There is a coffee company in Canada with a clear goal for clean water for all. They want to bring good quality drinking water, free of charge, to every home, every reserve, every treaty, and every territory that would benefit from a home purification system. Through the sales of its coffee to retail stores and online customers, Birch Bark Coffee Company aims to deal with “All Water Advisories” and not just exclusive to “Boiled Water Advisories” in Ontario and the other provinces across Canada.
“Birch Bark Coffee Company is First Nations owned and operated. I am Ojibwe and a Band member of Whitefish River First Nation located on Manitoulin Island, and I am proud to offer a product that gives back to First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.” – Mark Marsolais-Nahwegahbow
The businessman that founded Birch Bark Coffee Company, Mark Marsolais-Nahwegahbow, also works in the justice field, specializing in social issues, and when he read about the lack of resources available for many indigenous people, he immediately wanted to help and work on solutions. “I had this dream, this vision of creating a First Nations coffee company,” he said. “[Water] is a fundamental right. People should not go without water.”
“Our Indigenous communities believe water is one of the most sacred gifts to mother earth, but yet, here in Canada, hundreds of First Nations communities continue to live in Third World conditions.” – Marsolais-Nahwegahbow
Canada is regarded as one of the richest countries in the world and ranked as one of the United Nations’ top places in the world to live. How can it be possible that indigenous families have been living without clean water for decades?
Their water systems are contaminated, thus resulting in severe health problems. There have been more than 150-250 “Boiled Water Advisories” that have been listed on the federal government’s website in the past years through to now. In Ontario alone, there were roughly 86 First Nations reserves still suffering from these poor conditions to some degree. This has been going on for decades and is still going on.
There are well over 270,000 thousand Indigenous people suffering from unfit drinking water. The government has proclaimed a commitment to end drinking water advisories that last more than one year by March 2021. Well, that’s something but it doesn’t solve everyone’s water problem and the water situation needs to be fixed immediately, not years in the future. Water is a basic human necessity and therefore access to clean drinking water for Indigenous communities should be a priority.
“Our mission goes beyond offering you delicious coffee – for us, it’s about giving back to the communities and offering a better quality of life by providing clean water. Each bag of coffee purchased will help to ensure clean drinking water to homes in First Nation’s, Metis, and Inuit communities in Ontario and across Canada.” – Marsolais-Nahwegahbow
They have collaborated with Can-Am Wellness to purchase their certified Belkcraft Six-Stage Water Purification Systems. They plan to install them at no cost to Indigenous families and communities suffering from poor water conditions on every reserve in Ontario and in Canada.
The coffee is organic, sustainable, locally sourced, and certified fair traded goods. Wonderfully, people who see the coffee in local stores have been interested in the product and eager to support the cause. “I’ve only been [going] for two months and the coffee is selling like hot cakes,” Mark said. “To see almost all of it gone [off store shelves] is really nice, it just tells me that people care.”
Birch Bark coffee can be found in shops across Ottawa, in Toronto and In Port Loring, Ont., southwest of North Bay, or it can be ordered online. From every purchase online of a 12 oz bag, they will put $2.00 towards the purchase of a Belkraft water purification unit. That means for every 50 bags purchased, 1 home that can have access to clean drinking water. From every purchase in store of a 12 oz bag, they will put $1.00 towards the purchase of a Belkraft water purification unit. That means for every 100 bags purchased, 1 home that can have access to clean drinking water.
“Right now, I’m raising $70,000 to be able to go into the community and put 700 units in. It should have been done a long time ago.” – Marsolais-Nahwegahbow
Mark hopes his business will inspire the First Nations youth to learn about entrepreneurship and think of ways they can start their own social enterprises too to help people on a local level.