First Nations people and organizations are leading efforts to ensure their communities receive access to safe, clean, and reliable drinking water. To recognize this work, Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan announced this year’s recipient of the National First Nations Water Leadership Award.

“Water operators are essential to ensuring First Nations communities have access to safe, clean, and reliable drinking water,” said Seamus O’Regan, minister of indigenous services. “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,” O’Regan added. “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.”

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.

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“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,” said Deon Hassler, Circuit Rider Trainer and recipient of the 2019 National First Nations Water Leadership Award. “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.”

Hassler’s latest work has been to advocate for the creation of a Saskatchewan Operators Association for First Nations water and wastewater operators.

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