Nunavut (// (listen) NUUN-ə-vut; French: [nynavy(t)]; Inuktitut syllabics: ᓄᓇᕗᑦ [ˈnunavut]) is the newest, largest, and most northerly territory of Canada. It was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, though the boundaries had been drawn in 1993. The creation of Nunavut resulted in the first major change to Canada's political map since incorporating the province of Newfoundland in 1949.
Nunavut comprises a major portion of Northern Canada and most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Its vast territory makes it the fifth-largest country subdivision in the world, as well as North America's second-largest (after Greenland). The capital Iqaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay), on Baffin Island in the east, was chosen by the 1995 capital plebiscite. Other major communities include the regional centres of Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay.
Nunavut also includes Ellesmere Island to the far north, as well as the eastern and southern portions of Victoria Island in the west, and all islands in Hudson, James and Ungava Bays, including Akimiski Island far to the southeast of the rest of the territory. It is Canada's only geo-political region that is not connected to the rest of North America by highway.
Nunavut is the second least populous of Canada's provinces and territories. Only Yukon has a lower population. One of the world's most remote, sparsely settled regions, it has a population of 35,944, mostly Inuit, spread over a land area of just over 1,877,787 km2 (725,018 sq mi), or slightly smaller than Mexico (excluding water surface area). Nunavut is also home to the world's northernmost permanently inhabited place, Alert. Eureka, a weather station also on Ellesmere Island, has the lowest average annual temperature of any Canadian weather station.
Nunavut means "our land" in the native language Inuktitut.
Nunavut covers 1,877,787 km2 (725,018 sq mi) of land and 160,930 km2 (62,137 sq mi) of water in Northern Canada. The territory includes part of the mainland, most of the Arctic Archipelago, and all of the islands in Hudson Bay, James Bay, and Ungava Bay, including the Belcher Islands, all of which belonged to the Northwest Territories from which Nunavut was separated. This makes it the fifth-largest subnational entity (or administrative division) in the world. If Nunavut were a country, it would rank 15th in area.
Nunavut has long land borders with the Northwest Territories on the mainland and a few Arctic islands, and with Manitoba to the south of the Nunavut mainland; it also meets Saskatchewan to the southwest at a quadripoint, and has a short land border with Newfoundland and Labrador on Killiniq Island. Nunavut also shares maritime borders with Greenland and the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba.
Nunavut's highest point is Barbeau Peak (2,616 m (8,583 ft)) on Ellesmere Island. The population density is 0.019 persons/km2 (0.05 persons/sq mi), one of the lowest in the world. By comparison, Greenland has approximately the same area and nearly twice the population.
Nunavut experiences a polar climate in most regions, owing to its high latitude and lower continental summertime influence than areas to the west. In more southerly continental areas very cold subarctic climates can be found, due to July being slightly milder than the required 10 °C (50 °F).
The Pre-Dorset culture was succeeded by the Dorset culture about 2800 years ago. The Dorset culture has been assumed to have developed from the Pre-Dorset, however the relationship between the two remains unclear.
Helluland, a location Norse explorers describe visiting in the Sagas of Icelanders has been connected to Nunavut's Baffin Island. Claims of contact between the Dorset and Norse, however, remain controversial.
The Thule people, ancestors of the modern Inuit, began migrating into the Northwest Territories and Nunavut from Alaska in the 11th century. By 1300, the geographic extent of Thule settlement included most of modern Nunavut.
The migration of the Thule people coincides with the decline of the Dorset, who died out between 800 and 1500.
The written historical accounts of the area begin in 1576, with an account by English explorer Martin Frobisher. While leading an expedition to find the Northwest Passage, Frobisher thought he had discovered gold ore around the body of water now known as Frobisher Bay on the coast of Baffin Island. The ore turned out to be worthless, but Frobisher made the first recorded European contact with the Inuit. Other explorers in search of the elusive Northwest Passage followed in the 17th century, including Henry Hudson, William Baffin and Robert Bylot.
