Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation hold groundbreaking ceremony for water system upgrades


It was a perfect spring day for Nawash’s Groundbreaking Ceremony that took place on Monday, March 21st in Neyaashiinigmiing. Key partners joined Nawash for this historic day and celebrated the launch of the Distribution System Upgrade Project and the continuation of the Water Treatment Plant Project that commenced late last fall.

Chief Veronica Smith opened the event with a reflective message, Spring signifies a season of new growth and new beginnings as days get longer, the cold turns to warmth, and grey bursts into vibrant colours. This spring also signifies a huge milestone for our community, an endeavour that is long overdue; the implementation of critical infrastructure. Starting in April, the Distribution System Upgrade Project commences which means aging water-mains and individual water services are being replaced in Nawash and we can expect to have clean water.”

The celebration continued with key partners sharing how together, they are bringing both these projects to full fruition.


Left to Right – Front row: Bill Jones – Capital Manager and Chief Veronica Smith Back row: Fred Dubeau – Water Treatment Plant Supervisor and Caleb Keeshig – Assistant Capital Manager

Although unable to attend in person due to travel restrictions, Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services, extended her best wishes, “I join Chief Veronica Smith and the entire community of Chippewas of Nawash in celebrating as they launch the construction phase of their water treatment system, a key milestone toward lifting the long-term drinking water advisory. We are proud to partner on this project that will provide 715 community members access to a reliable supply of safe, clean drinking water they deserve. I commend the leadership and vision of Chief Smith and her Council in achieving this important initiative.” [Indigenous Services Canada is Nawash’s funding agency.]

Aaron Genereux, Director of Indigenous Projects, attended the ceremony on behalf of Colliers Project Leaders and said that Colliers Project Leaders are proud to be supporting the management and overall delivery of this very important community project. “Our team is looking forward to the day when the residents of Nawash Unceded First Nation will no longer live under a long-term drinking water advisory and have a treatment system meeting regulatory standards. We are committed to providing the best professional Project Management Services to Nawash to make this goal a reality.”

The detailed design of the new water treatment plant as well as the upgrades and expansion of the drinking water distribution system was completed by Associated Engineering. “This is an important project for the community that will lift the long-term boil water advisory and support growth over the next two decades. We are very excited to be breaking ground and see the construction of the water system upgrades underway!” says Anna Comerton, Ph.D., P.Eng., Project Manager, on behalf of Associated Engineering.

Melanie Debassige, Executive Director, at Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation (ONFNTSC) offered her sincerest congratulations. “On behalf of the staff and Board of Directors at OFNTSC, I would like to congratulate the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation on the groundbreaking for their Water Treatment Plant/Distribution System Upgrades Projects. As an Indigenous organization, we are proud to support the community in their efforts to exercise their inherent right to access clean drinking water. OFNTSC engineers have been working with the Chippewas of Nawash since the project’s inception and will continue to support them with all engineering-related advisory services throughout the construction phase and beyond.”

Local company Bridge Excavating has been appointed to install two booster pumping stations, 14 km of water-mains and 300 water services to individual properties.  Paul Bridge, President of Bridge said, “It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be able to help bring a reliable supply of high-quality drinking water to the Nawash community.”

From Makwa Development, President Scott Lee remarked, “This project (the Distribution System Upgrade Project), along with the new Nawash Water Treatment Project is so important to our community. Makwa would like to extend their congratulations to our community as well as our Chief and Council and staff for their efforts and hard work to make these projects a reality for Chippewas of Nawash.” Makwa will be providing sub-contractor services to Bridge Excavating over the length of the Water Distribution project.

BGL Contractors Corp’s Will Joudi, Senior Project Manager also attended the event and said that the company looks forward to serve the community by constructing the Water Treatment Plant building and lake water intake system. “We realize the importance of this facility to the community and therefore we will endeavour to complete the construction  ahead of schedule.”

Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation is located 30 km north east of Wiarton, Ontario, in beautiful Neyaashiinigmiing. Registered membership is comprised of 3000 individuals with over 700 living on the main reserve. Chief Veronica Smith and nine Council members have been in their respective positions since the summer of 2021. Known for their hospitality, protection of the environment within their Traditional Territory and Neyaashiinigmiing, the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation have a long tradition of Indigenous commercial fishing and make up half of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON).