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Sheila Watt-Cloutier

October 1, 2015 by Speakers' Spotlight

Canadian Inuit Leader One of Three Winners of ‘Alternative Nobels’

Sheila Watt-Cloutier is in the business of transforming public opinion into public policy. Experienced in working with global decision makers for over a decade, Watt-Cloutier offers a new model for 21st century leadership. She speaks with passion and urgency on the issues of today—the environment, the economy, foreign policy, global health, and sustainability—not as separate concerns, but as a deeply interconnected whole.  At a time when people are seeking solutions, direction, and a sense of hope, this global leader provides a big picture of where we are and where we’re headed. We’re thrilled to offer our congratulations to Sheila, as it was announced today that she has been selected as one of three winners of the 2015 Right Livelihood Awards – the so-called “alternative Nobels”:

The organization cited Watts-Cloutier for her “lifelong work to protect the Inuit of the Arctic and defend their right to maintain their livelihoods and culture, which are acutely threatened by climate change.”

She will share the equivalent of about $475,000 with Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera of Uganda for her struggle for gay rights and sexual minorities, and Italian surgeon Gino Strada for providing medical assistance to victims of war.

Foundation director Ole von Uexkull – the award creator’s nephew – said this year’s winners “stand up for our basic rights,” including those of indigenous peoples, and gay and other sexual minority groups, and “the right of all citizens to live in a world free from the scourges of war and climate chaos.”

Watt-Cloutier, who was born in Kuujjuaq in northern Quebec and was a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, is listed as a member of the board of directors with the group Canadians For a New Partnership.

Watt-Cloutier served as president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) Canada from 1995 until 1998 and was the council’s international chairwoman from 2002 until 2006. The ICC represents some 155,000 Inuit in Canada and other northern countries.

Watt-Cloutier’s numerous awards and 13 honorary doctorates include being made an Officer in the Order of Canada in 2006.

She is also the author of a book published earlier this year entitled “The Right to Be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet.”

The Right Livelihood Awards, announced in Stockholm, were founded in 1980 by Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull.

The awards will be presented in the Swedish Parliament on Nov. 30.

The Globe and Mail/October, 2015