20th and 21st centuries
Cornwallis and Ellesmere Islands featured in the history of the Cold War in the 1950s. Concerned about the area's strategic geopolitical position, the federal government relocated Inuit from Nunavik (northern Quebec) to Resolute and Grise Fiord. In the unfamiliar and hostile conditions, they faced starvation but were forced to stay. Forty years later, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples issued a report titled The High Arctic Relocation: A Report on the 1953–55 Relocation. The government paid compensation to those affected and their descendants and on August 18, 2010, in Inukjuak, the Honourable John Duncan, PC, MP, previous Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians apologized on behalf of the Government of Canada for the relocation of Inuit to the High Arctic.
Discussions on dividing the Northwest Territories along ethnic lines began in the 1950s, and legislation to do this was introduced in 1963. After its failure, a federal commission recommended against such a measure. In 1976, as part of the land claims negotiations between the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (then called the "Inuit Tapirisat of Canada") and the federal government, the parties discussed division of the Northwest Territories to provide a separate territory for the Inuit. On April 14, 1982, a plebiscite on division was held throughout the Northwest Territories. A majority of the residents voted in favour and the federal government gave a conditional agreement seven months later.
The land claims agreement was completed in September 1992 and ratified by nearly 85% of the voters in Nunavut in a referendum. On July 9, 1993, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the Nunavut Act were passed by the Canadian Parliament. The transition to establish Nunavut Territory was completed on April 1, 1999. The creation of Nunavut has been followed by considerable population growth in the capital Iqaluit, from 5,200 in 2001 to 6,600 in 2011, a 27% increase.
In 2020, Nunavut imposed strict travel regulations in order to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19. The government barred entry to almost all non-residents. As of October 2020, it was the only place in North America to have had no cases of COVID-19. On November 6, Nunavut confirmed its first case in Sanikiluaq.
As of the 2016 Canada Census, the population of Nunavut was 35,944, a 12.7% increase from 2011. In 2006, 24,640 people identified themselves as Inuit (83.6% of the total population), 100 as First Nations (0.3%), 130 Métis (0.4%) and 4,410 as non-aboriginal (15.0%).
The population growth rate of Nunavut has been well above the Canadian average for several decades, mostly due to birth rates significantly higher than the Canadian average—a trend that continues. Between 2011 and 2016, Nunavut had the highest population growth rate of any Canadian province or territory, at a rate of 12.7%. The second-highest was Alberta, with a growth rate of 11.6%.
Nunavut has the highest smoking rate in all of Canada, with more than half of its adult population smoking cigarettes. Smoking affects both men and women equally, and the overwhelming majority (90%) of pregnant women are smokers.
In his 2000 commissioned report (Aajiiqatigiingniq Language of Instruction Research Paper) to the Nunavut Department of Education, Ian Martin of York University stated a "long-term threat to Inuit languages from English is found everywhere, and current school language policies and practices on language are contributing to that threat" if Nunavut schools follow the Northwest Territories model. He provided a 20-year language plan to create a "fully functional bilingual society, in Inuktitut and English" by 2020.[needs update] The plan provides different models, including:
- "Qulliq Model", for most Nunavut communities, with Inuktitut as the main language of instruction.
- "Inuinnaqtun Immersion Model", for language reclamation and immersion to revitalize Inuinnaqtun as a living language.
- "Mixed Population Model", mainly for Iqaluit (possibly for Rankin Inlet), as the 40% Qallunaat, or non-Inuit, population may have different requirements.
Of the 34,960 responses to the census question concerning "mother tongue" in the 2016 census, the most commonly reported languages were:
At the time of the census, only English and French were counted as official languages. Figures shown are for single-language responses and the percentage of total single-language responses.
In the 2016 census it was reported that 2,045 people (5.8%) living in Nunavut had no knowledge of either official language of Canada (English or French). The 2016 census also reported that of the 30,135 Inuit people in Nunavut, 90.7% could speak either Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun.
In 2011 census, Christianity form 86% of Nunavut's population. About 13% of the population are Non Religious and 0.44% follows Aboriginal spirituality. There are small minorities of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews.
