Indigenous Success Stories: First Nations

January 6, 2023

First Nations

Partners extend collaboration to provide essential skills, water treatment training to Indigenous learners

The kanātan nipīy program meets the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls To Action by providing pathways to employment in water treatment for Indigenous learners

NationTalk: The kanātan nipīy (the water is clean/clean water) program for Indigenous learners, which was first offered in 2019, is continuing for 2023. Indigenous learners are encouraged to sign up for the kanātan nipīy program to gain essential skills and access employment opportunities in water treatment and distribution facilities. Trained employees who can operate and maintain water and waste systems to provide clean drinking water are needed in the City of Saskatoon and Indigenous communities across Saskatchewan.

This program is a collaborative effort between the City of Saskatoon, Gabriel Dumont Institute, Radius Community Centre, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, and the Saskatoon Tribal Council. The 2023 program starts on February 13. A presentation and Q&A about the program is being held at Cosmo Civic Centre on January 10, from 1 to 2 p.m. Interested persons can complete their applications and meet the program administrators following the presentation. Funding may be available to qualified applicants.

“The program included three months of in-class work. In that small timeframe we ended up getting a lot of good education, good skills to get a good career,” says Ashley Ratt, alumnus of the kanātan nipīy program. “Working with the City of Saskatoon was pretty fun. It was very independent work. The people working at the City were very inclusive. It was a great time and overall a great experience.”

The kanātan nipīy program includes essential skills training taught by the Radius Community Centre. Saskatchewan Polytech provides training in water treatment and distribution. Participants will also receive First Aid/CPR, Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training, and two weeks of work experience.

The kanātan nipīy program meets the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call To Action #92: Ensuring Indigenous peoples have access to jobs, training and education opportunities; and they benefit from economic development. This project’s success is based on having a cohesive team of community partners engaged for a single purpose: improving employment options for Indigenous workers.

Ready to apply? Email copies of the following items to

  • Grade 12 diploma/GED, plus transcripts. It is preferred students have completed Biology 30, Chemistry 30 and Math 30.
  • Class 5 driver’s license and driver abstract for the last three months.
  • Updated resumé including three references.

For more information, contact:

Brianna Bergeron
306-250-3978 (cell)

November 7, 2022

First Nations

Atlantic First Nations Water Authority makes history as first Indigenous Water Utility

Indigenous Services Canada: It’s now official after an agreement was formally signed in Halifax on November 7: the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority (AFNWA) becomes the first Indigenous Water Utility in the country. The is a significant milestone as it puts control of water and wastewater management firmly in the hands of First Nations.

The transfer agreement was signed Monday by Potlotek First Nation Chief Wilbert Marshall of the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority, Carl Yates, CEO of AFNWA, and Patty Hajdu, the federal Minister of Indigenous Services. It initiates the transfer of responsibility for the operation, maintenance, and capital upgrades of all water and wastewater assets in participating First Nations to the Indigenous-led AFNWA.

The transfer agreement enables First Nations to now officially join the water authority after receiving approval from their community members. Once complete, the AFNWA will assume responsibility for water and wastewater services for as many as 4,500 households and businesses located in up to 17 participating First Nations. This represents approximately 60% of the on-reserve population of First Nation communities in Atlantic Canada.

AFNWA will support all water and wastewater operators to become certified to operate their respective facilities and maintain their certification through continuing education. The Authority will work with staff to identify their career development goals and support them with education and on the job training, wherever possible. AFNWA will also work to develop capacity within communities by hiring trainees and supporting their career development.

The service delivery transfer agreement sets out both ISC’s and the AFNWA’s mutual obligations, accountability, and understanding for implementation. Through Indigenous Services Canada, the federal government has committed approximately $257 million in funding for this work, including $173 million over 10 years from Budget 2022 that will provide sustainable funding for operations and capital programs.


“This has been a long time in the making and we are grateful to the leadership and commitment from our communities to get us to this milestone. We look forward to building capacity and increasing the level of service to standards enjoyed by other residents of Canada. We have blazed a trail for others to follow but that is the way of the Wabanaki who have always been first to see the dawn.”

Potlotek First Nation Chief Wilbert Marshall
Chair of the Board, Atlantic First Nations Water Authority

“Congratulations to the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority (AFNWA) on becoming the first Indigenous water and wastewater utility in the country. By signing this transfer agreement, we take another step forward in our reconciliation efforts. The work of AFNWA will contribute to safer and healthier First Nations communities in Atlantic Canada and provides a fantastic model for other regions.”

The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services

Quick facts

  • The AFNWA is a First Nations-owned, not-for-profit organization incorporated in 2018 to manage the delivery of safe, clean drinking water and wastewater in participating First Nations communities in Atlantic Canada.
  • This service delivery transfer agreement allows for participating First Nations to become members of the AFNWA. The agreement transfers responsibility for the operation, maintenance, and capital upgrades of all water and wastewater assets in participating First Nations to the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority.
  • In June 2020, Indigenous Services Canada and the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority signed a Framework Agreement that outlined the negotiation process and the roles and responsibilities for all parties and defined the relationship between Indigenous Services Canada and the AFNWA going forward under this new First Nation-led, service delivery model.

Associated links


For more information, media may contact:

Carl Yates
Interim Chief Executive Officer
Atlantic First Nations Water Authority

Alison Murphy
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Indigenous Services

Media Relations
Indigenous Services Canada

August 31, 2022

First Nations

Healthy First Nations and Autumn Peltier

Indigenous community, water advocates, moving ahead on drinking water solutions

City TV News: An innovative way to bring clean water to indigenous communities is being installed in homes at a reserve not far from Toronto. The project is an early step in a plan that advocates hope will eventually spread across Canada. “Water is a basic human right no matter how rich or poor we are, where we come from, what the colour of our skin is we all deserve clean drinking water,” said water rights advocate Autumn Peltier.

Twenty-seven Indigenous communities across Canada are currently living under long-term drinking water advisories, and even in communities without advisories, getting access to clean water isn’t always easy.

Peltier is an ambassador for the Dreamcatcher Foundation, which is working with Healthy First Nations to install temporary filters house-by-house in Six Nations of the Grand River. The reserve of 13,000 residents is the most populous in the country, and located about 30 minutes from Hamilton.

“Water to me is one of the most important teachings I ever received growing up because Indigenous culture, Ojibway culture, in this area of Canada, water is the most important element to our beliefs,” noted Peltier. The 17-year-old water warrior has been fighting to get clean drinking water to all of Canada’s Indigenous communities for nearly a decade.

She first captured the world’s attention at 12 years old, when she spoke at a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations. Peltier, who is from Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and gave him the gift of a water bundle, and a message.

“I didn’t plan on saying anything that I said but in that moment, I just felt a strong feeling of passion towards talking about advocating for [water,]” explained Peltier. “He reached into grab it, I pulled back and I said ‘I’m really unhappy with the choices you made and broken promises to my people.’ and he said ‘I understand that.’ I started crying probably because of the overwhelming situation, and he said, ‘I will protect the water.”

Autumn Peltier with Justin Trudeau at the Assembly of First Nations in 2017.
Autumn Peltier with Justin Trudeau at the Assembly of First Nations in 2017. FACEBOOK/Perry Bellegarde

Six years later, and one year past the government’s self-imposed deadline to end long-term boil water advisories, Peltier said the progress has been uneven.

Peltier said the idea that First Nations communities are living in such conditions in a wealthy nation is difficult to come to terms with. “That blows my mind. It’s 2022,” she said. “It’s sad. It’s heartbreaking because if this was to happen in Toronto, Ottawa or any mainstream city or area, think about how fast they would resolve that issue If they weren’t able to drink the water.”

“If this was to happen in Toronto, Ottawa or any mainstream city or area, think about how fast they would resolve that issue If they weren’t able to drink the water.”

“I’ve been doing this since I was 8 years old and I turn 18 next month and very little has happened and changed since then,” she said. “I believe it’s something that is going to take a very long time to resolve. My aunt Josephine was doing this till the day she died,” said Peltier. “I don’t want to be doing this when I’m 70 years old.”

The office of Canada’s Minister of Indigenous Services, Patty Hajdu, tells CityNews the government has lifted 135 long-term advisories since 2015, and prevented 223 short-term advisories from becoming long-term. The government adds Canadians can expect most remaining long-term drinking water advisories to be lifted within the next 12 months.

“We live in a time where everyone deserves the right to clean drinking water and I guess my hope is that if we can’t resolve the issue completely, we can work towards finding solutions,” shared Peltier.

Peltier is working with the Dreamcatcher Foundation as an ambassador for their temporary filtration program. Peltier tells CityNews that she is helping raise awareness of their work. “It’s come to a point where we have to take it into our own hands, because the government won’t do anything or they just take years to do anything, so it’s kind of a temporary solution for Indigenous communities.”

