Saturday, 11 January 2014


Nunavut, administrative region of Canada. Nunavut is located in the eastern Canadian Arctic and is Canada’s largest and newest territory, making up nearly 20 percent of the country. This territory was created on April 1, 1999, when the Northwest Territories was split into a western part, still known as the Northwest Territories, and an eastern part, known as the Territory of Nunavut.
Nunavut is the native homeland of the Inuit, who make up nearly 85 percent of the total population. The word Nunavut means “our land” in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit. The Inuit have high expectations that the new Nunavut government will encourage Inuit cultural development, including making Inuktitut a working language among public employees, and stimulate economic development.
Nunavut was created as part of a long process that originated with the Canadian government’s decision in the early 1970s to negotiate settlements with aboriginal groups that file land claims. The Inuit filed such a claim in 1976, and this led to an agreement between the federal government and the Inuit in 1993 called the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act. One aspect of the agreement committed the federal government to establish a new territory called Nunavut that would be a homeland for the Inuit. In 1993 the federal government passed the Nunavut Act, which lay the groundwork for a new territory. This same act also established the Nunavut Implementation Commission and assigned that commission the mandate to advise the federal government on matters pertaining to the creation of a new territory.
Nunavut is in the northeastern part of Canada; Greenland is to the east of it and the Northwest Territories to the west. The province of Manitoba forms its southern border, and Hudson Strait separates Nunavut from the province of Québec. Nunavut’s neighbor across the Arctic Ocean is Russia. Nearly 60 percent of Nunavut lies north of the Arctic Circle (latitude 66°30’ north). As one of the regions bordering on the Arctic Ocean, Nunavut belongs to the circumpolar world, or those areas surrounding the pole.
Although Nunavut extends over a vast area—2,093,190 sq km (808,185 sq mi)—its population is quite small. Its capital and largest community is Iqaluit. Nunavut’s population in 2007 was just 31,100. This combination of large geographic size and small population makes the territory the most sparsely populated area in Canada and one of the most sparsely populated areas in the world. Nunavut’s geography greatly limits its possibilities for economic growth.
The cold climate and permafrost (permanently frozen ground) in Nunavut prevent agricultural activities and make other economic activities very expensive. Another barrier to Nunavut’s economic development is its distance from world markets. In spite of these difficulties, Nunavut has natural resources that are attractive to large mining companies, and the Inuit expect resource development to improve Nunavut’s economy by generating jobs for residents. The Inuit have considerable control over Nunavut’s economy because the land claims agreement with the federal government gave the Inuit rights to subsurface minerals on lands selected by the Inuit.
Historically, the territory now known as Nunavut became part of Canada during the late 19th century. Before that time the land in northern Canada had been owned by Britain and controlled by the Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1870 part of the land known as Rupert’s Land was sold to Canada; the islands within the Arctic Ocean, collectively known as the Arctic Archipelago, were transferred to Canada by Britain in 1880. Most of the Arctic Archipelago now falls within the jurisdiction of Nunavut; the remainder is part of the Northwest Territories.
Nunavut is the largest political unit in Canada and constitutes one-fifth of Canada’s total landmass. This large area has a rectangular shape that extends northward to about latitude 84° north. Nunavut stretches 2,572 km (1,598 mi) from north to south and 2,532 km (1,573 mi) from east to west. The Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay are the most southerly islands in Nunavut. Boothia Peninsula, which extends almost to the 75th parallel, marks the most northerly part of Nunavut’s mainland. The northernmost portion of land in Nunavut, and in Canada, is at the northern tip of Ellesmere Island.
As Canada’s most northern territory, Nunavut includes both an Arctic mainland and Arctic islands in the Arctic Ocean and Hudson Bay. The Arctic mainland is shaped like a triangle and includes 900,000 sq km (350,000 sq mi). It extends from the southern edge of the tundra to the shores of the Arctic Ocean and Hudson Bay.
Within the Arctic Ocean, there are many islands that are collectively known as the Arctic Archipelago, which covers about 1 million sq km (420,000 sq mi). Several of these treeless islands are among the largest in Canada; Baffin Island is the largest island in Canada and the fifth largest island in the world. Other large islands in the Arctic Archipelago are Ellesmere, Devon, and Axel Heiberg.
