When she was growing up in the Inuit community of Kuujjuaq in Arctic Quebec, Sheila Watt-Cloutier never rode anything faster then a dog team. Now the 52-year-old grandmother travels by jet around the globe to defend the rights of Inuit and the environment that has sustained them for countless generations.
Defending the rights of Inuit has been at the forefront of Ms. Watt-Cloutier’s mandate since , 2002, when she assumed the position of Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) representing internationally the 155,000 Inuit of Greenland, Canada, Alaska and Chukotka in the Russian Federation.
Her work as Chair of ICC is a continuation of her previous work as President ICC Canada, where Ms. Watt-Cloutier defended the Inuit’s right to health and was instrumental in the creation of the Stockholm Convention which bans toxic chemicals.
During the past year, Ms. Watt-Cloutier alerted the world that Inuit will not become a footnote to the onslaught of globalization by finalizing and filing a complaint at the Inter-American Petition on Human Rights to defend our human rights against the impacts of climate change.
Although living in the remote Canadian Arctic, Ms. Watt-Cloutier has gained a significant recognition. She was given the United Nations Champion of the Earth Award and the Sophie prize in Norway (following in the footsteps of Nobel Peace prize winner Wangari Maathai). More recently, she was awarded the inaugural Northern Medal by the outgoing Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson.
Ms. Watt-Cloutier sums up her work by saying: “ I do nothing more than remind the world that the Arctic is not a barren land devoid of life but a rich and majestic land that has supported our resilient culture for millennia. Even though small in number and living far from the corridors of power, it appears that the wisdom of the land strikes a universal chord on a planet where many are searching for sustainability.”
Sheila Watt-Cloutier P.O. Box 2099 Iqaluit, NU X0A 0H0 Canada