We celebrate Nunavut this April as we feature each of Canada's provinces and territories throughout the year for Canada's 150th birthday (or ~sesquicentennial~).
In a land far, far away (but not too far), in one of the northernmost remote areas of Canada, you will find Nunavut. A vast expanse of wild Canadian arctic terrain and polar desert with ferocious, majestic, and crafty wildlife inhabiting the Nunavut landscape. This place is a quietly fascinating world all on its own.
The people speak mainly in their native tongue, the language of the Inuit - Inuktitut - and govern themselves democratically. The territory is run by elders who do not participate in Canadian politics or political parties, but make final decisions - like the decision to highly regulate, if not ban altogether, alcohol.
Nunavut proudly joined the Canadian confederation on April 1, 1999 after separating from the Northwest Territories. In the fourth installment of our series, we share what we love about Nunavut to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.
Year founded: 1999
Languages spoken: Inuktitut, English
Number of national parks: 5
Population: 35,944 (as of 2016)
Area: 2,038,722 km2
Land of the Midnight Sun
On the shortest day of the year in December, Iqaluit gets about four hours of sunlight, while on the longest day of the year in June, Iqaluit gets about 20 hours of sunshine. During varying months between May and August, each community enjoys a full 24 hours of sunshine with beautiful twilight skies around midnight.
In June, the midnight sun coincides with Iqaluit’s Alianait Arts Festival. The annual festival celebrates this circumpolar Arctic phenomenon with musicians, circus acrobats, dancers, storytellers, and artists from around the world. This year 2017, Canadian folk musician favourite Joel Plaskett will be headlining with the Emergency and his father, Bill Plaskett.
It’s said that it’s easier to obtain a firearm in Nunavut than a bottle of whiskey.
Why’s that? Alcohol is prohibited in six out of the 25 communities that form Nunavut. This means it’s illegal to purchase, sell, transport, or possess liquor and anyone caught breaking the law can be faced with fines up to $500 and/or up to 30 days in jail.
Many communities use the ban to help lower the chances of harm caused by alcohol-related incidents.
With that being said, prohibition has turned bootlegging into a lucrative business. In 2014, the RCMP estimated Nunavut’s bottle liquor market rakes in about $10 million a year.
Some communities have completely lifted all restrictions in hopes the unrestricted access will lower the bootleg activity. Five communities are completely unrestricted, including Iqaluit, which means hotels and restaurants are licensed to serve alcohol. The remaining 14 communities use a governing committee system that oversees the quantities and purchasing of alcohol per community.
Here is a current list of the communities that do and do not serve alcohol:
Cambridge Bay, Grise Fiord, Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Taloyoak
Arctic Bay, Baker Lake, Cape Dorset, Chesterfield Inlet, Clyde River, Hall Beach, Iglooik, Kimmirut, Kugluktuk, Naujaat, Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaq, Resolute Bay, Whale Cove
Arviat, Coral Harbour, Gjoa Haven, Kugaaruk, Pangnirtung, Sanikiluaq
6 things you may not have known about Nunavut
- You can walk from the Iqaluit airport to downtown in 20 minutes.
- In Iqaluit, there’s a 7 km long road that branches off the main road to Apex and ends... nowhere. It’s called the Road to Nowhere.
- The people are affectionately known as Nunavummiut.
- Stop signs in Nunavut are in English and Inuktitut.
- Cabs in Iqaluit charge a flat rate of $7.
- “Nunavut” means our land in Inuktitut, “Iqaluit” means many fish and “Inuit” means the people.
- It gets so cold in the winter that plant life cannot survive. Greenhouses grow a majority of the produce. Fruits and vegetables have to be flown in or boated in which is why the Inuit eat mostly meat and fish.
Nunavut is home to where the polar bears roam. As well as, Arctic foxes, Arctic hares, wolves, muskoxen, and not mention the majestic creatures of the sea - narwhals, beluga whales, bowhead whales, walruses, seals, and several species of native wildlife more.
Unlike grizzlies and black bears, polar bears are known to actively prey on people. In the Arctic, while polar bears probably prefer to scavenge for seal (one of their favourites), they will hunt people for food due to being less used to the presence of people and having no ingrained fear of them.
IN CONCLUSION: Always check the boards for polar bear sightings and use a local guide before you head out for a trek through the national parks.
When to visit
It goes without saying - the winters are the coldest. Winter weather in Nunavut averages in temperature between -10 degrees celsius and -32 degrees celsius. If you’re heading out here for the winter, bring a sweater... or nine.
From October to April, the Northern Lights appear most vividly and frequently.
April and May are ideal for dog sledding and snow sports, while August and September are the most active summer season months for seeing wildlife, hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting.
How to get there!
It’s not as difficult as you would imagine for such a remote part of the world. There are three main cities (communities) that you will fly into in Nunavut - Iqaluit, Cambridge, or Rankin Inlet - and through these communities, you can go further to make your way into one of the smaller ones, like picturesque Baffin Island. Each community has its own harbour and airport.
Wherever you’re flying from in Canada, you’ll be stopping over at least once in either Montreal, Ottawa, Yellowknife, or Winnipeg. Daily scheduled flights serve Iqaluit and are operated by airlines Canadian North, First Air, Calm Air, and Iqaluit-based chartered flight service Kenn Borek Air. (For more information and to book a flight, e-mail us, call your local Flight Centre travel agent at 1-877-967-5302, or visit your closest Flight Centre store!)
Ready to Celebrate Canada with a visit to see the midnight sun? Contact your local Flight Centre travel agent by connecting with us online, calling 1-877-967-5302, or visiting your closest Flight Centre store.