Advisory Council members provide valuable feedback on our programs and delivery in communities.
Bill Assinewai is the Technical Services Manager in his home community of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island. As the Technical Services Manager, Bill has worked on various initiatives and programs including the construction of a new water treatment plant. Bill was an important advisor and partner of the first Water First Internship on Manitoulin Island.
Ogamauh annag qwe, B.Sc., MEM
Ogamauh annag qwe is crane clan born and raised in Garden River First Nation. She has worked extensively with First Nation communities for the last 26 years in environmental related fields. She sits on council in Garden River First Nation and is currently pursuing her Ph.D in Environmental Science at York University with a focus on N’be Kendaaswin (Water Knowledge). Sue has worked with Elders for the last 26 years documenting their knowledge and currently works with the Traditional Ecological Knowledge Elders from the Huron Treaty area.
Jean Marie Colbourn
Jean Marie Colbourn is an experienced school teacher currently teaching at Christian Island Elementary School at Beausoleil First Nation. Jean is originally from Whitefish River First Nation and has taught in numerous Indigenous schools across the province, from James Bay to Georgian Bay.
Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, CM
Jeannette Corbiere Lavell is an Anishinaabe community worker from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory. She has dedicated decades of her life to raising the status of Indigenous women in Canada and has helped build strong support systems for women as a founding member and president of many organizations, including the Ontario Native Women’s Association and the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Jeannette received the Order of Canada in 2018.
Murray McGregor is the Public Works Manager in his home community of Whitefish River First Nation. Murray has worked on various initiatives including the construction of the Water Treatment Plant, Low Lift Station, and Water Tower, among many others. He is a key collaborator with other departments within the Whitefish River First Nation on water initiatives as well as emergency preparedness planning. He also partners with other agencies, municipalities, and other First Nations where he is called upon for advice and guidance.
James Simon Mishibinijima
One of Canada’s foremost artists, Mishibinijima has created a unique body of artwork in North America and overseas. Mishibinijima began painting in his community of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory and over the years he has been awarded many first and best of show awards at international art exhibitions. He has also developed curriculum materials for First Nation schools and continues to develop teachings to guide people to a positive future.
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.
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.
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 is an award-winning Kuskatán Nahua-Canadian actress, activist, and therapeutic performance coach based in Toronto.
Nadia’s lived and professional experiences have empowered her to seek ways to improve the quality of life for all Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island.
Her volunteerism focuses on Indigenous equity, environmental justice and mental health; and believes that gifting her time, talent and treasure is an important piece to being an ally for the Indigenous communities we collaborate with.