First Nations people and organizations are leading efforts to ensure their communities enjoy the same access to safe, clean and reliable drinking water that everyone in Canada deserves.
Today, Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan recognized the work done by First Nations by announcing this year’s recipient of the National First Nations Water Leadership Award.
This year’s winner, Deon Hassler, is a First Nations military veteran and former water operator in his home community of Carry the Kettle in Saskatchewan. Hassler has shared his knowledge and expertise with other First Nations communities through the Circuit Rider Training Program at File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council for the past five years. Circuit riders are a team of qualified experts who travel to First Nations communities, training the people responsible for operating, monitoring and maintaining drinking water and wastewater systems. As a circuit rider, Hassler also assists other First Nations operators in obtaining and maintaining their certification, and provides advice to Chiefs and Councils.
His latest work has been to advocate for the creation of a Saskatchewan Operators Association for First Nations water and wastewater operators.
“Water operators are essential to ensuring First Nations communities have access to safe, clean and reliable drinking water. Water operators work long hours, often with little recognition, to watch over their community’s water supply. It is the hard work and dedication of people like Deon that is vital in helping us achieve our goal of lifting all long term drinking water advisories by 2021. Their work has been integral in the 87 successful lifts to date and is a key factor in the progress on the remaining 56 LTDWAs. Thank you Deon, and congratulations for winning the National First Nations Water Leadership Award.”
The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Indigenous Services
“Ensuring the health and safety of a community’s water supply is a role I take very seriously, both as a Circuit Rider Trainer and a former water treatment plant operator. I am fortunate to be in a position where I can now share my years of experience and knowledge, to help train, mentor, guide, and assist new and future operators and leaders in the ongoing care, maintenance, and operation of this critical piece of community infrastructure.”
Circuit Rider Trainer and recipient of the 2019 National First Nations Water Leadership Award
Indigenous Services Canada created the annual National First Nations Water Leadership Award in March 2018 to recognize First Nations individuals or organizations that have demonstrated leadership and outstanding dedication to the advancement of clean and safe drinking water in First Nations communities.
The recipient of the inaugural First Nation Water Leadership Award was Lorraine Crane, Chief of Slate Falls Nation, in recognition of her outstanding leadership and dedication to the advancement of clean drinking water in her community.
Nominees are First Nations individuals, community members or leaders, or First Nations organizations or communities.
Nominations were accepted from November 1 to December 19, 2019, and were reviewed by the First Nations Advisory Committee.
Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan named the recipient on the advice of the advisory committee.
The recipient will receive a trophy and a piece of Indigenous artwork at a later event.
The recipient will also be honoured through the creation of three bursaries in their name to support water operators’ in their professional development.
In 2018-2019, Indigenous Services Canada invested $15.5 million toward training, including the Circuit Rider Training Program.