Sheila Watt-Cloutier, OC (born 2 December 1953) is a Canadian Inuit activist. She has been a political representative for Inuit at the regional, national and international levels, most recently as International Chair for Inuit Circumpolar Council (formerly the Inuit Circumpolar Conference). Watt-Cloutier has worked on a range of social and environmental issues affecting Inuit, and has most recently focused on persistent organic pollutants and global warming. She has received numerous awards and honors for her work, and has been featured in a number of documentaries and profiled by journalists from all media.
Early life and career
Sheila Watt-Cloutier was born in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, Northern Quebec, Canada. Her mother was known as a skillful healer and interpreter throughout Nunavik, and her father was an officer for the RCMP. For the first ten years of her life, Sheila was raised traditionally, traveling on the land by dog sled, before she was sent away for school in Nova Scotia and Churchill, Manitoba. At McGill University in Montreal she took courses on counseling, education and human development. In the mid-1970s, she worked for the Ungava Hospital as an Inuktitut translator and strived to improve education and health conditions. From 1991 to 1995, she worked as a counselor in the review process of the education system of Northern Quebec. This work led to the influential 1992 report on the educational system in Nunavik, Silaturnimut - The Pathway to Wisdom. Watt-Cloutier also contributed significantly to the youth awareness video Capturing Spirit: The Inuit Journey.
Watt-Cloutier has a daughter, a son, and a grandson. Her son is a commercial jet pilot. Her daughter is an acclaimed Inuit folk singer, throat-singer and drum dancer. Currently, Sheila Watt-Cloutier lives in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada.
Watt-Cloutier has been a political representative for Inuit for over a decade. From 1995 to 1998, she was Corporate Secretary of Makivik Corporation, the Canadian Inuit land-claim organization established for Northern Quebec (Nunavik) under the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
In 1995, she was elected President of Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) Canada, a position to which she was re-elected in 1998. ICC represents internationally the interests of Inuit in Russia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland. In this position, she served as the spokesperson for Arctic indigenous peoples in the negotiation of the Stockholm Convention banning the manufacture and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) or DDT. These substances pollute the Arctic food chain and accumulate in the bodies of Inuit, many of whom continue to subsist on local country food.
In 2002, Watt-Cloutier was elected International Chair of ICC, a position she would hold until 2006. Most recently, her work has emphasized the human face of the impacts of global climate change in the Arctic. In addition to maintaining an active speaking and media outreach schedule, she launched the world's first international legal action on climate change. On December 7, 2005, based on the findings of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, which projects that Inuit hunting culture may not survive the loss of sea ice and other changes projected over the coming decades, she filed a petition, along with 62 Inuit Hunters and Elders from communities across Canada and Alaska, to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, alleging that unchecked emissions of greenhouse gases from the United States have violated Inuit cultural and environmental human rights as guaranteed by the 1948 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Although the IACHR decided against hearing her petition, the Commission invited Ms. Watt-Cloutier to testify with her international legal team (including lawyers from Earthjustice and the Center for International Environmental Law) at their first hearing on climate change and human rights on March 1, 2007.
Her book The Right to Be Cold, about the effects of climate change on Inuit communities, is slated for publication in 2015.
Awards and honors
- Global Environment Award, World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations - Washington, DC, USA (On behalf of ICC Canada)
- National Aboriginal Achievement Award (Environment), National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation - Ontario, Canada
- Sophie Prize, The Sophie Foundation - Oslo, Norway
- Champion of the Earth Award, United Nations Environment Programme - Nairobi, Kenya
- Northern Medal, Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson - Ottawa, Canada
- International Environmental Leadership Award, 10th Annual Green Cross Millennium Awards, hosted by Global Green, USA - Los Angeles, USA
- Honorary Doctor of Law, University of Winnipeg - Winnipeg, Canada
- Citation of Lifetime Achievement, Canadian Environment Awards - Vancouver, Canada
- International Environment Award, Gala 2006, Earth Day Canada - Toronto, Canada
- Order of Greenland, Inuit Circumpolar Conference General Assembly - Barrow, Alaska, USA
- Officer of the Order of Canada - Ottawa, Canada
- On 2 February 2007 The Globe and Mail published a report that Watt-Cloutier, along with former Vice President of the United States Al Gore, had been nominated for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. The report stated that they had been nominated by Børge Brende and Heidi Sørensen, both Norwegian members of parliament. The article also pointed out that the Norwegian Nobel Committee does not comment on the names of people who may have been nominated and according to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation they do not publish the names.
