Keewaytinook Centre of Excellence

KCE Logo

Dryden – Ontario

In Ontario, the organization of Chiefs of Ontario (COO), have documented this by passing a resolution in council that adopts in principal the Provincial Safe Drinking Water Act. This act legislates the requirements for potable water quality, operator training, operator certification and transparency of reporting for all facilities treating drinking water in the province. Lessons learned following the e-coli outbreak in the drinking water system in Walkerton, Ontario have been incorporated into this Act making its requirements the most stringent in Canada.

Click to learn more about the people working support safe and clean drinking water in First Nations communities – the Water Plant Operators. Eagle Wave Logo A training exercise outside the Keewaytinook Centre of Excellence. A training exercise outside the Keewaytinook Centre of Excellence.

Given the complex and logistical challenge presented by implementing the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act in its member communities,Keewaytinook Okimakanak (a non-political First Nation Council in Northwestern Ontario) created the Keewaytinook Centre of Excellence in Dryden, Ontario. The Keewaytinook Centre is a state of the art training facility, specifically designed to provide hands-on instruction to meet the educational requirements of Water and Wastewater Operators in Ontario.

The founding principles of the Keewaytinook Centre are:

  • Relevancy – the training programs provided are current and utilize technologies common to Water Treatment Facilities throughout the province.
  • Affordability – delivery costs are to be maintained in a range that recognizes the limited financial resources available to most small municipal and First Nation clients.
  • Accessibility – given the large geographic area in Northwestern Ontario to be served, the training programs need to be designed in such a way that they are easily accessible to the client base.

Eagle Lake
Eagle Lake First Nation
Grassy Narrows
Grassy Narrows First Nation
Seine River
Seine River First Nation

The first principle has been achieved by employing professional curriculum developers and trainers and by having all training materials reviewed and approved by representatives of the Ministry of the Environment in Ontario. The second principle is easily achieved by virtue of the fact that Keewaytinook Okimakanak is an incorporated “Not-for-Profit” organization. The third principle is being achieved as follows. To be fully accessible to its clients, the Keewaytinook Centre employs a variety of strategies:

  1. All training programs are designed to be comprehensive but of short duration. This takes into account the long distances our clients must travel to access the service and limits the amount of time that they are away from home.
  2. The Keewaytinook Centre employs professional training staff, who travel directly to some communities to deliver our training programs.
  3. Internet based training programs, designed by the Keewaytinook Centre of Excellence staff, allow Operational Personnel to participate in Ministry of the Environment approved training programs from their workplace or home computers. Current training programs available on line include:
  • Water Sources and Characteristics
  • Safety in the Workplace
  • Workplace Hazardous Material Information System
  • Transportation of Dangerous Goods
  • Lock Out/Tag Out

4. Connectivity is being employed to allow Operators located in remote locations access to the full calendar of training opportunities at theKeewaytinook Centre of Excellence. Utilizing the broadband system installed and operated by its sister organization KNET, operators have the option to participate, in real time, via video conference. The full capability of this technology is yet to be harnessed and the Keewaytinook Centre of Excellence plans further pilots to refine the methodology for delivering training programs in this manner.

Inside a KCE classroom
Connectivity can also be employed to provide operational support for water and wastewater facilities in remote areas. Using a combination of web based and video conferencing technology supported by qualified Water Operations Personnel, it is now possible to monitor remote Water Treatment Facilities in real time from a central location.
Problems in facilities can be diagnosed and in some cases mitigated without the need for a costly trip to the site to assess the situation. Operators in remote locations can often be talked through problems in a timely manner before the situation becomes critical. Lower costs, more confident operational personnel and a sustainable, safe potable water supply are the net result of using broadband-enabled public and community services to their full potential.

Kasabonika First Nation’s Water Treatment Plant
Pikangikum First Nation’s Water Treatment Plant

First Nation leadership has many challenges to overcome with regard to the long term sustainability of the public infrastructure in their communities. Fortunately they also hold the key to the solutions. Keewaytinook Okimakanak with the support and vision of the Chiefs of its member communities is an example of how employing technology as a tool, not a crutch, can affect profound change in people’s lives.

The Keewaytinook Centre of Excellence and KNET continue to experiment with the almost unlimited potential of IT technology. We believe that First Nations deserve the opportunity to become self reliant and to limit their dependency on external service providers.

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