The economy of Nunavut is driven by the Inuit and Territorial Government, mining, oil, gas, and mineral exploration, arts, crafts, hunting, fishing, whaling, tourism, transportation, housing development, military, research, and education. Presently, one college operates in Nunavut, the Nunavut Arctic College, as well as several Arctic research stations located within the territory. The new Canadian High Arctic Research Station CHARS in planning for Cambridge Bay and high north Alert Bay Station.
Iqaluit hosts the annual Nunavut Mining Symposium every April, this is a tradeshow that showcases many economic activities ongoing in Nunavut.
There are currently three major mines in operation in Nunavut. Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd – Meadowbank Division. Meadowbank Gold Mine is an open pit gold mine with an estimated mine life 2010–2020 and employs 680 persons.
The second recently opened mine in production is the Mary River Iron Ore mine operated by Baffinland Iron Mines. It is located close to Pond Inlet on North Baffin Island. They produce a high grade direct ship iron ore.
The most recent mine to open is Doris North or the Hope Bay Mine operated near Hope Bay Aerodrome by TMAC Resource Ltd. This new high grade gold mine is the first in a series of potential mines in gold occurrences all along the Hope Bay greenstone belt.
- Lupin Mine 1982–2005, gold, current owner Elgin Mining Ltd located near the Northwest Territories boundary near Contwoyto Lake)
- Polaris Mine 1982–2002, lead and zinc (located on Little Cornwallis Island, not far from Resolute)
- Nanisivik Mine 1976–2002, lead and zinc, prior owner Breakwater Resources Ltd (near Arctic Bay) at Nanisivik
- Rankin Nickel Mine 1957–1962, nickel, copper and platinum group metals
- Jericho Diamond Mine 2006–2008, diamond (located 400 km, 250 mi, northeast of Yellowknife) 2012 produced diamonds from existing stockpile. No new mining; closed.
- Doris North Gold Mine Newmont Mining approx 3 km (2 mi) underground drifting/mining, none milled or processed. Newmont closed the mine and sold it to TMAC Resources in 2013. TMAC has now reached commercial production in 2017.
Nunavut's people rely primarily on diesel fuel to run generators and heat homes, with fossil fuel shipments from southern Canada by plane or boat because there are few to no roads or rail links to the region. There is a government effort to use more renewable energy sources, which is generally supported by the community.
This support comes from Nunavut feeling the effects of global warming. Former Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak said in 2011, "Climate change is very much upon us. It is affecting our hunters, the animals, the thinning of the ice is a big concern, as well as erosion from permafrost melting." The region is warming about twice as fast as the global average, according to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
- Northern Transportation Company Limited, owned by Norterra, a holding company that was, until April 1, 2014, jointly owned by the Inuvialuit of the Northwest Territories and the Inuit of Nunavut.
- There are no sidewalks in Nunavut.
In the second half of 2018 travellers visited Nunavut 134,000 times and spent $436 million. Two-thirds of those visits were by Nunavummiut (residents of Nunavut) traveling within the territory. The remaining came from outside other provinces or territories in Canada, or from abroad and spent $219 million. Travellers from Ontario make up the largest portion of visitors from outside the territory. The majority of visitors from outside of Nunavut are business travellers; in the second half of 2018 only 14% of visitors were in the territory for leisure. Tourism recreation in Nunavut include activities like dog sledding, snowmobiling, cultural festivals, hiking, arctic wildlife safaris and sea kayaking.
Government and politics
Nunavut has a Commissioner appointed by the federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. As in the other territories, the commissioner's role is symbolic and is analogous to that of a Lieutenant-Governor. While the Commissioner is not formally a representative of the Canadian monarch, a role roughly analogous to representing The Crown has accrued to the position.
Nunavut elects a single member of the House of Commons of Canada. This makes Nunavut the second largest electoral district in the world by area after Greenland. The current MP is Mumilaaq Qaqqaq of the New Democratic Party (NDP).
