Hon. Charlie Watt:
Honourable senators, did I do all that? Many years have passed.
First, I would like to give a special thanks to my family who are here today.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Watt: Most of you are aware that my wife is not here. She is at home in Montreal. Every now and then, I still go to Montreal and give her a visit when there is time for me to go and at least attempt to talk to her. She doesn’t talk anymore; she doesn’t say one word. At times, I even wonder whether she actually recognizes me when I go over there. It’s a bit hard, especially when you have to go out. Coming into the facilities — I can handle that, but the time when you have to go out, a few times in my life, especially recently — that time before I start up the car, I have to sit down, think about it, and it becomes emotional at times.
Nevertheless, life goes on. I have to move ahead despite the fact that there are some obstacles I still have to face in my life.
My family has been very supportive of me and of what I’ve been doing. I’m just going to mention their names, even though they have already been mentioned. Donald is the oldest son, who has been close to me over all those years, as have my other kids. Robbie is now the President of the Makivik School Board that arose out of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. Lisa, my daughter, is also here, as are Billy, my youngest son, and Charlene, my youngest daughter. My granddaughter, Suzie, is here, as is my grandson, Jeremy.
I appreciate the fact that they are here with me today. This is very special for me. I’ve been here for 34 years. There has never been a dull moment in my involvement with the various individuals in the Senate. I do appreciate the friendships that I have developed over the years and the help that you have provided to me.
When you are only one Inuk in this chamber, it’s a little difficult at times, but with your friendship and the help that you have provided to me, including our Speaker, who has been close to me ever since he stepped into the Senate, because I was here before him —
Senator Tkachuk: You were here before everybody.
Senator Watt: I’m not sure whether Anne Cools is here. She probably stayed away for good reason. Anne and I have been seatmates I don’t know how many times or for how many years. You know Anne as well as I do. Anne has been a good friend to me, and very supportive. She is at the door. I’m talking about you, Anne; maybe you should take your seat.
It has been quite interesting. When I first stepped in here, the only person that I was really engaging with at the time was Anne Cools because we were appointed at the same time. Anne, I love you.
Senator Cools: I love you very much.
Senator Watt: We had fun together. I remember taking on our government at the time. It was Liberal at the time. We worked out a strategy between her and me, and at times we were able to manage to lock them in. In other words, they were not able to go ahead with a piece of legislation that they were pushing for. We have a bit of a record, between me and Anne, working together, succeeding at times, and other times we didn’t succeed. But that’s the name of the game here. I enjoy it. I loved it.
I would like to say a few special words about the people that I have worked with and that I’ve been very close to. One is George Baker. He is not here. He resigned before it was time for me to go. You know how articulate he was, a man that can put forward certain things, and he is a very hard person to match when he gets going.
There are some other people with that type of character I have run across in the Senate. One of them is Serge Joyal. We have known each other since before I was appointed to the Senate and the work that we carried out during the time when there was an opportunity to hitch a ride when the boat was just about to depart from Canada to London and bring the Constitution back to Canada. I got to know him. I remember certain specific issues, how we encountered each other in the past, but I’m not going into the detail of those. But Serge, thank you very much for the help that you have provided to me all these years.
Then there is Joan Fraser. A lot of you are aware of who she is and how strong that person is. She has been instrumental in providing me some advice. I would say that Senator Fraser is the one individual senator that I have learned to respect over the years because of the way that person was. It’s not so much what she knows but the way she handles things and the way she handles people. I think we highly appreciated that lady, the knowledge she has. It inspired me. I know she is not here, but I thank her a great deal for the help she provided to me, honourable senators.
Now I will get back to Anne. She and I have been around for a long time. We did some good work in the past. When she knows that I might be starting to get into trouble by trying to point out some arguments and might not succeed, Anne was always there to give me advice. Anne, I thank you a great deal.
Now I would like to switch over to my Ottawa staff over the years. Therese Langevin moved from Kuujjuaq to establish my office. She came from all the way from my community to Ottawa to establish the office, and she is no longer around with us. She passed away some years ago. Then there was Edward Atkinson. I do believe he is here. He was also very instrumental in terms of setting up my office, getting things organized, and he was very much helpful. I would like to mention his name.
Ann Charon was also a person that did a lot of work in my office and helped me to set up my office. Then there was Jean Roberge on my team. He was a legal person; he was assigned to me for not a long period, but he was with me for at least three years.
People that were more recently in my office include Tracy Chubaty, Christine Corrigan, Laura Lebel and Heidi Langille, and they have supported my Senate work, helping me with regards to the struggle for Inuit rights.
I would like to thank also Pam Ross, who never worked in my office but always provided strong support. I thank her also for that.
My current executive assistant, Almira Buen, is originally from the Phillipines. She has been very helpful in the area of her expertise, and I thank her a great deal.
Then there is my chief of staff, Lisa Smith. As you know, she has been excellent over the last 10 years that she has been with me in the office. She is one of the people who know what to do on the Hill and how to deal with administrative matters. Not only is she helpful, but when we were audited by the Auditor General, at the time, a lot of us were quite nervous. Every one of us was nervous. But when you have reliable people with you, they can help you, and that’s what Lisa did. I thank you a great deal, Lisa. Thank you very much.
[Editor’s Note: Senator Watt spoke in Inuktitut.]
The administrative team in the Senate makes sure that we have the resources we need — that has been very useful to our office — and they keep the committees and chamber running smoothly.
I appreciated our security team and their dedication to protecting parliamentarians and their staff. Their response time is always impressive, especially when you make a mistake in pressing that red button. They are right there with you.
And although she is no longer with us, Mary Hurley — she got sick, had cancer and she departed from us — was also a very knowledgeable person in the Aboriginal field. She also did a lot for me.
Honourable senators, what can I say? Am I going to miss this chamber? Of course I am going to miss the chamber. Am I going to miss the people? Yes, I’m going to miss the people. But I’m not going to be too far away.
As you are probably aware and have been told, you heard a number of people making the points about what I’m going to be doing. It’s quite a challenge that I’m going to be stepping into. Probably an area that nobody ever has been in. I have examined, over the years, whether the system could be adaptable and useful to my people.
Over the last 43 years, I have come to the conclusion that there is a time to try to provide a message to the general public of Canada that there is a time to make changes. That is to say, as Aboriginal people in this country, we have operated, and have tried to operate, under general laws of application.
Over the last few years, we began to realize that that doesn’t work. So we have to begin to look differently at how the structure should be structured. I am in the process now of starting to look at the possibility of taking the opportunities that are made available by our Prime Minister that are nation-to-nation, government-to-government issues.
We know that we are going to have some challenges from the provinces; nevertheless, we are going to have to move ahead. An approach that I’m taking on this issue is to base it on Inuit values, tradition and culture. That would be the foundation of our new governing structure on the Aboriginal side. There is going to be some work to do in that area because this is something that is certainly unknown to the general public of Canada.
So I’m not disappearing, and I will be bringing those subjects that I am talking about probably back to this floor here. You people are going to have to deal with it.
Remember, always, we are two different people, but we have one country. We have to respect that. The country is diverse, and it will always remain diverse. Let’s build upon it, not negatively, but positively. Thank you very much.