NEWS: Around the Arctic May 14, 2012 - 9:13 am

Two candidates vie for ITK presidency

Terry Audla, Robbie Watt aim to succeed incumbent Mary Simon


Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit association, announced May 14 that two candidates are seeking to lead the organization: Terry Audla of Iqaluit and Robert Watt of Ottawa.

An election to choose ITK’s next president will take place June 6 following the ITK Annual General Meeting in Kuujjuaq, when delegates will elect a person to replace Mary Simon who is not seeking a third mandate.

Audla, 42,  a descendant of the High Arctic exiles, who were relocated from Inukjuak to the High Arctic in 1953 and 1955, was born in Frobisher Bay, now Iqaluit, and raised in Resolute Bay.

In February 2011, Audla became Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.‘s chief executive officer, after working for 17 years with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association in various positions, including executive director.

“His long experience at QIA has also deepened his understanding of what Inuit want from the NLCA [Nunavut Land Claims Agreement] and helped him acquire the skills needed to successfully lead a large Inuit organization,” says a biography posted on the ITK website.

Among Audla’s accomplishments, cited on the ITK website:

• the successful conclusion of the NLCA’s sect. 8.3.11 requirement of government to transfer lands to Inuit in Kimmirut;

• a court injunction to stop federal government seismic testing in Lancaster Sound that may harm wildlife and the harvesting rights of Inuit;

• QIA’s project to digitize all archived maps dating back to 1915 of Inuit traditional land use and occupancy;

• NTI’s new “Closer to the Inuit” initiative to streamline NTI and regional Inuit organizations; and,

• NYI’s Inuit resource sharing policy.

Robert, or “Robbie” Watt, 45, was raised in Kuujjuaq, where he attended federal day school.

After graduation from a Montreal high school in 1985 and jobs ranging from news reporting to crewing on a shrimp trawler, Watt attended the University of Manitoba. In 1995, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology and zoology. 

Watt later became president of Nunavik’s Avataq Cultural Institute.

There, “he promoted, protected and preserved Inuit culture and language of Nunavik, developed Avataq’s five blends of tisanes and moderated the Nunavik youth forums in preparation for the Quebec Youth Summit.  During that time, he developed 14 local cultural committees and revitalised throat singing by coordinating and emceeing the throat singers gathering held in Puvirnirtuq in September 7 to September 11, 2001, as well as ensuring Inuit content and cultural integrity for the (then-new) Montreal Botanical Garden Aboriginal Pavilion,” says information on his biography posted on the ITK website.

Starting in 2001, Watt became director of the National Aboriginal Health Organization’s Inuit centre. He then returned to Kuujjuaq, where, among other things, he acted as interpreter for Judge Jean-Jacques Croteau’s inquiry into the dog slaughters in Nunavik from 1950 to 1970. 

Since 2010, Watt has lived Ottawa where he is the co-director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Inuit sub-commission.

“On a personal level, hearing Inuit from across Canada speak of their many daily issues, their hurts from the past and their dreams for the future has increased his own sense of history and identity,” says the information on the ITK website about Watt, who announced he planned to run for ITK president last week.

The complete biographies and photos of the candidates are available on the ITK website.