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Water First

The water crisis in Indigenous communities

Sustainable access to safe, clean water in Indigenous communities continues to be an issue in Canada. Nobody understands the evolving challenges and needs more than the people who live there. Understanding what community members have to say about their priorities has been the catalyst for building lasting solutions.

Technology alone does not provide clean and reliable drinking water; the people who run the systems are critical. Many Indigenous communities in Canada have identified the need for more young, qualified, and local personnel to support solving water issues, independently and for the long term. However, there is a lack of locally available opportunities for young adults to gain the relevant skills and experiences.

The Drinking Water Internship Program directly addresses this by supporting young Indigenous adults to become certified water treatment plant operators.

The Internship is welcomed by Indigenous communities that view training and skill development as a key part of the solution to drinking water challenges. This approach ensures sustainable access to safe drinking water in Indigenous communities for the long term.

Expanding to meet pressing community demand

The program was originally developed in partnership with the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising, Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, and the Anishinabek Nation, representing 39 First Nations in northern Ontario. Piloted in 2017-2018 with seven First Nations communities on Manitoulin Island, the program was incredibly successful and significantly exceeded expectations among the project partners. Following the success of the pilot, we have since launched three more partnerships — the latest with the Ogemawahj Tribal Council in the summer of 2023.

Recent program news

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Alumni graduate Amy Waboose working in her community drinking water treatment plant.