Mark Marsolais-Nahwegahbow of Whitefish River First Nation was getting frustrated with the constant boil water advisories in First Nation communities.
“We are considered one of the richest countries in the world,” he said of Canada’s reputation.
“The U.N. says this is one of the greatest places to live – yet our communities are still living in third-world conditions. It’s totally unacceptable.”
As of October, there were more than 30 short- and 60 long-term boil-water advisories for First Nations posted on the Government of Canada’s website.
Marsolais-Nahwegahbow said the issue is always talked about on social media and wondered why it keeps happening?
So he decided to do something about it using coffee as a platform.
“I thought, ‘Why not?’ Everyone loves coffee,” said Marsolais-Nahwegahbow.
He created Birch Bark Coffee Co. to raise funds needed to bring clean drinking water to every home on every First Nation, starting in Ontario and then across Canada.
He said he is working with community leaders to analyse their drinking water and discuss long-term solutions.
To start, he said the company is buying and installing water purifiers in homes affected by boil-water advisories.
The response, he said, has been great.
So great, he’s had to look for a coffee-roasting partner to help him meet the growing demand.
That’s why Marsolais-Nahwegahbow signed a deal with Just Us! Coffee, a fair-trade coffee roaster in Grand Pre, N.S.
Joey Pittoello is general manager of the Just Us! co-op.
“We are a progressive force for change: justice, environmental and economic. We feel as a business, we have a role in reconciliation,” said Pittoello.
“It’s not going to be governments. We need to move forward and push the envelope.”
Councilor Lynwood Peters of Glooscap First Nation supports Indigenous businesses making change in communities.
He said water issues affect everyone.
“We have to take care of ourselves, nature, and use resources in smart ways,” said Peters.
“Government is not going to do it for us. We need to come together and do it on our own.”