Canada's Original Think Tank

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, O.C.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, O.C.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, O.C.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, O.C.

Published on 11 June 2015
Hansard and Statements by Senator Wilfred Moore (retired)

Hon. Wilfred P. Moore:

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to Dr. Sheila Watt-Cloutier, who on May 29, 2015, had conferred upon her an Honorary Doctorate of Law degree at the convocation ceremony of the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in Halifax. She is the sister of our colleague Senator Charlie Watt, himself no slouch as an advocate for the Inuit people and their Arctic culture.

This is far from her first honour or award. Dr. Watt-Cloutier was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee in 2007 — that was the year that Al Gore won the prize; she was very close — a recipient of the United Nations Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Award and a recipient of 16 other honorary degrees. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada and was depicted on a Canadian stamp in 2012.

Born in Kuujjuaq, Nunavut, in northern Quebec, Dr. Watt-Cloutier has been a life-long advocate in Canada and internationally for indigenous people, their culture and their environment. She was elected President of the Arctic Council in 1995, re-elected in 1998 and became chair in 2002. It was here she played a crucial role in establishing the Stockholm Convention of 2001, which banned the generation and use of organic pollutants that were contaminating the Arctic food web.

Dr. Watt-Cloutier has also made the ground-breaking connection between human rights and climate change. This connection has been key in furthering the protection of the Arctic environment and, with that, the culture of the people of Canada’s North.

In her recently published memoir entitled The Right to Be Cold, she writes about her work as an activist for Inuit culture, indigenous rights and the protection of Arctic ecosystems.

In her address to the Dalhousie convocation, Dr. Watt-Cloutier spoke of her education having come full circle, beginning with her early childhood school years in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, and culminating with this honorary degree in Halifax. Dr. Watt-Cloutier spoke passionately of the Arctic as her university, as our university, and she cautioned the graduates and their families in attendance that it’s gradually disappearing as a result of our mishandling of the environment and inaction on climate change. She stressed that we need to be more vigilant in our stewardship of this Arctic university and to work to maintain its natural state, not only for the Inuit, but for all people for generations to come.

On behalf of the Senate of Canada, I extend our sincere congratulations to Dr. Watt-Cloutier and encourage her to continue her struggle for a healthy future for the Arctic.