The region’s topography ranges from coastal plains to rugged mountains. Elevations within the territory rise from sea level to 2,616 m (8,583 ft) at Barbeau Peak on Ellesmere Island. Ice caps on Baffin, Devon, and Ellesmere islands are remnants of the last Ice Age, when the Wisconsin Ice Sheet covered the Nunavut area. Glaciers also carved deep fjords along the coasts of Ellesmere Island.
Because most of Nunavut lies beyond the Arctic Circle, the region is characterized by long nights during the winter and long days during the summer. This phenomenon is most pronounced north of the Arctic Circle, where the sun remains above the horizon for 24 hours on the summer solstice (usually June 21 or 22) and never rises above the horizon on the winter solstice (usually December 21 or 22). The number of days that the sun stays above (or below) the horizon increases in higher latitudes until, at the North Pole, the sun doesn’t set for six months and doesn’t rise for the other six months.
A Permafrost
Permafrost is one reason why Nunavut has a cold environment. Found everywhere in Nunavut, permafrost is permanently frozen ground that maintains a temperature at or below the freezing point for at least two years. Permafrost developed long ago when an extremely cold climate caused the ground to freeze to great depths. During the summer, a thin layer of the surface known as the active layer may thaw, although the temperature of the ground beneath the active layer remains below freezing. Permafrost sometimes reaches depths of more than 500 meters (1,600 feet). Some scientists believe that global temperatures are increasing, resulting in warmer and longer summers. Such warming of Earth will increase the depth of the active layer and reduce the geographic extent of permafrost, perhaps even causing it to disappear. Construction in permafrost areas necessitates special precautions to avoid disturbing the frozen ground. Houses and buildings, for instance, are often built on piles so that an air space exists between the ground and the building, thus preventing warm air from reaching the ground.
B Natural Regions
The major physiographic regions in Nunavut are the Canadian Shield and the Arctic Lands. The Canadian Shield, which extends across northeastern Canada, was formed 2.5 billion years ago as Earth’s crust solidified from a molten, or liquid, state. Scientists place the rocks that formed in this process in the oldest geological time period, known as Precambrian time. This ancient rock mass is exposed at the Earth’s surface. In most places, the Canadian Shield consists of rugged, rolling terrain. It reaches its highest elevations along the coastal fjords of Baffin Island.
The Arctic Lands is a complex geological area that is centered on the Arctic Ocean. It includes coastal plains, plateaus, and mountains. Coastal plains and plateaus are found in the western Northwest Territories section of the Arctic Lands, such as on Victoria Island, which is mostly a large, flat plateau. In striking contrast to these relatively gentle landscapes, the eastern Nunavut section of the Arctic Lands is dominated by a jagged chain of ice-covered mountains. The mountains on Ellesmere Island are shrouded in a layer of ice 2,000 m (6,500 ft) thick. The highest elevation in the Arctic Lands is at the summit of Barbeau Peak.
Glaciation has affected both physiographic regions. During the last ice age, known as the Wisconsin Ice Age, a thick sheet of ice covered Nunavut. As this ice sheet expanded 25,000 years ago, it slowly moved over the land, scraping and scratching the surface. By 18,000 years ago, the Wisconsin Ice Sheet covering Nunavut was 3 to 4 km (1 to 3 mi) thick. About 15,000 years ago, Earth’s climate began to warm and the southern edge of this huge ice sheet began to melt and retreat. By 6,000 years ago, Nunavut was free of ice cover except for a few ice caps in the Arctic Archipelago. The major remnants of this great ice sheet are found on Baffin, Devon, and Ellesmere islands. During the melting of the ice sheet, material contained in the ice was deposited on the ground; such deposits are known as glacial drift.
C Rivers and Lakes
The Back and Coppermine rivers flow northward across the mainland of Nunavut and empty into the Arctic Ocean, while the waters of the Thelon and Kazan rivers travel eastward, discharging into Hudson Bay. The courses of the Thelon and Kazan rivers stretch across 904 km (562 mi) and 732 km (455 mi), respectively, while the Back and Coppermine rivers cover 974 km (605 mi) and 845 km (525 mi), respectively.
The major lakes on the mainland are Dubawnt Lake, Baker Lake, and Yathkyed Lake. The largest lakes in the Arctic Lands are located on Baffin Island and include Nettilling Lake and Amadjuak Lake.
D Coastline
Nunavut has an extensive coastline of 45,000 km (28,000 mi) that runs along the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and Hudson Bay. The territory’s islands situated in the Arctic Ocean and Hudson Bay have a total coastline of 35,000 km (22,000 mi); its mainland has a coastline of 10,000 km (6,000 mi).
