Top Row (left to right) - Jaime Bout (Edge Factor), Matt Pennings (Edge Factor), Jon Steinsson (CEO Icelandia), Birgir Vidar Birgisson jr. (Icelandia), Sigurbjorg Anna Simonardottir, Jeremy Bout (CEO Edge Factor), Jonathon Redbird (CEO Redbird Circle) - Bottom Row (left to right) Birgir Vidar Halldorsson (Founder Icelandia), Galen Augustine (Director of Operations, Gitpo Spirit Lodge), Kate O'Neil (VP Partnerships, Skills Council of Canada), Brad Loiselle (CEO, Skills Council of Canada), Eliza Reid (Iceland's First Lady), Jeannette Menzies (Ambassador of Canada to the Republic of Iceland)
Skills Council of Canada traveled to Iceland on Nov 24th with delegation of Indigenous leaders from Ontario and New Brunswick, along with a film crew to meet up with their Icelandic partners, the Canadian Ambassador to Iceland, Iceland's First Lady, several water experts, and to visit water and distribution facilities.
The purpose of the trip was to bring together Indigenous leaders, entrepreneurs, government, and a film crew to discuss, collaborate and capture the voices, stories, and solutions that could support the water needs of First Nation communities across Canada.
"It was important that any water solution conceived was done in collaboration with our Indigenous and Icelandic partners so that the formation of ideas we developed were done hand-and-hand, understanding the need, the barriers, and the possibilities. The trip was also to help share our vision of how Indigenous people can have access to solutions that foster Indigenous water sovereignty."said Brad Loiselle, CEO of Skills Council of Canada, and Managing Director of Iceland Blue.
"The experiences, meetings and discussions have been documented by our partners, Edge Factor, and their film crew so that we can share with the rest of Canada and the world, the stories, and our combined efforts for the greater good of our Indigenous neighbours, friends, families, and their communities. This trip touched the hearts of all that attended, and while we were there to create awareness, we left as allies and friends." Loiselle continued.
Indigenous peoples in Canada continue to face numerous challenges when it comes to accessing clean drinking water. The lack of adequate infrastructure and resources, combined with poor water quality, is a major issue. Many Indigenous communities do not have access to safe, reliable drinking water, and boil-water advisories are a regular occurrence in some areas. In addition, there are often delays in getting boil-water advisories lifted, leaving communities without access to clean drinking water for prolonged periods of time. Poor water infrastructure, combined with a lack of resources, inadequate funding, and inadequate training for water operators, all contribute to the difficulties Indigenous communities face in accessing clean drinking water. To help address this crisis, Skills Council of Canada formed in partnership with Gitpo Spirit Lodge and Icelandia, under the Canadian company Iceland Blue www.icelandblue.ca/.
Poor water quality that challenges First Nations across Canada can have several negative effects on both human health and the environment. It can cause a range of waterborne illnesses, such as dysentery and cholera. For years, First Nations have attributed cases of skin conditions, stomach illnesses, cancer, bacterial contamination, birth defects and even deaths to poor water quality in their communities. Additionally, poor water quality can harm aquatic ecosystems, impacting the plants and animals that rely on clean water to survive. This can lead to a decline in biodiversity and have long-term consequences for the overall health of ecosystems across the country.
"This trip was important because we were meeting with government, industry water experts, volcanic experts, visiting water plants, as well as seeing waterfalls and the natural beauty of Iceland. We invited several Indigenous partners from New Brunswick and Ontario to join us as part of this delegation so that they could be involved in determining feasibility and to be part of our collaborative planning and development team." said Brad Loiselle, Managing Director of Iceland Blue.
All that attended were surprised with the purity and quality of the drinking water as well as the ease of access and abundance." Loiselle added.
Iceland Blue is focused on Iceland's water because it has a significant source of water that can support Indigenous communities for generations to come and is ready for immediate shipment. Iceland is also known for the purity and freshness of its water, which is a result of the country's unique geology and climate. The water in Iceland comes from a variety of sources, including glacial rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers. Because of the country's location, the water is naturally filtered through layers of volcanic rock and gravel, which helps to remove impurities and give it a fresh, clean taste. Additionally, Iceland has strict regulations in place to protect the quality of its water and prevent pollution. As a result, the water in Iceland is considered some of the purest in the world.
"When I first heard of the Indigenous water crisis in Canada, I knew Icelandic water could be part of the solution. Working with Brad over the last year and seeing his passion for helping others, inspired me to be part of forming Iceland Blue. I knew that collectively with Skills Council of Canada and our Indigenous partners Gitpo Spirit Lodge, we could make a difference in building a variety of water solutions that could support the needs of each unique community." said Birgir Vidar Halldorsson, CEO of BulkAqua and Founder of Icelandia
Through collaboration, Iceland Blue believes that Indigenous people can solve the clean drinking water issues in Canada by advocating for increased funding for water treatment and infrastructure projects in their communities. They can also advocate for education and training to empower their communities to act in monitoring and maintaining their own water sources, as well as creating research initiatives to better understand the water source and any potential contamination issues. Additionally, they can connect with local, provincial, and federal governments to ensure that their communities have access to clean drinking water and to ensure that any funding and resources that are allocated to Indigenous communities are used effectively.
Iceland Blue's leadership first explored options of harvesting water from Canada's northern territories, but quickly realized that challenges were difficult to overcome, and it would take years to implement meaningful solutions. The northern territories are cold and have a low annual precipitation, leading to a lack of water available for harvest. The water is often only available in the form of snow or ice, which is difficult to access, collect, and then purify. As the northern territories are often remote and difficult to reach, it is logistically challenging to set up and maintain the equipment needed for water harvesting, purification, and shipment across the rest of the country. Indigenous communities affected by the water crisis need solutions now and simply put, Canada is not equipped to deliver.
Skills Council of Canada, through partnerships and collaboration, stand behind Indigenous communities and support their efforts access their human right to clean water and to achieve water sovereignty across the land.
About Skills Council of Canada Inc.
Skills Council of Canada Inc. based in Ottawa, Ontario is a social impact focused organization building holistic integrated solutions that support Canada's Sustainable Development Goals with a prime focus on education-to-employment. Operating in collaboration with Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations, Skills Council of Canada promotes skills development for: the development of good health / well-being, access to quality education and equal employment, gender equality, access to clean drinking water, affordable clean energy, decent work for economic growth, innovative technology ecosystems, infrastructure, reducing inequality, sustainable communities, and developing partnerships required to support these efforts.
Skills Council of Canada's Collaborative Support Ecosystem (CSE) includes thousands of skills courses, thousands of job role assessments and subject based assessments, access to thousands of one-on-one mentors, tutors, career counselling, wellness coaches, and so much more, all managed on Skills Council of Canada's robust learning management system. The CSE program also enables Skills Council of Canada to provide their entire offering for free to all participants and partners.
About Iceland Blue Inc.
Skills Council of Canada founded Iceland Blue, in partnership with Gitpo Spirit Lodge, and Icelandia to support Indigenous communities across the country with opportunities to access the world's best source of quality drinking water from Iceland. Each organization has deep experience, and knowledge in their respective fields, complementing efforts towards self governance and water sovereignty for Indigenous Communities. For more information about the company, please visit Iceland Blue's website.
For further information about the company, please visit www.icelandblue.ca