The members of the unicameral Legislative Assembly of Nunavut are elected individually; there are no parties and the legislature is consensus-based. The head of government, the premier of Nunavut, is elected by, and from the members of the legislative assembly. On June 14, 2018, Joe Savikataaq was elected as the Premier of Nunavut, after his predecessor Paul Quassa lost a non-confidence motion. Former Premier Paul Okalik set up an advisory council of eleven elders, whose function it is to help incorporate "Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit" (Inuit culture and traditional knowledge, often referred to in English as "IQ") into the territory's political and governmental decisions.
Due to the territory's small population, and the fact that there are only a few hundred voters in each electoral district, the possibility of two election candidates finishing in an exact tie is significantly higher than in any Canadian province. This has actually happened twice in the five elections to date, with exact ties in Akulliq in the 2008 Nunavut general election and in Rankin Inlet South in the 2013 Nunavut general election. In such an event, Nunavut's practice is to schedule a follow-up by-election rather than choosing the winning candidate by an arbitrary method. The territory has also had numerous instances where MLAs were directly acclaimed to office as the only person to register their candidacy by the deadline, as well as one instance where a follow-up by-election had to be held due to no candidates registering for the regular election in their district at all.
Owing to Nunavut's vast size, the stated goal of the territorial government has been to decentralize governance beyond the region's capital. Three regions—Kitikmeot, Kivalliq and Qikiqtaaluk/Baffin—are the basis for more localized administration, although they lack autonomous governments of their own.
The territory has an annual budget of C$700 million, provided almost entirely by the federal government. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin designated support for Northern Canada as one of his priorities in 2004, with an extra $500 million to be divided among the three territories.
In 2001, the government of New Brunswick collaborated with the federal government and the technology firm SSI Micro to launch Qiniq, a unique network that uses satellite delivery to provide broadband Internet access to 24 communities in Nunavut. As a result, the territory was named one of the world's "Smart 25 Communities" in 2006 by the Intelligent Community Forum, a worldwide organization that honours innovation in broadband technologies. The Nunavut Public Library Services, the public library system serving the territory, also provides various information services to the territory.
The first design for Nunavut's licence plate was originally created for the Northwest Territories in the 1970s. The plate has long been famous worldwide for its unique design in the shape of a polar bear.
Nunavut was licensed by the NWT to use the same licence plate design in 1999 when it became a separate territory, but adopted its own plate design in March 2012 for launch in August 2012—a rectangle that prominently features the northern lights, a polar bear and an inuksuk.
A long-simmering dispute between Canada and the U.S. involves the issue of Canadian sovereignty over the Northwest Passage.
Due to prohibition laws influenced by local and traditional beliefs, Nunavut has a highly regulated alcohol market. It is the last outpost of prohibition in Canada, and it is often easier to obtain firearms than alcohol. Every community in Nunavut has slightly differing regulations, but as a whole it is still very restrictive. Seven communities have bans against alcohol and another 14 have orders being restricted by local committees. Because of these laws, a lucrative bootlegging market has appeared where people mark up the prices of bottles by extraordinary amounts. The RCMP estimate Nunavut's bootleg liquor market rakes in some $10 million a year.
Despite the restrictions, alcohol's availability leads to widespread alcohol related crime. One lawyer estimated some 95% of police calls are alcohol-related. Alcohol is also believed to be a contributing factor to the territory's high rates of violence, suicide, and homicide. A special task force created in 2010 to study and address the territory's increasing alcohol-related problems recommended the government ease alcohol restrictions. With prohibition shown to be highly ineffective historically, it is believed these laws contribute to the territory's widespread social ills. However, many residents are skeptical about the effectiveness of liquor sale liberalization and want to ban it completely. In 2014, Nunavut's government decided to move towards more legalization. A liquor store has opened in Iqaluit, the capital, for the first time in 38 years as of 2017.
The Inuit Broadcasting Corporation is based in Nunavut. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) serves Nunavut through a radio and television production centre in Iqaluit, and a bureau in Rankin Inlet. Iqaluit is served by private commercial radio stations CKIQ-FM and CKGC-FM, both owned by Northern Lights Entertainment Inc. (CKIQ-FM had a rebroadcaster in Rankin Inlet that was discontinued in 2009.)