Hudson Bay, the eastern border of Nunavut’s mainland, is an immense inland sea that covers 1,230,000 sq km (475,000 sq mi). It is also quite shallow, with an average depth of only 100 m (330 ft). Hudson Strait connects Hudson Bay to the Atlantic Ocean. Islands in Hudson Bay include Southampton Island and Coats Island.
Davis Strait and Baffin Bay, extensions of the North Atlantic Ocean, separate Nunavut from Greenland. Lancaster Sound, between Baffin and Devon islands, marks the entrance to the Arctic Ocean and the beginning of the Northwest Passage. The coastline of the Arctic Ocean extends from just east of the Beaufort Sea to the Gulf of Boothia, which separates the mainland from the northern part of Baffin Island.
E Climate
The arctic climate prevails in Nunavut. Overall, the arctic climate is the coldest of all climates; its summers are the coolest on Earth, and its winters are extremely cold. The arctic climate has an extremely short summer that can be measured in days rather than weeks or months. While the occasional summer day may reach temperatures of 20°C (68°F) or higher, freezing temperatures occur in July and August. The average daily temperature in those months is below 10°C (50°F).
The arctic climate is also noted for its long, cold winter, when temperatures of -40°C (-40°F) or colder occur. The coldest temperature ever recorded at Alert, Canada’s northernmost center in the Arctic, is -50°C (-58°F). Winter weather is characterized by clear skies, although arctic storms do occur and blizzards frequently punctuate the winter weather. Arctic blizzards are fierce snowstorms with intensely cold and strong winds. During the arctic winters, “whiteout” weather conditions often occur, during which a person’s depth perception is greatly impaired. Under these weather conditions, pilots find it extremely difficult to land aircraft.
F Plants and Animals
Nunavut’s arctic climate limits the possibilities for both plants and animals, forcing them to adapt to the cold environment. The short, cool summer prevents normal tree growth but does allow tundra vegetation to grow. Tundra vegetation consists of dwarf shrubs, sedges, heath, and lichens (a form of primitive plant), and is widespread over mainland Nunavut and Baffin Island.
The tundra vegetation is a source of food for grazing animals, or herbivores, such as the caribou, musk-ox, lemming, arctic ground squirrel, and arctic hare. Carnivorous animals, such as the grizzly bear, arctic fox, and wolf, feed on herbivores. Grizzly bears eat a variety of plants and fish, as well as large and small animals, from caribou to ground squirrels. Wolves follow the large caribou herds that graze on the lush tundra vegetation during the summer and on the shrubs, grasses, and lichens found in the forests south of Nunavut in the winter.
Farther north, where summer conditions are too cold for even tundra vegetation to survive, the land gives way to a polar desert where only lichens can survive. Such barren lands are found only in high latitudes (above 70° north) and are associated with the extremely cold and dry climate of the polar desert. Precipitation in the polar desert is often less than 100 mm (4 in) per year and occurs mostly in the summer. Few animals exist in this barren landscape.
The arctic marine environment in the oceans surrounding Nunavut provides homes for sea mammals such as seals, narwhals, and walrus. Bowhead whales and the smaller beluga whales frequent the Arctic waters. In the winter, polar bears make use of the land-fast ice (floating ice attached to the land) to hunt seals.
G Resources
Although Nunavut has neither arable land nor commercial forest, it is often thought of as a treasure trove of resources waiting for development. Nunavut’s natural wealth lies in its minerals and petroleum deposits. Minerals are found in the Canadian Shield, and oil and gas deposits exist in the Arctic Lands. However, the cost of developing and marketing these resources is high.
H Conservation
Nunavut’s national parks and game sanctuaries are part of the territory’s efforts to conserve the arctic wilderness. In 1999 there were two national parks in Nunavut: Auyuittuq and Ellesmere Island parks. Three more are proposed: Northern Baffin Island, Northern Bathurst Island, and Wager Bay parks.
With the signing of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act in 1993 and the establishment of the Nunavut government in 1999, the management of Nunavut’s environment and wildlife is co-managed with the federal government. Co-management aims to balance aboriginal and Western values concerning the environment and wildlife. Within this co-management arrangement, conservation focuses not only on using resources wisely and protecting the environment, but also on the hunting rights of the aboriginal peoples.
