Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik January 11, 2018 - 3:29 pm

Watt wants to return to Makivik’s top job

Nunavik's senator plans to resign from the Red Chamber and return to the organization he helped found in the 1970s

SARAH ROGERS
Charlie Watt speaks to a committee meeting in Ottawa. The long-time federal Senator plans to step down from that role, with the hope of returning to head the organization he helped found in the 1970s. (HANDOUT PHOTO)
Charlie Watt speaks to a committee meeting in Ottawa. The long-time federal Senator plans to step down from that role, with the hope of returning to head the organization he helped found in the 1970s. (HANDOUT PHOTO)

When Charlie Watt says he’ll bring extensive experience with him to the role of Makivik Corp. president, he’s not exaggerating.

Watt actually founded the Nunavik organization in the late 1970s—first established as the Northern Quebec Inuit Association and later as Makivik—and has served over 30 years as a senator.

But his long career in Ottawa will soon see its end; Watt, 73 said he gave notice to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month that he plans to step down from his role in the Senate in 2019, since it’s mandatory for senators to retire at age 75.

That could happen even sooner if Watt is elected as Makivik’s new president on Jan. 18—a role he’s held twice before, though not since the mid-1990s.

In many ways, Watt’s work and political goals haven’t changed.

“Over the last 30 plus years, I’ve been battling the legislatures [in both Ottawa and Quebec] to ensure they uphold our treaty rights,” Watt said.

“There are a lot of things related to the [James Bay and Northern Quebec] agreement that are left up to interpretation.”

If he’s elected as Makivik’s president next week, Watt said he’ll work with both levels of government to revisit funding formulas for the region, in effort to come up with something more “tangible” for services in the region.

“Housing, in particular, has always been an issue,” said Watt, pointing to ongoing negotiations with the federal government to not only renew its funding agreement, but also to convince Ottawa to pay for additional housing.

“We’re always trying to keep up with the increase of population and their housing requirements.”

Another big piece of Watt’s campaign is a push for greater self-determination; Watt hopes Nunavimmiut are ready to revisit the discussion towards self-government.

Governments have jurisdiction in places they shouldn’t in Nunavik, Watt said, like over the region’s renewable resources, a sector that has great cultural and economic weight for Inuit.

But a southern government doesn’t hold the same values, Watt said, and can’t understand the cultural significance of the region’s wildlife.

Wildlife can and does play an important role in the region’s economy, through local harvesting and some regional commercial activity.

But a species like the caribou has been “micromanaged” by government officials, Watt said.

And climate change has already had repercussions on the region, but governments tend to be slow to react, he added.

Beavers for example are now common around Kuujjuaq and even as far north as Tasiujaq, Watt noted.

When they build dams, it has interfered with the migration of the speckled trout and even char in the region’s water systems. But Watt said the province is slow to see and respond to these changes.

“We need to raise that as an issue and hopefully the government will see the importance of it,” he said. “They could help financially.”

In the same vein, Watt said governments impose their own approaches to social regulation in the region, using the example of Quebec’s Youth Protection Act.

“We’re taking kids from their homes and it’s destroying families,” he said. “What we’re going to have to do is challenge the entire act.”

In fact, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services has already spearheaded an effort to revise and redesign the region’s youth protection services, with the goal of better adapting those services to Inuit communities.

Watt said Makivik could play a role in empowering communities to develop their own response to social issues that lead to family interventions.

“We’re quite capable as Inuit to put up these infrastructures ourselves,” he said. “What we need is to create our own assembly to address these issues as a region.”

The same holds for issues of Arctic sovereignty, Watt noted; Inuit across Canada and the circumpolar world need to be able to represent themselves as one nation.

Watt, who is still based part-time in his hometown of Kuujjuaq, was a founding president of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association in 1972, which eventually became Makivik.

Watt served as Makivik’s founding president between 1978 and 1982. He was re-elected as treasurer in 1987 and later re-elected as Makivik president between 1988 and 1994.

Watt was appointed to the Senate in January 1984 by then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Watt is running for Makivik president against incumbent Jobie Tukkiapik and newcomer candidates Lucy Grey, Jackie Williams and Alasie Argnak.

Advance polls will be open in Nunavik communities on Jan. 12 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on election day, Jan. 18, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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(13) Comments:

#1. Posted by Beneficiary on January 11, 2018

I think we will finally work with Charlie to bring forth what Makivik intention was meant to be and what it was intend to do in the beginning. Too long that the beneficiaries were side tracked by money hungry nothing doers. Let’s get rid of the corruptees and have all the main organizations in Nunavik start working together. I shall vote and my vote will count.

