Nominees for the 2022 National First Nations Water Leadership Award and past winners


The nominees for the 2022 National First Nations Water Leadership Award come from across Canada and represent First Nations individuals, organizations and communities who are innovative, inspirational, knowledgeable and collaborative with others.

More information on each nominee―including personal insights into their day-to-day work, messages for others interested in the water industry and summaries of their nominations―are available on Indigenous Service Canada’s National First Nations Water Leadership Award web page.

Leon Andrew and the Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board) (NWT)

Mr. Andrew, nominated along with the Ɂehdzo Got’ı̨nę Gots’ę́ Nákedı (Sahtú Renewable Resources Board), is working with neighbours and the government to make sure his community’s water is safe for drinking and fishing. Through research projects and intervention programs, he seeks to improve the wellness of the Sahtú Region’s environment.

Troy MacBeth Abromaitis - Lytton First Nation (BC)

Mr. Abromaitis is a community leader who has been recognized for his work on water sustainability measures. He provides Indigenous community-based strategies for reducing water usage and is consulted for guidance and advice on how to best use water supplies.

Warren Brown - Lytton First Nation (BC)

Mr. Brown is a water operator responsible for 13 drinking water systems in his community and one of the only Lytton First Nation staff to remain behind during the wildfires in 2021 to ensure the water systems remained operational. Warren wants fellow operators to open their doors and offer tours to community leadership and youth so they can understand the hardships and successes of being a water operator in a First Nation community and the critical work being done to have clean drinking water.

Ernie French-Downey - Takla First Nation (BC)

Mr. French-Downey makes his remote community proud by keeping them safe as a certified water operator and manager of the Public Works Department. Continuing to enhance his own skills and training, he also shows compassion while training others and is known for his precise and comprehensive solutions to any issues that arise.

Hupacasath First Nation and the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council (BC)

Hupacasath First Nation and the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council adopted new technology to bring a water treatment system to Kleekhoot Reserve, ensuring sustainable access to clean drinking water in the community.

Garney Reid - Heiltsuk First Nation (BC)

Mr. Reid, a water operator for a complex water treatment plant, is known as a positive leader with a beaming smile who enjoys his work. He ensures his community’s water is safe to drink and ready for fire protection while pushing for better water conservation. Knowing the job can be stressful, he encourages fellow operators to get certified and keep learning so they can be at their best.

Katy Thorne - Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (BC)

Ms. Thorne is dedicated to her work as a Wastewater Collections Operator so youth in her community will be set up for success, and she wants others to know that they too can do their part to protect water. Katy says Gilakas’la (thank you) to those who speak up for water and encourages everyone to learn where their water comes from and where it ends up.

Shannon Gladue - Kehewin Cree Nation (AB)

As lead water operator, Mr. Gladue uses his experience and knowledge to help his community with unfamiliar technology in their new water treatment plant. He also trains and mentors other operators, encouraging them to pursue certification and continue learning. Shannon wants water operators to know that they are noticed and appreciated, not just when things go wrong. 

Simon House - Paul First Nation (AB)

Mr. House is honoured to work as a water and wastewater operator and to help maintain the health of the community. He helps ensure safe, clean drinking water by keeping the community’s water system operating efficiently.

Brennon Laboucan - Whitefish Lake First Nation #459 (AB)

Mr. Laboucan, a highly certified water operator for more than 10 years and the first in his community to become certified, appreciates connecting with members of his community while working at the water and wastewater building.

Vernon Lewis - Onion Lake Cree Nation (SK)

Mr. Lewis is a dedicated water and wastewater operator with over 20 years of experience and has helped lift drinking water advisories quickly in his community. Vernon trains younger operators so that he can one day retire knowing the community’s water treatment plant is in good hands and wants to open doors to his community to show others the necessary steps operators take to ensure safe drinking water.

Stephanie Willsey - Rama First Nation (ON)

Ms. Willsey’s favourite part of her day-to-day work is using her law degree to help people. She strives to ensure that all First Nations have access to clean drinking water in adequate quality and quantity to serve the communities’ needs. She wants to remind others to protect and cherish waterways and promote the ecological health of local rivers, lakes, bays and oceans.

List of previous recipients of the National First Nations Water Leadership Award:

  • The 2021 recipient was Jonathan Riberdy, a water operator in Zhiibaahaasing First Nation, Ontario, who worked alongside his Chief and Council to implement long-term solutions that provide safe and clean drinking water to his community, and he strives to share his knowledge with others.
  • The recipient in 2020 was Éric Sioui, a Circuit Rider Training Program Coordinator from Wendake, Quebec, recognized for his leadership and for sharing his expertise with other First Nations water operators across Quebec through the Circuit Rider Training Program.
  • The recipient in 2019 was Deon Hassler, a First Nations military veteran and former water operator in his home community of Carry the Kettle, Saskatchewan. 
  • The recipient of the inaugural National First Nations Water Leadership Award in 2018 was Lorraine Crane, Chief of Slate Falls Nation in Ontario, in recognition of her outstanding leadership and dedication to the advancement of clean drinking water in her community.

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