The complexity of co-management is evident in the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary. The federal government established the sanctuary in 1927 in the Northwest Territories as a wilderness preserve and thus prohibited hunting. When the Northwest Territories was divided, the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary was split between Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. The Inuit formed a committee to prepare a management plan for Nunavut’s portion of the sanctuary, and the Dene, a group native to the Northwest Territories, established a committee to manage their portion of the sanctuary. Both committees favor hunting by their peoples, but environmental groups strongly oppose hunting in the sanctuary.
In addition to Thelon, Nunavut has several animal preserves and sanctuaries, including an important nesting ground for geese at the Queen Maud Gulf Bird Sanctuary. Other preserves are the Bylot Island Bird Sanctuary, two bird sanctuaries on Southampton Island, and two game sanctuaries on Baffin Island.
Pollution is a problem in Nunavut and takes three forms: local, global, and relic. Local pollution occurring around settlements often contaminates the drinking water. Global air and ocean circulation systems bring pollution to the Arctic from distant industrial centers. Finally, relic pollution from toxic materials dumped in the ground years ago causes health problems. The worst sites of relic pollution are associated with abandoned United States military bases and Distant Early Warning (DEW) radar sites (including Iqaluit). Highly toxic materials were dumped near these sites, and efforts are under way to remove these toxic wastes.
Nunavut’s economy is extremely small, contributing less than one-tenth of a percent to Canada’s gross domestic product. In 1996 the average personal income in Nunavut, based on tax returns, was C$26,680. Although this per capita income is higher than the Canadian average of C$25,952, it must be discounted somewhat because of the much higher cost of living in Nunavut and the higher level of unemployment and underemployment (people of working age who are not seeking work). Consequently, C$11,000 is a more realistic estimate of the per capita income of the Inuit residents in Nunavut. In addition to these income figures, approximately one-third of the population receives social assistance payments.
Nunavut’s economy has three sectors: traditional Inuit hunting and trapping, mining, and the service industry. There is no commercial agriculture or forestry in Nunavut because of the extremely cold environment, but locally caught fish and game, known as country food, are extremely important. Aboriginal families consume large quantities of fish and game that they obtain themselves; hunting, fishing, and gathering activities provide about 40 percent of the food consumed by Inuit residents. Hunting for caribou and seal is a traditional aspect of the Inuit culture that provides fresh meat for Inuit families. Estimates show that replacing country food with store-bought food would cost millions of dollars.
Nunavut is an expensive place to live and conduct business. Building costs are at least 60 percent greater and food costs at least 30 percent greater than they are in southern Canada. Costs are higher because building materials and foodstuffs must be transported to Nunavut from the south. Foodstuffs flown to remote communities, such as Pelly Bay in the northeastern central portion of Nunavut, cost nearly twice as much as they do in southern Canada. Food costs in the capital city of Iqaluit are 1.7 times higher than those in southern Canada. The Nunavut government administers a public housing program that owns more than 80 percent of the housing stock. Without such a program, less than 20 percent of Nunavut’s population could afford decent housing.
To offset the high cost of living, wages are higher in Nunavut. Additionally, government employees living in remote communities receive an isolated-post allowance payment. Such payments are necessary to lure skilled and professional workers to Nunavut from southern Canada. However, if the Inuit workforce develops the necessary labor and professional skills, southern workers will no longer need to be enticed to move north.
Because Nunavut has a weak economy, it is unable to generate sufficient jobs or sufficient tax revenue. Consequently, Nunavut is troubled with a high unemployment rate and depends heavily on financial support from the federal government. In 1999 the territory’s revenue was $620 million, 90 percent of which came from the federal government.
A Employment and Labor
In 1996 the size of Nunavut’s labor force was 9,595 people. About 85 percent were employed in the service sector, primarily as public employees. This underscores the central role of government in Nunavut’s economy and Nunavut’s dependency on federal funding. Construction and processing activities account for about 10 percent of the labor force, while about 6 percent of the labor force works in mining and trapping. The production of Inuit sculptures and prints provides a form of self-employment and an important source of income.
Together, the Nunavut and federal governments employ close to 60 percent of all workers, while the private service sector accounts for 24 percent. The dominance of the government in Nunavut’s economy goes beyond direct employment. For instance, building contractors and private service firms depend heavily on government business and contracts. With indirect employment by the government of Nunavut possibly as high as 25 percent, direct and indirect public employment totals about 85 percent.
