ITK plans May 14 reveal of presidential candidates
Robert Watt says he intends to run
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami plans to announce the list of candidates vying for the presidency of the national Inuit organization early on May 14.
But, in advance of the official announcement of the nominations, one candidate has already made public his intention to run for job.
On May 9, the filing day for nominations, Robert Watt, better known to his many friends as Robbie, told his 700-plus list of Facebook friends that he has submitted his nomination package to the organization.
Born and raised in Kuujjuaq, Watt now lives in Ottawa, where he is co-director for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Inuit sub-commission.
“This process has provided me with the opportunity to work with a dynamic team of people, as we visited 20 Inuit communities. From these public hearings alone, almost 800 statements from residential school survivors, intergenerational survivors and community members were collected. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to hear first-hand from Inuit across the country speak of the many issues they face daily, of their hurts from the past, as well as their dreams for the future,” Watt said.
Watt noted that he has also worked with many “great people,” including Inuit leaders, elders, youth, men and women from community to the national level, in the areas of culture, education, health and wellness and languages at Avataq Cultural Institute, the Kativik School Board, Nunavik Regional Board of Health & Social Service, National Aboriginal Health Organization and Nunavik Regional Partnership Committee, to name but a few.
Watt said he believes Inuit need a strong voice at the national level — “now, more than ever before.”
And Inuit need a leader who knows the issues people are facing in the communities, he said.
“We need to ensure that the healing our people are seeking is provided. We need to ensure that when development happens on our land, we benefit from it while we protect the environment we have depended on for centuries to survive. We need to ensure our young people are provided with an education that will allow them to benefit from the opportunities that are out there.”
Watt said personal growth and wellness is “very important” to him.
“I truly believe every Inuk has that right, to feel they too can attain this sense of “wholeness” I strive to maintain today. I know I can be a great role model for young and old, alike,” Watt said.
Watt also ran for presidency of ITK in 2003.
Then he suggested ITK should should go back to its old practice of holding Arctic-wide elections among all Canadian Inuit voters to choose a president.
The last such pan-Arctic vote was held in 1995, when Rosemarie Kuptana defeated Ruby Arna’naaq by a narrow margin to win a second term as president of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, as ITK was then known.
ITK’s board removed Kuptana before she was able to finish her term, amid a series of allegations related to financial irregularities, and appointed Mary Sillet of Labrador to replace her. At the time, ITK was groaning under the weight of an accumulated deficit that exceeded $600,000.
Since then, 12 voting members of ITK — the heads of the Inuit birthright organizations from the four Inuit regions in Canada, along with two delegates per region, have elected the ITK president.
These members will chose a new president for ITK June 6 in Kuujjuaq at ITK’s 2012 annual general meeting.
The incumbent president, Mary Simon, who has held two three-year term, has said she will not seek re-election.