Keynote address title: The Right to Be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet
Keynote address is free and open to the public.
A book sale and signing of Cloutier’s, “The Right to be Cold” will follow the keynote on Saturday, April 8th, 2017.
Sheila Watt-Cloutier currently resides in Iqaluit, Nunavut. She was born in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik (northern Quebec), and was raised traditionally
in her early years before attending school in southern Canada and at a residential setting in Churchill, Manitoba. She is the past Chair of Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC), the organization that represents internationally the 155,000 Inuit of Canada, Greenland, Alaska, and Chukotka in the Far East of the Federation of Russia.
From 1979-1989 Sheila worked as Student Counsellor In Kuujjuaq, Nunavik at the high school level and went on to become the Co-ordinator of Student Services for the Kativik School Board. This position was based in Dorval, Quebec at the head office of the KSB and in that capacity she was department head overseeing the support services for post secondary Inuit students studying in Montreal and other locations in Canada and beyond.
Dealing with youth issues holistically is important for Ms. Watt-Cloutier. Upon leaving Kativik School Board, she contributed significantly as Inuk advisor to “Silatunirmut: The Pathway to Wisdom,” the 1992 report of the Nunavik Education Task Force of the review of the education system in Nunavik. Ms. Watt-Cloutier was an elected political spokesperson for Inuit for over a decade.
From 1995 to 1998, she was Corporate Secretary of Makivik Corporation, set-up under the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Land Claims Agreement. In this elected role at Makivik Corporation she was the Executive department head with a large budget that oversaw the entire administration of the Corporation with a full team working under her.
During her time in the role of Corporate Secretary she also worked on her personal passion in addressing the youth challenges and co-wrote, produced and co-directed the
youth awareness video “Capturing Spirit: The Inuit Journey”. Defending the rights of Inuit has been at the forefront of Ms. Watt-Cloutier’s mandate since her election as President of ICC Canada in 1995 and re-election in 1998. Ms. Watt-Cloutier was instrumental as a spokesperson for a coalition of northern Indigenous Peoples in the global negotiations that led to the 2001 Stockholm Convention banning the generation and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that contaminate the arctic food web. In 2002, Ms. Watt-Cloutier was elected international Chair of ICC. She contributed markedly to ICC Canada’s Institution-Building for Northern Russian Indigenous Peoples’ Project, which focused on economic development and training in remote northern communities.
During the past several years, Ms. Watt-Cloutier has alerted the world that Inuit will not become a footnote to the onslaught of globalization by working through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to defend Inuit human rights against the impacts of climate change. On December 7, 2005, she filed a climate change-related petition with to the Commission as an urgent message from the Inuit “sentinels” to the rest of the world on global warming’s already dangerous impacts.
1 On March 1, 2007, she testified before the Commission during their extraordinary first hearing on the links between climate change and human rights.
2 On behalf of ICC Canada, Ms. Watt-Cloutier received the inaugural Global Environment Award from the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations in recognition for her POPs work. She is the recipient of the 2004 Aboriginal Achievement Award for Environment. In 2005, she was honored with the United Nations Champion of the Earth Award and the Sophie prize in Norway. Later in the year, she was presented with the inaugural Northern Medal by the outgoing Governor General of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson.
In early 2006, Global Green, USA, the American Branch of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Green Cross International, selected Sheila for its International Environmental Leadership
Award, and in June she received both the Citation of Lifetime Achievement from the Canadian Environment Awards and the Earth Day Canada International Environment
Award. Also in June, the University of Winnipeg conferred Ms. Watt-Cloutier with an Honorary Doctorate of Law. Sheila was made an Officer in the Order of Canada in
December 2006. In February, 2007, she was publicly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by members of the Norwegian parliament, including the former Minister of the Environment. Also in Norway, she received the Rachel Carson Prize in June, 2007. Later that month at the U.N. Human Development Awards in New York, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon
presented Sheila with the 2007 Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Award. In April 2008, the Public Policy Forum honored her with a Testimonial Award at its 21st Annual
Testimonial Award Dinner in Toronto, Canada. In 2008, she has been recognized with honorary doctorates from the Universities of
Guelph, Windsor, Ottawa along with Royal Roads University, Wilfred Laurier University, La Institute Nacionale de la Recherché Scientifique, and McMaster University. She
received four additional honorary degrees in 2009 from the Universities of Western Ontario, the University of Alberta, Queens University and Bowdoin College in Maine,
USA. In 2010 she received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Victoria as well as being named one of 25 Transformational Canadians by the Globe and Mail and CTV.
In 2011 she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Northern British Columbia and was chosen as one of four ‘Canadians who made a difference’ by
1 See http://www.inuitcircumpolar.com/index.php?ID=316&Lang=En.
2 See http://www.earthjustice.org/news/press/007/inter-american-commission-on-humanrights-
Canada Post and her life’s work will be memorialized in a Canadian Stamp in 2012 commemorating the Jubilee Year. In 2015 she received two more Honorary Doctorates
from Dalhousie University and York University along with an Honorary Degree from Loyalist College in Ontario.
As visiting scholar, she taught the Human Dimension of Climate Change both at Bowdoin College, Maine USA in 2010-2011 and at Mount Allison University in Sackville,
NB in 2011-2012. She has served as a mentor for two Trudeau Foundation Scholars pursuing their Ph.D.’s. She remains connected to her life’s work through advocacy work, which included membership as Commissioner on the civil society Commission on Arctic Climate Change led by the Aspen Institute,USA. She also served as a selection committee member for two years for the Arctic Inspirational Prize founded and funded by Arnold Witzig and Sima Sharifi. In November, 2015 she was one of 4 Laureates to receive “The Right Livelihood Award”
considered the Nobel Alternative, awarded in the Parliament of Sweden. She remains busy with speaking engagements and a book tour promoting her recently
launched book “The Right To Be Cold” which hit major bookstores in March of 2015. In 2016 her book was shortlisted for the B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for political writing and the Cobo emerging writer prize. 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.”
Bio will be posted soon.
Piiyuuk Olivia Shields is Yup’ik from Toksook Bay, Alaska. She is a the daughter of Agatha John-Shields And Samuel Shields Jr. She is currently studying Elementary Education at UAA, with the goal of going home and teaching Yugtun to elementary students. She active in her community and works towards Yugtun language and cultural revitalization and maintenance.
Samuel Johns (AK REBEL) is a community activist, motivational speaker and hip hop artist. Using hip hop as a tool to create awareness for some of the issues that Alaskans face, he got the opportunity to premier his music video “Wake Up”, (a song about Domestic Violence) at the 14′ Quayana Night.
Since the beginning of 2015 he has traveled to many communities around Alaska to speak to the youth about living a drug and alcohol free lifestyle.
On June 10th, 2015 he created a Facebook Group called “Forget-Me-Not” to help reconnect the homeless community to their families that are living in rural Alaska.
His goal is to show the youth how to grieve in a healthy way so that they to can be a positive impact to their community.