Unemployment poses a serious problem and contributes to the social ills found in Nunavut. Without government activities, none of the communities, with the exception of Nanisivik, has a strong economic base capable of employing most people. The official unemployment rate of 15.3 percent in 1996 compared rather well with the rate of 11.7 percent in the Northwest Territories and Canada’s overall rate of 10.1 percent. However, these figures do not count people living in communities without any chance of employment, so the unofficial unemployment rate in Nunavut is much higher, perhaps double.
In the past, many of the mining and public sector jobs have gone to workers from southern provinces who had the necessary education, skills, and job experience. As a result, unemployment rates have been highest among Inuit workers, who often are qualified only for the less-skilled and lower-paying jobs. A major task confronting the government of Nunavut is to break this cycle of poverty.
B Fisheries
In 1996 commercial fishing in Nunavut was valued at around C$300,000 per year. Arctic char is the most important commercial fish. Most commercial fishing takes place at the mouths of the main rivers flowing into the Arctic Ocean and Hudson Bay. Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island and Rankin Inlet on Hudson Bay are major fish processing centers. Some fish are sold locally to retail stores, but most go to the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation, a publicly operated agency that sells fish to retail stores in Canada and the United States.
C Furs
The fur industry in Nunavut is based on seal and white fox. Trapping, once the core of Nunavut’s economy and the primary source of income for the Inuit, has lost much of its commercial importance. Seal hunting remains a major source of food, but demand for seal pelts in the world market has decreased. In 1983 and 1984 the value of fur production in Nunavut was C$700,000, but by 1995 and 1996 it had declined to C$300,000.
The reasons for the decline in the fur economy are complex. Fluctuations in the size of animal populations and in the prices for pelts played a role in the decline. In addition, the Inuit were relocated to settlements in the 1950s, and thereafter were less involved in land-based activities. Wages and transfer payments, including welfare and unemployment compensation, became more important sources of income than trapping.
Living in settlements had other negative impacts on trapping and sealing, as well as important social changes. Trappers had to travel long distances to traditional trapping and sealing grounds, which meant time away from their families. The nature of hunting also changed. Trappers began to use snowmobiles instead of dog teams, increasing costs. Trapping became an enterprise undertaken by a group of adult men, rather than a family enterprise in which each member had specific duties.
The major factor in the decline of the fur industry is the animal rights movement. International animal rights groups have worked to stop commercial seal hunting on the ice around Newfoundland and Labrador. These groups convinced the European Union to ban the importation of seal pelts, thus destroying the main market for these pelts. While the animal rights groups did not specifically target the Inuit hunters, seal hunting in the Arctic declined sharply. At the end of the 20th century, one source of income from hunting was the sale of polar bear licenses to wealthy big-game hunters from the south seeking to hunt these big game animals.
D Mining
Minerals are a nonrenewable resource, and mining is therefore subject to boom-and-bust cycles. When the ore is eventually exhausted and the mine closes, the loss of jobs severely affects the community and the region. Rankin Inlet suffered from such a closure when the North Rankin Nickel Mine shut in 1962. Now Rankin Inlet’s economy is almost totally dependent on the public sector—less than 30 percent is privately operated. Even the community-run fish-processing plant that handled 13 tons of fish in 1995 and 1996, with a commercial value of C$129,000, is part of the public sector.
In 1999 Nunavut had two lead and zinc mines. The Nanisivik mine on the northern tip of Baffin Island began production in 1974. Seven years later, the Polaris mine commenced mining operations on Little Cornwallis Island in the central part of the Arctic Archipelago. In 1996 these two mines generated C$300 million worth of the two metals. Both mines are troubled by transportation difficulties because a thick sheet of ice covers the waters surrounding these two islands most of the year. As a result, these remote mines receive supplies of equipment and materials by ship once every summer. On the return voyage, these ships transport the ore to smelters in Europe and the United States.
Most of the miners are flown into the mine sites from other parts of Canada. They work long hours for two weeks and then are flown back home for a week. This system, often called air commuting, is the preferred method of securing labor for remote mines because building a town is too expensive, and the mining operation often has a short projected life span (20 years or less). While air commuting has many advantages, it reduces the economic benefits of the mining operations for Nunavut.
E Manufacturing
Very little manufacturing takes place in Nunavut. Most manufacturing involves the processing of lead and zinc ore to remove waste ore and thereby produce a higher grade ore. Such processing is necessary because it costs less to ship the higher grade ore to smelters in Europe and the United States.
