Zhiibaahaasing water operator wins national leadership award

Zhiibaahaasing First Nation water operator Jonathan Riberdy has received the 2021 National First Nations Water Leadership award from the federal government.

ZHIIBAAHAASING – Jonathan Riberby of Zhiibaahaasing First Nation has been named as the recipient of the 2021 National First Nations Water Leadership award. The award, which was established four years ago, recognizes 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.

Mr. Riberdy, a water operator in Zhiibaahaasing said, “my favourite part of my day-to-day work with Zhiibaahaasing First Nation is ensuring we have clean drinking water and showing trainees and community members the processes of the water plant. Teaching my knowledge to other operators is the most rewarding, knowing that I can share my knowledge.”

“Four times a year, our elders and women take the lead in water ceremonies for our clean drinking water,” said Mr. Riberdy. “We take this time to say miigwech (thank you) to the water for letting us have clean, drinkable, fishable and swimmable water. Having leadership at these ceremonies shows the commitment towards water and gives them an understanding of the water processes.”

Indigenous Services Canada made the announcement that Mr. Riberdy is the recipient of the award. Patty Hajdu, minister of Indigenous Services, had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Riberdy two weeks ago and delivered the exciting news that he was this year’s award winner. She said Mr. Riberdy’s commitment and passion are an inspiration to his community. He has worked alongside his chief and council to help bring long-term solutions that provide safe and clean drinking water to his community, and he strives to share his knowledge with others.

“Congratulations Jonathan Riberdy of Zhiibaahaasing First Nation for being named the 2021 recipient of the National First Nations Water Leadership award,” said Minister Hajdu, in a release. “Thank you for your work and dedication to your community. The expertise and commitment of water operators like Mr. Riberdy are vital in achieving our shared goal, ensuring that all First Nations communities have access to clean drinking water and maintaining strong water and wastewater infrastructure. Thank you, Jonathan, and congratulations.”

Mr. Riberdy has worked for many years to uphold high drinking water standards in his community and to train young Indigenous water operators across Ontario. He currently serves as his community’s water supervisor, a project manager for Swim Drink Fish Canada, and a director of the Aboriginal Water and Wastewater Association of Ontario.

Mr. Riberdy will receive a trophy and a piece of Indigenous artwork and all nominees receive a pin designed by an Indigenous company. Additionally, $10,000 in bursaries are made available each year in the winner’s name to First Nations individuals who are pursuing or furthering their career in the water and wastewater industry. Applications are open, and those interested in pursuing professional development in the industry are highly encouraged to apply. The Circuit Rider Trainer Professional Association (CRTPA) is responsible for administering the bursaries.