Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals):
Honourable senators, March 16, a little over two weeks, will be Honourable Senator Charlie Watt’s last day as a member of this chamber. It will be strange here without him.
Senator Watt was appointed in 1984, before some of us were born. Along with Senator Cools, he is one of our longest-serving colleagues. Over those 34 years, Senator Watt’s commitment to protecting and enhancing the rights of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, especially the Inuit communities of Nunavik in northern Quebec, has been on full display in this chamber. This is no surprise. He was doing this long before he arrived in the Senate.
As a younger man, his leadership led him directly to the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. When the Canadian Constitution was patriated in 1982, it was his efforts that secured the inclusion of section 35, entitled “Rights of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada.”
In this place, he was one of the driving forces behind the 2009 pilot project for simultaneous interpretation services in Inuktitut so that he and his colleague Senator Willie Adams could speak directly to those they represented from the floor of the Senate.
We all know that Senator Watt also argued strongly for a Special Senate Committee on the Arctic. Though that committee is just beginning its work, its departing chair has given it an excellent start.
I think it’s also fitting to highlight his extensive work documenting the traditional Inuit trails in the Canadian Arctic. The research he commissioned, completed by Dr. Claudio Aporta of Dalhousie University through our independent Liberal caucus research fund, resulted in a unique piece of work, the first to compile and analyze historical maps of the Inuit occupancy of the Arctic. I encourage you to read the report entitled Inuit Trails and Arctic Occupancy. It is a testament to the work that can be accomplished in this place with the support of colleagues.
Colleagues, we understand that there is life beyond the Senate. Senator Watt was elected last month to serve as President of Makivik Corporation in Nunavik. It will be a return to his roots, so to speak. He was a founding president of that corporation in 1978. The Makivik Corporation was established to administer the funds flowing from the James Bay and Northern Quebec land claims agreement. It is involved in virtually all aspects of life in Nunavik, from mining partnerships and transportation to education and social development.
Senator Watt, on behalf of your independent Senate colleagues, and I’m sure on behalf of all of your colleagues here in the Senate, I would like to wish you good luck in this new endeavour. It’s important work and we know it will be done well under your direction.
Congratulations and thank you for your service.