F Services
The service sector, which includes both private firms and public agencies, employs the largest number of Nunavut’s workers—about 8,500 in 1996. Most service-sector jobs are in the capital city of Iqaluit and in regional centers such as Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay. In 1996 the public service sector employed 4,175 people, or 44 percent of those in the labor force, including administrators, nurses, and teachers. The private service sector is primarily personal service, retail, and restaurant businesses. In total, the private service sector employed about 4,040 people (42 percent) in 1996.
G Energy
Large oil and gas reserves have been discovered in the Sverdrup basin in the northern part of the Arctic Ocean, but these reserves have not been developed commercially because of the high cost of extracting and transporting the oil and gas to southern markets. Until world oil prices reach US$40 per barrel, oil in the Sverdrup basin will remain untapped (the price of oil was less than US$15 per barrel in 1998).
H Transportation
The airplane is the main vehicle of transportation in Nunavut since no highways or railways extend from southern Canada into the territory. Air service reaches all communities as well as the two isolated mining sites. Ocean ships bring food and building supplies to about 80 percent of the communities and both mines; these ships also transport ore to foreign markets.
The transportation system has three main functions. The primary role is transporting people between communities in Nunavut as well as to places outside the territory; most of this is done by air. The secondary function is exporting minerals to Europe and the United States and importing the equipment and supplies required for mining. The third function is shipping consumer goods and foodstuffs from southern Canada to retail stores in Nunavut. Perishable foodstuffs are shipped by air, while nonperishable items can be transported by either air or supply ships.
I Tourism
Nunavut attracts many tourists, especially in the summer. The territory has two national parks: Quttinirpaaq National Park at the northern tip of Ellesmere Island, and Auyuittuq National Park on the eastern coast of Baffin Island. As part of the land claims agreement, Nunavut will obtain three new federally funded national parks. In addition, there are more than a dozen territorial parks, historic parks, and national historic sites. The national and territorial parks attract hikers, climbers, sport fishers, and others seeking the wilderness experience. Hunters also come to Nunavut for the unique experience of hunting polar bears.
A Population Patterns
The population of Nunavut is increasing more rapidly than that of any other region of Canada. Since World War II (1939-1945), the population has more than doubled, reaching 31,100 inhabitants by 2007. This population increase is due to a high rate of natural increase among the Inuit. This natural increase results from a high birthrate (24.1 births per 1,000 persons in 2006–2007) and a low death rate (4.3 deaths per 1,000 persons). In comparison, the birthrate in Canada for 2008 was 10.7 and the death rate was 7.9. The difference in the natural rate of increase for Canada and Nunavut is striking—Canada’s rate is 0.5 percent, while Nunavut’s is 2.7 percent, a difference of almost six times.
Nunavut’s population is growing rapidly because of its high rate of natural increase. From 1991 to 2001, its population increased by over 20 percent. As a consequence, Nunavut has a very young population and an expanding labor force. In 2001, 37 percent of the population was under the age of 15. The territory’s population is expected to continue to grow because its fertility rate remains well above the national average.
The population is unevenly distributed across Nunavut. Baffin Island, where the territorial capital is located, is home to about half of the population. Twenty-eight percent of the population lives along the coast of Hudson Bay between the Manitoba border and Southampton Island, with most of those people living in Rankin Inlet, Arviat, and Baker Lake. The remaining people, some 20 percent of Nunavut’s population, live along the coast of the Arctic Ocean.
B Settlements
Almost everyone in Nunavut lives in a settlement. The principal settlements are Iqaluit (population 6,184 in 2006) and Rankin Inlet (2,358). There are eight more settlements with relatively large populations: Arviat (2,060), Chesterfield Inlet (332), Cambridge Bay (1,477), Pangnirtung (1,325), Kugluktuk—formerly Coppermine (1,201), Igoolik (1,174), Pond Inlet (1,315), and Cape Dorset (1,236). There are two types of settlements: administrative and service centers such as Iqaluit, and native settlements such as Grise Fiord.
C Ethnic Groups and Languages
The main ethnic group in Nunavut is the Inuit, which makes up 85 percent of the population. The remaining population consists of southern Canadians who were attracted to high-paying jobs in Nunavut. The principal languages are Inuktitut, English, and French. Many Inuit speak English as well as Inuktitut.
D Religion
Anglican and Roman Catholic missionaries arrived in Nunavut at the beginning of the 20th century. Within a short period of time, most Inuit were converted to Christianity. In 1996 the vast majority of the residents of Nunavut were Christians, about 96 percent. About 72 percent of these were Protestants (mainly Anglican), with 24 percent being Roman Catholic.
