Keewaytinook Okimakanak Chiefs Win Water's Next Award

Date: June 24, 2016 

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Original article published in NetNewsLedger

Toronto, ON – Six First Nations Chiefs were honoured with a Water’s Next Award last night at a gala in Toronto. The award recognizes the Chiefs’ work on the Safe Water Project, which has been successful in eliminating boil water advisories in Indigenous communities.

The Water’s Next Awards are presented by Water Canada, and celebrate the achievements and ideas of individuals and companies that successfully work to change water in Canada. The Chiefs of Keewaytinook Okimakanak won in the “People – Academic or NGO” category.

“It’s an honour to receive this award, and to be included in the company of such distinguished water leaders,” said Joseph Crow, Chief of Fort Severn First Nation.

The Chiefs of Keewaytinook Okimakanak are the visionaries behind the Safe Water Project,  a program that is eliminating boil water advisories in First Nations communities by providing community members with the training, support, and technology they need to operate water treatment facilities. Since its implementation in May 2015, the Project has ended three long- standing advisories, and is poised to end a fourth in the near future. The Project has the potential to end boil water advisories across the country.

“Our model is unique because it invests in community members themselves, and builds capacity at the local level,” says Alice Suggashie, Chief of Poplar Hill First Nation. “This approach could easily be replicated in other communities, and could help to significantly increase access to safe, clean drinking water in many First Nations.”

The Chiefs represent the six First Nations that make up the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Tribal Council in northwestern Ontario. They are:

Chief Roy Dale Meekis, Deer Lake First Nation Chief Joseph Crow, Fort Severn First Nation Chief Chris Kakegamic, Keewaywin First Nation Chief Vontane Keno, McDowell Lake First Nation Chief Caroline Keesic, North Spirit Lake First Nation Chief Alice Suggashie, Poplar Hill First Nation

Five out of the six Chiefs, along with family and friends, were able to attend the gala dinner last night to receive the award in person.