Beverly Maracle, who has lived on the Six Nations of Grand River reserve for most of her life, recently had one of the temporary water filters installed at her kitchen sink. The same day, she poured herself her first glass of water, directly from her tap. “Water is very important to Indigenous people,” she noted. “Water is medicine to Indigenous people and we need water for life. So water is life.” 

Bryan Porter, a Visionary Leader and Shakohen:te’s from Six Nations who is a board member with Dreamcatcher Foundation, also noted water’s importance in Indigenous culture. “I would say we would consider water to be a living organism. It has memory and it guides so much of everything else that we do,” he explained.

“A lot of our ceremonies have to do with the crop cycle. Of course, you can’t have crops without water. It’s so important to everything,” he said, adding it’s particularly difficult for community members not to be able to safely consume water from their own river. “It’s tough to move ahead when you can’t take the first step, which is the very necessity of life, having water.”

August 10, 2022

First Nations

Autumn Peltier, clean water activist is captivating global audiences

CNN: Seventeen-year-old Canadian indigenous rights activist and designated “water protector” Autumn Peltier is empowering young people to protect the environment. As the chief water commissioner for Anishinabek Nation, she has spent nearly half her life speaking about the importance of clean water to organizations including the United Nations and the World Economic Forum. Peltier, who grew up in Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Ontario’s Manitoulin Island, first became aware of the need for water advocacy at just eight years old. When visiting a neighboring indigenous community, she discovered that they were unable to drink their tap water due to pollution. That kickstarted her career as an activist.

“I believe that no matter what race or color, (or) how rich poor we are, everybody deserves clean drinking water,” she says. “You don’t have to be indigenous to respect (water) or raise awareness for it.”

At 12 years old, Peltier made headlines for scolding Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau about his failure to enact policies that preserve clean water. Since then, she has spoken to world leaders at the UN General Assembly and the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit. She was also nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize three times.

“You wouldn’t generally think a kid or a young person would speak up about world issues or political issues,” says Peltier. “That’s why it’s so much more powerful — because that’s how you know something is wrong.”

December 14, 2020

Okanagan Indian Band Group of Companies (OKIB GC) water utility

The first Indigenous owned and operated water utility in Canada

The first Indigenous owned and operated water utility in Canada developed by way of Public-Private-Community Partnership (PPCP), is a step closer to reality with a formal agreement signed last month between the Okanagan Indian Band Group of Companies (OKIB GC), EPCOR and Enterprise Canada. The companies will identify commercial opportunities in utilities-related infrastructure, including water, wastewater and irrigation management systems, to provide quality drinking water and ensure adequate firefighting supply to serve the Okanagan Indian Band’s reserve lands.

The OKIB GC water utility will lead to skills training and employment opportunities for community members, in clear alignment with the fundamental right of self-determination for First Nations peoples in Canada. The professional partnership will support ongoing business arrangements to further socio-economic development opportunities for the Syilx of the Okanagan Indian Band.

June 23, 2020

The Atlantic First Nations Water Authority

Signing of Framework Agreement

The Chronicle Herald – Signing of a framework agreement with Government of Canada for an Indigenous-led water authority as a first in Canada and a way forward to further reconciliation as an “important step towards the full autonomous First Nations-led operation of water and wastewater services for 15 communities serving approximately 4,500 homes and businesses.”

The Atlantic First Nations Water Authority that has been in the works for more than a decade “estimating an annual operating cost of $11 million and capital costs of more than $230 million over a 25-year period” Immediately joining the authority on its journey are 15 First Nations, nine from Nova Scotia, four from New Brunswick and two from Prince Edward Island.

“The utility model is scalable, it can easily grow to include all 33 First Nations communities in Atlantic Canada,” Yates said. Carl Yates, the former, long-time general manager of Halifax Water, is the interim chief executive officer of the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority.

February 14, 2018

Lytton FN and RES’EAU-WaterNET

Develop options for providing affordable, sustainable water-treatment solutions

Vancouver Courier: Lytton First Nation is working with public and private organizations and universities in a “circle of trust” to identify challenges and test solutions in real-world conditions. They partnered with RES’EAU-WaterNET, a strategic research network under the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Because problems with drinking-water systems vary, RES’EAU-WaterNET works with communities like Lytton First Nation to gain insights early on in the process. With First Nation’s water-treatment operators at the centre of an “innovation circle,” they and experts from government, universities, consulting firms, water companies, and contractors identified and piloted several options for providing affordable, sustainable water-treatment solutions.