Appointed to the Senate by the late former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Senator Charlie Watt represents the province of Quebec and the Senatorial Division of Inkerman. Senator Watt has served in the Senate of Canada since January 16, 1984. He is a member of the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples and the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
Who inspired you to get involved in public life?
It was the encouragement of my community and my family which motivated me to get involved in politics. My mom Daisy was a strong supporter and encouraged me at a young age. At one point, I even wrote to Prime Minister John Diefenbaker with my concerns about how the Canadian government was treating Inuit — and he actually called me in the Arctic to discuss my ideas! That was a boost.
What do you think are the biggest public policy issues facing Canada today?
It has got to be Aboriginal-Crown relations and the need for a northern economy. Northerners pay very high prices for food, and goods and services. Most Canadians are unaware of the financial challenges in our northern communities.
Why should more Canadians care about what happens in the Senate?
The institution is here to represent those who are under-represented in the House of Commons. Our work is to scrutinize legislation, provide alternate perspectives and ensure the end result is sound. The Senate is part of the checks and balances which make Canada’s Parliament so effective.
What legislative or committee work are you most proud of participating in to date?
I helped put together the entrenchment of the first modern treaty in Canada and was heavily engaged in the work surrounding the Constitution Act of 1982 — especially Section 35.
I also helped start the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples and with the support of my colleagues I am able to speak my mother tongue of Inuktitut in the Senate Chamber. Seeing as the government hasn’t appointed another Inuit to the Senate in more than 30 years, I am here to make sure the Inuit voice is heard.
What is a hidden gem in your region that more Canadians need to know about?
My region is called Nunavik in the northern part of Quebec. It’s a huge landmass of incredible beauty. The northern atmosphere, air quality and stunning beauty are unparalleled.
Can you name a guilty pleasure song / album that always makes you smile and why?
My guilty pleasures are a good steak and lobster, or a caribou meal.
My favourite song is “Blowing in the Wind.”
What is the last book you read or movie you saw which you recommended to someone else and why?
I’m reading Greg Poelzer and Ken Coats book entitled ‘From Treaty Peoples to Treaty Nation: A roadmap for all Canadians.’ This was actually mailed to my office anonymously so I’d like to thank the individual who sent it to me!
Why are you proud to be Canadian?
I am Inuk — a first Canadian. My people have lived here since time immemorial.
Top photo: Senator Watt hosting Inuit Elders’ Summit on Arctic Sovereignty, February 2013.