- Rachel Carson Prize - Stavanger, Norway
- Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Award, United Nations Human Development Awards - New York, USA
- Testimonial Award, 21st Annual Public Policy Forum Testimonial Dinner and Awards - Toronto, Canada
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Ottawa - Ottawa, Canada
- Honorary Doctor of Letters, University of Guelph - Guelph, Canada
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Windsor - Windsor, Canada
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, Royal Roads University - Victoria, Canada
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, Wilfrid Laurier University - Waterloo, Canada
- Honorary Doctorate, INRS - Quebec City, Canada
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, McMaster University - Hamilton, Canada 
- Heroes of the Environment (2008), from Time under the "Leaders and visionaries" category
- 9th Annual LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture - Iqaluit, Canada
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Western Ontario - London, Canada
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Alberta - Edmonton, Canada
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, Queen's University - Kingston, Canada
- Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, Bowdoin College - Brunswick, Maine, United States
- Nation Builder of the Decade: Environment, Globe and Mail
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Victoria - (Nov 2010) Victoria, BC, Canada
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Northern British Columbia - (May 2011) Prince George, BC, Canada
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, Thompson Rivers University - Kamloops, Canada
- Honorary Doctor of Laws, Mount Allison University - Sackville, NB, Canada
- "The Inuit Journey Towards a POPs-Free World." Northern Lights Against POPs: Combating Toxic Threats in the Arctic. Ed. David Leonard Downie and Terry Fenge. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003. 256-267.
- "Don’t Abandon the Arctic to Climate Change." The Globe and Mail 24 May 2006: A19.
- "ICC responds to last week’s editorial." Nunatsiaq News 9 June 2006: Opinion.
- "Nunavut must think big, not small, on polar bears." Nunatsiaq News 19 January 2007: Opinion.
- "The Strength to Go Forward." CBC: This I Believe 23 May 2007.
- "Canada's Way." The Ottawa Citizen 29 August 2007.
- "Ozone treaty offers insurance against climate change." The Globe and Mail 6 September 2007: A19.
- Sheila Watt-Cloutier's Biography at the Government of Canada's Networks of Centres of Excellence
- Alaska Federation of Natives - Leadership Forum
- See the Arctic Monitoring Assessment Programme (AMAP) for more information on POPs in the Arctic.
- ICUN - The World Conservation Union
- Sheila Watt-Cloutier's Petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights at the ICC, 7 December 2005. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
- "The 50 most anticipated books of 2015 (the first half, anyway)". The Globe and Mail, January 2, 2015.
- 2002 WANGO Awards. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
- The Sophie Prize, Winners, 2005, 14 June 2005. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
- Champions of the Earth Winners 2005 (biography and speech. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
- Governor General presents the Governor General's Northern Medal to Sheila Watt-Cloutier, 3 October 2005. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
- 10th Annual Green Cross Millennium Awards. Retrieved 27 November 2006. (PDF)
- Honorary Doctor of Laws - Sheila Watt-Cloutier 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
- Canadian Environment Awards 2006, Citation of Lifetime Achievement. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
- "Sheila Watt-Cloutier - Canadian Environment Awards Citation of Lifetime Achievement network". Canadian Geographic. 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-03.
- Earth Day Canada Gala 2006. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
- Governor General to invest 38 recipients into the Order of Canada
- Inuit leader nominated for Nobel
- The Nobel Peace Prize - From Nomination to Ceremony
- Rachel Carson Prize Winners
- U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's Presentation of the Mahdub ul Haq Human Development Award to Sheila Watt-Cloutier
- Public Policy Forum Annual Testimonial Dinner & Awards
- Honorary Doctorates: Sheila Watt-Cloutier 2008
- Honorary Degrees to be Awarded to 11
- Spring 2008 Honorary Degree recipients announced
- Honorary Doctorate: Sheila Watt-Cloutier 2008
- Laurier to award two honorary doctorates at fall convocation
- L'éminente écologiste Sheila Watt-Cloutier de passage à Québec pour recevoir un doctorat honoris causa de l'INRS
- McMaster announces honorary degree recipients for Fall convocation
- Heroes of the Environment 2008
- The LaFontaine-Baldwin Lectures, Institute for Canadian Citizenship and the Dominion Institute
- Spring convocation at Western
- Notes for Convocation Address
- Fall Convocation underway
- Sheila Watt-Cloutier Honorary Degree Comments
- Nation Builder: Environment, Sheila Watt-Cloutier
- Nunavut must think big, not small, on polar bears, Retrieved 1 February 2007.
- This I Believe: "The Strength to Go Forward", Retrieved 20 August 2007.
- Canada's Way, Retrieved 22 September 2007.
- Ozone treaty offers insurance against climate change, Retrieved 22 September 2007.
- Sheila Watt-Cloutier's Speeches
- Canadian Environment Awards - Citation of Lifetime Achievement, 2006
- NAAA, 2004 - Sheila Watt-Cloutier