CIRA is based in Ottawa and we fund community projects all over Canada through our Community Investment Program. As the manager of this program, it is incredibly rewarding for me to eventually meet the project leaders and participants in person. They are some of the most inspiring individuals I've ever met.
I recently attended the Water's Next award gala in Toronto to honour leaders and companies that "successfully work to change water in our country". I was invited by the Gordon Foundation, a Community Investment Program recipient whose project supported the addition of Fort Nelson First Nation's freshwater data to Mackenzie DataStream, an open access online platform for sharing water data in the Mackenzie Basin. Lana Lowe of Fort Nelson First Nation, B.C. was nominated for an award.
"We nominated Lana for the award because of all she offers to her work," says Carolyn DuBois, director of the Gordon Foundation's water program. "Day-to-day she is busy dealing with crises and putting out fires, but what is really great about her is that she sees the big picture and works effortlessly towards a greater goal. She's a champion for her community and wants to connect with other communities and talk beyond jurisdictional boundaries. She wants to bring all of the First Nations of BC Treaty 8 together to discuss how to manage water."
I had previously met Lana late last year when she spoke with conviction at an event on Parliament Hill about her work in gathering water data and its impact on her community. I was struck by her comments and her leadership. You know how some people really draw you in with their presence? She is that type of person and I was moved.
"People like Lana, who are passionate champions for their work, attract others to them," commented DuBois. "People gravitate toward them, which means greater resources for their project. They get things done."
On the night of the Water's Next award ceremony, I had a chance to sit next to Lana. Although she did not win the award we were there to mark, the fact that she was there was a rewarding win in itself. It takes her 24 hours to travel from her community to Toronto. As well, when I spoke with her at the event she admitted that she often feels isolated - that she is doing this work all alone. The awards gala brought together an entire community of people from across Canada doing similar work so she was able to meet others facing the same challenges and working hard to bring these issues to light.
I'm so pleased that CIRA's Community Investment Program could be a part of this project with the Gordon Foundation. Using the Internet to gather and house critical data that affects our quality of life is, in my opinion, one of the most impactful areas of the Internet. Although I recognize the Internet is not always used for good, I still believe its value is limitless because it is a reflection of our collective will and knowledge.
I encourage you to learn more about this project and others like it. To date, CIRA's Community Investment Program has supported 100 projects with over $4.2 million in contributions.