Watt, Charlie

Political negotiator and Canadian senator born in June 1944 in Fort Chimo (now Kuujjuaq), Nunavik.

Charlie Watt was born in the summer of 1944 in Nunavik in the village of Fort Chimo (now Kuujjuaq). Charlie Watt's mother, Daisy Watt (1921-2002), was a healer and interpreter, while his sister, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, is an activist and author. Charlie Watt was educated in several Canadian provinces and territories: Nunavik, Québec, the Northwest Territories, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. He married Ida Epoo in 1965 and they have five children: Donald, Robert, Lisa, Billy, and Charlene. In his spare time, Charlie Watt hunts, fishes and raises husky dog teams.

During his career in politics, Charlie Watt held various positions and was very influential in Nunavik.  First serving as an officer for the federal Department of Northern Affairs between 1969 and 1972, he then founded the Northern Quebec Inuit Association (NQIA) in 1972 to protect the political interests of Nunavimmiut. He served as its founding president from 1972 to 1978. Charlie Watt also participated in the negotiations concerning the James Bay Project, which led to the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) in 1975, a project he opposed. In 1973, he created the Labrador Inuit Association (LIA), which presented a land claim to the Canadian government in 1977, leading to the creation of Nunatsiavut in 2002. In 1978, he became the president and founder of the Makivik Corporation, the successor if the NQIA. Between the 1970s and 1990s, Charlie Watt held various positions in Inuit organizations. Charlie Watt became a senator in 1985, representing Québec and the Inkerman Senate division. He resigned from the Senate in 2018 to devote himself to the presidency of the Makivik Corporation. From 1988 to 1994, he was also President of Air Inuit. During the same period, he was also president of various Inuit societies and corporations. In 2012, he created the Charlie Watt Foundation, now called the Tukia Foundation, which works with Inuit communities in Nunavik.

Charlie Watt has received several awards and distinctions during his lifetime. In 1994, he was named Officer of the National Order of Québec, he received the Diamond Jubilee Medal from Queen Elizabeth II in 2002 and the Golden Jubilee Medal in 2012. In 1997, he won the Aboriginal Achievement Award (now the Indspire Award) which recognizes members of Canada's First Peoples for excellence.

In 2016, Charlie Watt wrote the introduction to the ninth volume of the Voices and Images of Nunavimmiut series, a collection of ten books about Nunavik edited by Minnie Grey and Marianne A. Stenbaek. The ninth issue focuses on the effects of the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) on the development of Nunavik.

Charlie Watt still lives in Iqaluit and has not been President of Makivik Corporation since February 2021.

This biography is based on the available written material during a collective research carried out during 2018-2021. It is possible that mistakes and facts need to be corrected. If you notice an error, or if you wish to correct something in an author's biography, please write to us at imaginairedunord@uqam.ca and we will be happy to do so. This is how we will be able to have more precise presentations, and to better promote Inuit culture.

(c) International Laboratory for Research on Images of the North, Winter and the Arctic, Université du Québec à Montréal, 2018-2021, Daniel Chartier and al.