Cablegate: Icc Chair Watt-Cloutier Meeting with Quebec Cg, May 11
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 QUEBEC 000073
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TAGS: SENV PREL CA
SUBJECT: ICC CHAIR WATT-CLOUTIER MEETING WITH QUEBEC CG, MAY 11
1. Summary: Quebec City CG Friedman (whose consular district
includes Nunavut Territory) paid a courtesy call on
International Circumpolar Conference (ICC) Chair Sheila
Watt-Cloutier at her home in Iqaluit, May 11. Watt-Cloutier
said that in a few weeks the ICC would be depositing a petition
at the OAS declaring global warming a violation of the human
rights of the Arctic Inuit people. Her objective in submitting
that petition is to draw attention to the impact on the Inuit of
climate change, she said. Citing the recent visit to Iqaluit of
Hollywood stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Salma Hayek, and the efforts
to address global warming by a number of U.S. mayors,
Watt-Cloutier expressed optimism that more Americans are
becoming aware of the impact of global warming on the Arctic.
Watt-Cloutier wants the U.S. to follow-through on the Arctic
Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) report and take a leadership
role on climate change. She criticized U.S. announcements of
spending on climate change research as avoidance of concrete
action. End summary.
2. While expressing support for "the politics of influence
rather than the politics of protest," ICC Chair Sheila
Watt-Cloutier told CG Friedman that the ICC would soon be
depositing a petition at the OAS declaring global warming a
violation of Inuit human rights. She characterized the OAS
petition as a necessary step in influencing governments and
educating people. "If we can make a few heads turn," and make
them aware of the impact of global warming on the Inuit, then
the petition will have been worth it, she felt. Watt-Cloutier,
an Inuit, stressed throughout our meeting that for her, climate
change is personal. Global warming is endangering the existence
of her people. For years, she explained, the Inuit have learned
the lessons of life through their relationship with the land,
including hunting and fishing. Global warming is destroying
that relationship and, as a result, destroying an entire people.
3. Watt-Cloutier said that seeking to influence the U.S.
government through the OAS petition is only one of several
strategies being pursued by the ICC. She welcomed the recent
visit to Iqaluit of several hundred people, led by Hollywood
stars Jake Gyllenhall and Salma Hayek, for an event entitled
"Arctic Wisdom." For that event, which aimed to draw attention
to the impact of climate change on the Inuit, local Iqaluit
residents joined outside participants in creating a large aerial
image on the snow in the shape of a drum-dancer flanked by the
words "Arctic Warning." Others in Iqaluit for that event
included the President of Global Green, a U.S. environmental
group affiliated with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's
Green Cross organization, and members of several California city
councils. Watt-Cloutier said that the Mayor of Berkeley, one of
the Arctic Wisdom participants, would be raising the matter of
global warming and its impact on the Arctic at a U.S. mayors'
conference the first week of June. (Note: The NYT reported on
May 14 that 132 U.S. mayors have joined in a bipartisan
coalition to fight global warming on the local level. End
note.) Finally, Watt-Cloutier noted the heightened interest
among the U.S. media of the impact of climate change on the
Inuit. Reporters from CNN, the NYT, LATimes, Boston Globe, and
the Washington Post had contacted her recently and, in August,
she said she would be part of a 60 minutes documentary.
4. Asked by the CG what, in concrete terms, she sought from the
U.S., Watt-Cloutier said the ICC wants the USG to follow through
on its initial active participation in the ACIA. The USG
created the Secretariat, the scientists are American and the
expectation all along was that the U.S. would follow-up on the
ACIA report with a strong recommendation for action. Instead,
she said, what the ICC is hearing from the U.S. is that money is
being spent on "perpetual research," without ever having to take
action. Earlier U.S. arguments, such as "the science is
sketchy" are becoming harder and harder to justify, added Paul
Crowley, the ICC's legal counsel who also sat in on the meeting.
Watt-Cloutier expressed regret over what she termed the lack of
U.S. engagement at the U.N. on the issue. The U.S. refusal to
participate actively at the U.N. was making that body
"dysfunctional" as a forum for climate change. She feared that
the Arctic Council is now headed in the same direction.
5. Watt-Cloutier concluded by expressing hope that the U.S.
would assume a leadership position on climate change. There are
155,000 Inuit in the world, she said. "What recourse do we have
to draw attention to our cause other than through legal
instruments?" She asked. The Inuit had to stand up for their
human rights. Referring to her longstanding participation in
the ICC, she continued, "I'm doing this for my grandson. For
me, global warming is personal." Moving to the hydrogen economy
is all well and good, she said, but it would take time and the
Inuit are running out of time.
6. Bio information: Ms. Watt-Cloutier was born in 1953, an
Inuit from the Northern Quebec province of Nunavik. She was
raised in a traditional Inuit environment in Kuujuak and, as she
puts it, "For the first 11 years of my life, the only form of
transportation we knew was by dogsled." At age 20, she married
a francophone Quebecois, and she has two children from that
marriage, and at least one grandchild. (She is now divorced but
has kept her husband's last name.) Ms. Watt-Cloutier has a
strong commitment to improving education and health in
Aboriginal communities. She entered politics in 1995, with
involvement in Inuit issues at the local Canadian and
international level. She was elected President of the ICC in
Canada in 1995 and, in 2002, she became Chair of the ICC. She
was just recently awarded two prestigious environmental prizes:
The Norwegian-based Sophie Prize and the inaugural U.N.
Environment Program's Champion of the Earth Award. Ms.
Watt-Cloutier lives in Iqaluit, the capital of the arctic
Canadian Nunavut Territory.