February 20, 2020 – Aupaluk, Nunavik – Makivik President Charlie Watt sends a message of support to the federal ministers who have been spending hours discussing with the Wet’suwet’en in British Columbia, and Mohawks at Tyendinaga in an effort to get to the heart of the issues, triggered by the proposed construction of a natural gas pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat by TC Energy.
“This issue has gripped the nation. It has brought rail traffic – both passenger and freight – to a standstill over the past two weeks,” said Makivik Corporation President Charlie Watt. “Observing it from afar I commend the key ministers – Carolyn Bennett at Crown-Indigenous Relations, and Mark Miller at Indigenous Services – for engaging in deep discussions with the Wet’suwet’en in BC, and Mohawk at Tyendinaga, Ontario respectively. At the core of this conflict are historic relations between Indigenous peoples and the Crown in Canada over jurisdiction, self-determination, and sovereignty. I know deeply how the Wet’suwet’en feel because I lived through it during the negotiations for the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in the 1970s. And it’s still not solved.”
Watt also says the alternative approach to assert the rule of law without regard for the sensitive issues relating to historic aboriginal grievances would set back the good work done on reconciliation so far. It is work that has taken years by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and ongoing work to deal with Indigenous Self-Determination by the federal government.
“I’m appalled at the political statements I am hearing from the leader of the official opposition as well as other Conservative political actors across Canada such as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney who is advocating for immediate police intervention regardless of the consequences, or worse, appearing to support vigilante justice, such as a Tweet from Peter Mackay, which he has since retracted.” Said Charlie Watt. “That simply demonstrates gross ignorance of the history of Indigenous relations in Canada, and fosters hatred towards Indigenous peoples as opposed to building understanding, and contributing to reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous Peoples.”
Charlie Watt was the first President of Makivik when it was formed in 1978, following the difficult years of negotiations leading up to the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in 1975. Watt was the President of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association (NQIA) which became Makivik following the signing of the Agreement. As a Senator for 34 years he knows the history and evolution of Indigenous rights in Canada.
Makivik is the land claims organization mandated to manage the heritage funds of the Inuit of Nunavik provided for under the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement. Makivik’s role includes the administration and investment of these funds and the promotion of economic growth by providing assistance for the creation of Inuit-operated businesses in Nunavik. Makivik promotes the preservation of Inuit culture and language as well as the health, welfare, relief of poverty, and education of Inuit in the communities.