An Effective Solution to a Long-Standing Problem

Access to clean, safe drinking water. It is easy to take this for granted — yet, this is not the reality for everyone in Canada.

In many First Nations communities, the issue of boil-water advisories has a clear association with the shortage of certified people to work in local water treatment plants. Indigenous communities do not receive comparable education, training and employment support when it comes to water science and management compared to the rest of the country. These supports are critical in ensuring the long-term sustainability of Indigenous water systems.

The Water First Internship was born from community feedback, guidance and partners coming together with a focus on training and education to create local solutions. The Internship trains primarily young, local Indigenous adults to become certified water treatment plant operators and to work within the environmental water field. Over the course of a 15-month paid internship opportunity, participants receive customized skills training and tutoring to obtain certification, along with on-the-job experience in their local water plants.

The ultimate goal of the Water First Internship is importantly linked to the crisis of boil-water advisories in First Nations communities across Canada.

Water First’s Internship Program, in collaboration with First Nations communities, is a part of this solution, offering meaningful outcomes to this ongoing challenge.

This is Just The Beginning

In response to the need to increase the number of fully trained water treatment operators, to prepare for the projected retirement of many current operators in the next five years, and to support more gender diversity in the field, the Internship Program has the opportunity to play a role in meaningfully shifting the challenges of access to clean drinking water in many communities.

  • I am grateful for everything water does.

    Eric Vautour, Internship Graduate

Over the next five years, Water First will be scaling up the Internship Program to reach an additional 75 First Nations communities — responding to the priorities of different communities across Ontario. We will continue to adapt the program to best address local drinking water concerns.

“I came here for a job, and ended here with a career.”

Amy Waboose, internship graduate

Watch our new video to learn more about how the Internship is providing a solution for clean water in First Nations communities.

Latest News

Internship program wins 2019 Water’s Next award

June 19th, 2019

Each year, Water Canada recognizes and celebrates the achievement of people, projects and technology that address and improve water issues in Canada through the Water’s Next Award.  The Water First Internship was one of the finalists for the 2019 Water’s Next Award in the category of Projects and Technology – … Read More

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Internship program profiled in Water Canada magazine

January 21st, 2019

The Water First Internship Program was featured in the January/February 2019 edition of Water Canada, a publication dedicated to covering a range of Canadian water issues. This edition of the magazine focused specifically on issues impacting Indigenous communities, as well as the work of individuals, communities and organizations addressing … Read More

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Water First Internship Highlighted as Innovative Initiative in Government of Canada Sustainable Development Report

December 17th, 2018

In October 2018, Environment and Climate Change Canada released a report detailing the Government of Canada’s efforts in realizing the 13 aspirational goals set out in its 2016 to 2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

For each goal, the report sets out why each goal is important, overall progress made towards … Read More

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The Communities

Click on an icon to learn a bit about the intern(s) in that community

Donor Profile

RBC Foundation

Launching Futures

RBC is striving to address the ‘no experience-no job, no job-no experience’ cycle affecting the current and the next generation of workers, and is why we’re excited to support the Water First Internship.

This empowering program provides Indigenous youth with critical skills development and hands-on experience helping them to gain access to meaningful employment, to help their communities prosper and to improve local economies.

Young people are entering the workforce at a time of profound economic, social and technological change requiring a new mix of skills and it is through innovative programs like this that our future leaders will be prepared to succeed and thrive.


Water First is excited to work with our donors like RBC, to scale up the Internship Program to reach even more partner communities.

The Staff

  • 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 … Read More

  • 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 … Read More

  • 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.… Read More

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