#2. Posted by Charlie is the man on January 11, 2018

Charlie is really the father of the signing of the JBNQ agreement for inuit.  Lots of experience and a wise person to lead inuit into the next number of years. Oh, yes, lots of wild days gone by. Those of us who can throw the first stone, who never sinned, let it be. A senator, and educated man, vote for inuit, by voting for Charlie Watt.

#3. Posted by See pages 19 & 20 on January 12, 2018

https://www.cpsa-acsp.ca/papers-2006/Widdowson.pdf

#4. Posted by A Good Man on January 12, 2018

That fact that Charlie Watt continues to be so dedicated to the Inuit of Nunavik speaks volumes. His years of experience has taught Charlie Watt the most important aspects of life and hopefully he will get elected and be able to help stir us in that direction.

The Inuit of Nunavik love you Charlie Watt. You are a man of integrity and enthusiasm for life. Whether you get elected or not, we revere you.

#5. Posted by Traditional knowledge on January 12, 2018

Comment #3, that’s a great article. Many should read that. I grew up listening to fairytales. Makes a great entertaining evening, but, fortunately I was able to separate fact from fiction as time progress. With traditional knowledge, the make believe goes on and on in the traditional, and culture.

#6. Posted by Nunavik beneficiary on January 13, 2018

i made my vote count on on january 12 from early casting polls, because i will not be in nunavik on the day of the results.

#7. Posted by Nunavik First on January 13, 2018

so article not clear - if charlie win will he leave the senator job or does he want two jobs with two pay checks?

i still remember the articles from the past when charlie was president—big house on the lake in montreal will charlie promise not to do that again?

i respect senator watts but i am not sure he will get my vote too much from the past

#8. Posted by Nunavik First on January 13, 2018

#3—thanks for posting that document was exactly what I was looking for we can’t go back to leaders like this who use our money for their own comfort beneficiaries not eating steak and lobster but charlie watt wants 2 paychecks - senator + president?

Similar problems have also occurred in the case of Makivik Corporation in Northern Quebec and with the Nunavut land claim. In the case of the former, the Makivik President from 1978-82 and
1988-94, Charlie Watt, was the subject of various conflict of interest allegations. Although Watt claimed to be “just a humble hunter”, his salary as president of Makivik was $120,000 a year
plus expenses and he lived in a $912,000 mansion in Beaconsfield, Quebec. Concerns were raised when it was discovered that the mansion had been bought by the Makivik Corporation, enabling Watt to live there rent free.

#9. Posted by doomed to repeat on January 13, 2018

Well Paul Quassa is still in power.  So despite what any current candidate has done in the past.  It doesn’t seem to matter.  Can only hope they are more open and transparent.

#10. Posted by Nunavik First on January 15, 2018

#9 - agree how sad. if charlie gets in hopefully he has learned from his past mistakes also is charlie planning to quit the senator job if becomes president for makivik?  can we know what his plan is before we vote this week?  i dont like that one bit two fulltime jobs with two fulltime pays for one guy.  if president is fulltime what happens to the senator job?  if senator fulltime, what happens to president job?  if both aren’t full time, why are we paying so much for part time jobs?

#11. Posted by Nunavimmiuq on January 15, 2018

I believe Charlie will leave Senate, he will work as a President not as a Senator.

He leaded at very beginning, JBNQA, NQIA, MAKIVIK, then to Senator, he needs a break from South, and move on back home.

I’ve seen so many broken promises with the previous & current President.

I believe Charlie has a fair chance to come back, bring back with newer modern as well, though he will gain with knowledge of Parliament Hill, but will work as a President, not two jobs, hello people, wake up.

I’ll you vote you Charlie, you have my votes!

#12. Posted by Alicie on January 15, 2018

It says in this article that he would resign his carreer in Ottawa if elected for president.

“But his long career in Ottawa will soon see its end; Watt, 73 said he gave notice to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month that he plans to step down from his role in the Senate in 2019, since it’s mandatory for senators to retire at age 75.

That could happen even sooner if Watt is elected as Makivik’s new president on Jan. 18—a role he’s held twice before, though not since the mid-1990s.”

#13. Posted by The concerned on January 17, 2018

I respect the leadership Mr. Watt did during the time of JBNQA era as well as his position as a Senator.

We also have to know about some negative impacts that have occurred during his presidency in the early 90s. Specifically one particular agreement called the Croll Agreement,1990, which is stated under the chronology of major events in the Parnasimautik Consultation Report: .. “the funds paid by Canada completely fulfilled the financial responsibilities that Canada have in the JBNQA concerning the operation and administrative cost of Inuit Landholding Corporations, Inuit Heritage, Culture and Language Preservation (Avataq Cultural Institute), Wildlife Studies, research and harvest monitoring (Anguvigak?), transportation”...

Big challenges has been faced by subsequent leaders since they could not go back to Canada for funding due to the Croll Agreement. We need to know these facts.

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