A Culture
The Inuit and Canadian cultures coexist in Nunavut. Canadian culture has its roots in Western civilization, while the Inuit culture stems from an ancient, nomadic hunting society in which survival depended on collective rather than individual actions. In the ancient past, nature took on a spiritual form, and even today the land and its wildlife hold a special place in Inuit culture and day-to-day life. The very survival of the Inuit depended on collective actions and behavior such as the share ethic. This ethic required the successful hunter to share his kill with other members of his extended family group.
This sense of collectivity and deep appreciation of the arctic environment remains in contemporary Inuit society, giving the Inuit a distinctive cultural perspective. Sharing, for example, remains a key element in modern Inuit culture, although it is restricted to traditional activities, especially the sharing of game and fish among members of an extended family. It is less likely to occur with modern activities or with income gained from employment or business ventures.
Contact with Europeans induced a number of changes in the Inuit culture, including conversion to Christianity and involvement in the commercial whaling and fur economy. However, the Inuit culture underwent dramatic cultural adjustment, some would even say cultural shock, during the 1950s after the Inuit were moved into permanent settlements. The government encouraged the Inuit to settle around fur-trading posts, where food supplies could be readily available in case of need.
This relocation policy marked the beginning of fundamental changes for the Inuit. They became settlement dwellers, and their children, by attending school and being exposed to the outside world through the mass media, became part of the modern industrial world. Unfortunately, these former fur-trading posts have virtually no economic base and few job opportunities. The consequence has been high rates of unemployment and, for some people, a general disillusionment with their lot in life. The social cost of such rapid cultural change has included extremely high rates of alcoholism, family violence, and suicide.
Despite these negative effects, the Inuit have produced leaders, created the Territory of Nunavut, and established Inuit businesses. Settling their land claims and devising a political structure for the Nunavut government have given the Inuit a sense of accomplishment, purpose, and pride.
B Arts
Contemporary Inuit art and literature are often based on traditional art forms, such as carvings, drum dancing, and throat singing. Printmaking and soapstone carving are modern forms of Inuit art. While employed as an administrator in the Arctic, artist, author, and filmmaker James Houston was instrumental in stimulating Eskimo printmaking at Cape Dorset in the 1960s. He also wrote children’s books and adult novels about the Inuit and the Arctic. Susan Aglukark, a well-known Inuit singer and songwriter, has written and sung songs in both English and Inuktitut. In 1999 author Mitiarjuk Attasie Nappaaluk became the first Inuit to win an Aboriginal Achievement Award. Southern Canadian artists and writers have also produced work about the Canadian Arctic.
C Museums
The main museum in Nunavut, the Nunatta Sunaqutangit Museum in Iqaluit, features Inuit prints and sculptures. Other museums are located in Arctic Bay and Pangnirtung. The Kekerten Historic Park south of Pangnirtung features a reconstructed 19th-century whaling station. Other towns have local museums, visitor centers with historic and artistic displays, and community libraries.
D Education
The Nunavut government is responsible for delivering primary, secondary, and postsecondary education. In the 1997-1998 academic year, 665 teachers provided instruction to about 8,000 students in 42 schools. Approximately half of the communities in Nunavut have a high school, including Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, and Cambridge Bay. Relatively few students graduate from high school—only 67 graduated in 1997—partly because most native settlements are too small to have a high school.
Nunavut Arctic College, which is based in Iqaluit but which provides classes in many communities, provides postsecondary education. The low level of education in Nunavut is negatively affecting the recruitment of Inuit to work in the new government. Because of this problem, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act committed the Canadian government to contributing C$13 million toward an Implementation Training Trust. The aim of the trust was to train the Inuit as civil servants for the government of Nunavut and for the Inuit organizations administering Inuit rights and benefits under the agreement. This program has had limited success, and many of the senior and middle management administrative positions and almost all of the professional positions are held by non-Inuit workers, indicating that creating a well-educated population in Nunavut through schooling is still a long way off.
Most recreational activities in Nunavut are related to the outdoors. Canoeing, hiking, and fishing are extremely popular summer activities, while cross-country skiing and ice fishing are two favorite winter sports. Recreational facilities such as school gyms and outdoor playgrounds exist in all communities, although indoor facilities such as swimming pools are located only at Iqaluit and Nanisivik.
