Born and raised in Timmins, Charlie was elected MP for Timmins—James Bay in 2004, and re-elected in 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2015. He entered federal politics to stop the continual erosion of Northern Ontario's voice on the national scene.
Maclean’s magazine has named Charlie “Top Constituency MP in Canada” and as part of Canada’s “Top 25 Most influential Power List.” In 2006, the Toronto Star singled him out as one of the ten most effective opposition members of Parliament.
As a writer, broadcaster and musician, Charlie has championed working people and the resource-dependent communities of the north. The late Peter Gzowski referred to Charlie as the "poet laureate of Northern Ontario." He has published six books on northern mining culture and has been a regular contributor to CBC, TVO and national newspapers.
Charlie has received numerous Canadian Church Press awards for his writing. In 1999 he was honoured by Sudbury's Festival Boreal with a special award for his "Outstanding Contribution to Northern Culture." In 2014 he received the second annual Legislative Assembly of Ontario’s Speaker’s book award for Unlikely Radicals, a book on the Adams Mine Dump. Charlie was a major organizer in the fight to stop that dump and toxic waste imports into the region.
Charlie has fought hard for every constituent in his riding, including the crisis-ridden Cree communities on the James Bay Coast. He was a development officer and negotiator for the Algonquin Nation in Quebec. He worked with the Algonquins of Barriere Lake on their co-management plan for their traditional territory.
Charlie has been active in a number of musical projects—including the punk DIY pioneers L’etranger and the nationally-recognized Grievous Angels. The group has garnered a number of Juno nominations and other awards.
Charlie was born in Timmins in 1962, a child of gold-miners who had emigrated to the north from Scotland and Cape Breton. During the 1980s, Charlie and his wife Brit Griffin ran a Catholic Worker house for homeless people in Toronto. In 1990 they moved to Cobalt to raise their daughters Mariah, Siobhan and Lola.