Siila (Sheila) Watt-Cloutier named PICS Indigenous Climate Fellow

Inuit climate leader, Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions to work together to increase Indigenous leadership in climate change research, education, and policy

Respected Inuit climate leader and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Siila (Sheila) Watt-Cloutier has been named as the inaugural Indigenous Climate Fellow at the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS).

Watt-Cloutier is a lifelong advocate for the rights of Inuit and a leading voice in climate action. Her groundbreaking work has connected human rights and climate change in the public and political consciousness, transforming international policy and creating a new area of scholarship and advocacy.

“We are living in an era of unprecedented and rapid climate change. As the Arctic sea ice and glaciers melt, the impacts are felt worldwide from floods, fires and droughts. It becomes clear that Indigenous wisdom is the medicine the world seeks in addressing sustainability issues.”

Siila Watt-Cloutier

“It’s about building trusting allies and partnerships — across ways of knowing and across all of humanity — so that we advance reconciliation, human rights, and climate action as a shared goal with intention,” says Watt-Cloutier.

Through this fellowship, Watt-Cloutier and PICS have committed to work together, in the spirit of reconciliation, towards increasing Indigenous leadership in climate change research, education, and policy.

Siila Watt-Cloutier looks at the camera, smiling. She is colourful shirt.
PICS Indigenous Climate Fellow Siila Watt-Cloutier. Credit: Carson Tagoona

Watt-Cloutier’s fellowship will focus on growing a new generation of climate-conscious leaders. During her term she will spend time working with students, researching policy approaches to advance reconciliation while addressing climate change, and engaging in networks that foster Indigenous-led climate solutions.

The fellowship is funded by PICS, with a generous contribution from The Gordon Foundation.

“Siila is one of the world’s most prominent climate leaders. We are humbled and thankful she will be joining PICS and be contributing her wisdom and experience to our institute and collaborative network of researchers, students, communities, and Nations across B.C.”

Ian Mauro, PICS executive director

From 1995 to 2002, Watt-Cloutier was the Canadian President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC). From 2002 to 2006, she was the International Chair of the ICC, representing the 155,000 Inuit in Canada, Greenland, Alaska, and Russia. She was an influential force behind the adoption of the Stockholm Convention to ban persistent organic pollutants, which accumulate strongly in Arctic food chains.

She is the author of the memoir, The Right to Be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet, which was nominated for the 2016 B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction and the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. In 2017, the book was shortlisted for CBC Canada Reads. Watt-Cloutier was also shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize.

Watt-Cloutier is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a recipient of the Aboriginal Achievement Award, the UN Champion of the Earth Award, the Norwegian Sophie Prize, the Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue, and the Right Livelihood Award, which is widely considered the “Nobel Alternative.”

The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) catalyzes and mobilizes research, partnerships, and knowledge that generate climate action. PICS is hosted and led by the University of Victoria in collaboration with Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Northern British Columbia.

The collaboration with PICS demonstrates the University of Victoria’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more about UVic’s impact and discover what makes its climate action research unique.