Nunavik Inuit return veteran leader to Makivik’s top post
Watt said he intends to resign from Senate
(Updated Jan. 19, 11:30 a.m.)
Nunavimmiut voted for change on Thursday, Jan. 18, though not entirely, when they chose Charlie Watt, 73, the organization’s founding president, for his third stretch at the top of Makivik Corp.
Watt won a clear election victory with 54 per cent of the vote, finishing well ahead of second-place candidate and incumbent Jobie Tukkiapik, who had served two terms in the role.
He said today that he intends to resign from the Senate, fulfilling a promise he made during the election campaign.
Candidates Lucy Grey, Alasie Arngak and Jackie Williams finished in third, fourth and fifth place, respectively.
“Thank you for the continued support and friendship,” Watt posted to social media late Jan. 18. “Together we will take control of our lives!”
Watt is no stranger to the Nunavik Inuit birthright organization; he helped to found Makivik in 1978 and served as its first president. He was later re-elected as president in 1988, when he served two more terms.
Over the last decade, Watt ran to serve as president again a number of times, though unsuccessfully.
But Watt was able to connect with Nunavimmiut voters this time, despite the popularity of Tukkiapik, who finished with 32 per cent of the vote.
While election campaigns in Nunavik typically play out over the radio, this presidential campaign was active on social media, with most candidates sharing their platforms on Facebook.
Watt campaigned on Inuit rights and upholding sections of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement he said have been neglected by the governments of Quebec and Canada.
Another big piece of Watt’s campaign was a push for greater self-determination; Watt hopes Nunavimmiut are ready to revisit the discussion towards self-government.
Watt’s return to head Nunavik’s Inuit birthright comes as his term as federal senator comes to an end.
The Kuujjuaq-based politician and former businessman was first appointed to the Senate in January 1984 by then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
Before the election, Watt said he’s given notice to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in December that he plans to step away from the role in 2019, since it’s mandatory for senators to retire at age 75.
But he said he would retire from the Senate much earlier if elected as Makivik president.
Heading into the Jan. 18 election, there were 8,123 eligible voters on the voters list in Nunavik’s 14 communities, plus Montreal and Chisasibi. Voter turnout in the election was 47 per cent.
You can see a full breakdown of election results here.
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A look at Makivik’s past presidents:
• Charlie Watt: 1978-1982
• Mary Simon: 1982-1986
• Mark R. Gordon: 1986-1988
• Charlie Watt: 1988-1994
• Simeonie Nalukturuk: 1994-1995 (resigned)
• Zebedee Nungak: 1995-1998 (resigned)
• Pita Aatami: 1998-2012
• Jobie Tukkiapik: 2012-2018