Sheila Watt-Cloutier was born in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik (northern Quebec), and was raised traditionally in her early years before attending school in southern Canada and 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. 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.
Dealing with youth issues holistically is important for Ms. Watt-Cloutier. She contributed significantly to “Silatunirmut: The Pathway to Wisdom,” the 1992 report of the review of educational programming in Nunavik, and she co-wrote, produced and co-directed the youth awareness video “Capturing Spirit: The Inuit Journey.”
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.
Ms. Watt-Cloutier has received many awards and honours, including being publicly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and the 2007 Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Award. In April 2008, the Public Policy Forum honored her with a Testimonial Award. 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. Sheila was made an Officer in the Order of Canada in December 2006 and in 2005, she was honoured with the United Nations Champion of the Earth Award and the Sophie prize in Norway. She also received the 2004 Aboriginal Achievement Award for environment.
She has been recognized with 13 honorary doctorates. In 2010 she was named one of 25 Transformational Canadians by the Globe and Mail and CTV. She was chosen as one of four ‘Canadians who made a difference’ by Canada Post and her life’s work was memorialized on a Canadian stamp in 2012 commemorating the Jubilee Year.