Nunavut is served by two regional weekly newspapers, Nunatsiaq News published by Nortext, and Nunavut News/North, published by Northern News Services, who also publish the multi-territory regional Kivalliq News.
The film production company Isuma is based in Igloolik. Co-founded by Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn in 1990, the company produced the 1999 feature Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, winner of the Caméra d'Or for Best First Feature Film at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. It was the first feature film written, directed, and acted entirely in Inuktitut.
In November 2006, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation announced the start of the Nunavut Animation Lab, offering animation training to Nunavut artists at workshops in Iqaluit, Cape Dorset and Pangnirtung. Films from the Nunavut Animation Lab include Alethea Arnaquq-Baril's 2010 digital animation short Lumaajuuq, winner of the Best Aboriginal Award at the Golden Sheaf Awards and named Best Canadian Short Drama at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.
In November 2011, the Government of Nunavut and the NFB jointly announced the launch of a DVD and online collection entitled Unikkausivut (Inuktitut: Sharing Our Stories), which will make over 100 NFB films by and about Inuit available in Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun and other Inuit languages, as well as English and French. The Government of Nunavut is distributing Unikkausivut to every school in the territory.
The indigenous music of Nunavut includes Inuit throat singing and drum-led dancing, along with country music, bluegrass, square dancing, the button accordion and the fiddle, an infusion of European influence.
Nunavut competes at the Arctic Winter Games. Iqaluit co-hosted the 2002 edition in partnership with Nuuk, Greenland.
Susan Aglukark is an Inuk singer and songwriter. She has released six albums and has won several Juno Awards. She blends the Inuktitut and English languages with contemporary pop music arrangements to tell the stories of her people, the Inuit of the Arctic.
On May 3, 2008, the Kronos Quartet premiered a collaborative piece with Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, entitled Nunavut, based on an Inuit folk story. Tagaq is also known internationally for her collaborations with Icelandic pop star Björk, and her 2018 novel Split Tooth which was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Jordin John Kudluk Tootoo (Inuktitut syllabics: ᔪᐊᑕᓐ ᑐᑐ; born February 2, 1983, in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada) was a professional ice hockey player with the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League (NHL). Although born in Manitoba, Tootoo grew up in Rankin Inlet, where he was taught to skate and play hockey by his father, Barney.
Hunter Tootoo, Member of Parliament for the Territory of Nunavut, was elected to the Liberal government in 2015. He served as the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard until his resignation from the post on May 31, 2016.
- Alia, Valerie (2007). Names and Nunavut Culture and Identity in Arctic Canada. New York: Berghahn Books.ISBN 1-84545-165-1.
- Henderson, Ailsa (2007). Nunavut: Rethinking Political Culture. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.ISBN 0-7748-1423-3.
- Dahl, Jens; Hicks, Jack; Jull, Peter, eds. (2002). Nunavut: Inuit regain control of their lands and their lives. International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. ISBN 87-90730-34-8.
- Kulchyski, Peter Keith (2005). Like the Sound of a Drum: Aboriginal Cultural Politics in Denendeh and Nunavut. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.ISBN 0-88755-178-5.
- Sanna, Ellyn, and William Hunter (2008). Canada's Modern-Day Aboriginal Peoples Nunavut & Evolving Relationships. Markham, Ont: Scholastic Canada.ISBN 978-0-7791-7322-8.
- Nunavut Kavamat / Government of Nunavut: Official site
- Nunavut at Curlie
- Map showing regions of Nunavut (from Nunavut Government website)
- Legislative Assembly of Nunavut
- Nunavut Planning Commission
- Annual Nunavut Mining Symposium held in April each year
- Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.: Nunavut Land Claims website
- The Nunavut Act of 1993 at Canadian Legal Information Institute
- Nunavut K-12 bilingual language instruction plan at the Wayback Machine (archived September 26, 2006): Martin, Ian. Aajiiqatigiingniq Language of Instruction Research Paper. Nunavut: Dept. of Education, 2000.
- CBC North Radio: hear Inuktitut and English radio from Nunavut
- Territorial newspaper reporting in Inuktitut and English, Nunatsiaq News
- Nunavut News from News/North