Nunavut has a territorial government. This territorial government has many of the same political powers assigned to provinces under the Canadian constitution, but powers assigned to Nunavut are delegated to the territory by the national government in Ottawa, Ontario. These powers extend over health care, housing, renewable resources, and social services. In 1998 discussions began regarding the transfer of control over nonrenewable resources (such as minerals, oil, and gas) to the territorial government, but this issue remains unresolved. One reason is that royalties from nonrenewable resources on federal land go to Ottawa, not Iqaluit, and royalties from minerals on Inuit-owned land are split between Ottawa and the Inuit. The federal government has powers over the territory in other areas, such as taxation, foreign affairs, and the armed forces. Residents of Nunavut elect one member to the Canadian House of Commons to represent their interests in Ottawa (see Canadian Parliament).
A Executive
The premier is the head of the Nunavut government. The premier is elected by the Legislative Assembly, which also selects the members of the cabinet. Nunavut’s first assembly was elected in February 1999. The following month the new assembly chose Paul Okalik as the first premier of Nunavut.They also selected seven cabinet members and a deputy speaker of the legislature. Okalik was reelected in 2004.
B Legislature
The Legislative Assembly of Nunavut has 19 members elected from the ridings, or electoral districts, of Nunavut. Elections must be held at least every five years, and the assembly must meet at least once every 12 months. The assembly has the power to make laws affecting the residents of Nunavut. Unlike its counterpart in the national government, the Nunavut legislature does not operate on a party structure, and members of the Nunavut assembly do not belong to political parties.
C Judiciary
The judiciary system of Nunavut takes into account the region’s vast geography and the scattered nature of its communities. The Canadian government amended the Nunavut Act in 1999, creating the Nunavut Court of Justice, a one-level court system that deals with both civil disputes and criminal cases. The Nunavut Court of Justice has the status of a superior court. Having one court handle all legal matters reduces the number of visits the judge and other members of the court have to make to each community. Each community has at least one justice of the peace to rule on violations of territorial statutes and municipal bylaws. The federal government appoints the judges of the Nunavut Court of Justice.
D Finances
Each year, the government of Nunavut receives a large grant, or transfer of money, from the federal government. In 1999 the federal transfer was C$585 million, which amounted to more than 90 percent of Nunavut’s budget. Without such financial support from the Canadian government, Nunavut would not be able to operate its government or provide basic services to its residents. This level of financial dependency is due partly to Nunavut’s limited powers of taxation. For example, the federal government, not the territorial government, collects the royalties from resource development. This heavy dependency on the federal government is also true for the other northern territories, the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories. The new government of Nunavut hopes to stimulate economic growth within its territory and reduce this financial dependency.
E Social Services
The territorial government is responsible for social services and health care. The Department of Health and Social Services delivers these services through Baffin Regional Hospital (the only hospital in Nunavut), community health centers, nursing stations, and social services offices. The main headquarters of this government department is in Iqaluit, but there are local boards in each region.
A Early Inhabitants
People probably first came to Nunavut across the Bering Strait from Asia some 5,000 years ago. These early Paleo-Eskimo peoples, known as Denbigh, were marine hunters who migrated along the Arctic coast searching for seal. They were later displaced by the Dorset people about 500 bc. About 1000 ad the Thule from the coastal areas of Alaska replaced the Dorset culture. The Thule were the ancestors of the Inuit. They developed marine technology that enabled them to hunt the bowhead whale. See also Native Americans of North America: Arctic
B Exploration
Vikings probably explored the shores of Nunavut from their Greenland colony, but the first European to reach Nunavut was English explorer Sir Martin Frobisher, who was seeking the Northwest Passage to Asia. Frobisher landed on Baffin Island near Iqaluit in 1576, and he made two more voyages to the area looking for gold. The search for the Northwest Passage brought many explorers to the Arctic. English explorer John Davis followed in Frobisher’s footsteps in the 1580s, although the ice around Baffin Island prevented him from exploring west of the island. Davis wrote about the Inuit living along the Arctic coast, and the strait between Greenland and Baffin Island is named for him. In 1610 English navigator Henry Hudson discovered Hudson Strait (between Québec and Baffin Island), and during the 17th century a number of explorers unsuccessfully searched the strait and Hudson Bay for possible passages through the Arctic.
After learning of the presence of whales in these Arctic waters from the explorers, whaling ships soon appeared off the coast of Nunavut. Commercial whaling took place along the east coast of Nunavut as early as the 17th century, but whalers did not have much contact with the Inuit until the middle of the 19th century, when the practice known as “wintering over” began. The establishment of whaling camps facilitated contact between the whalers and the Inuit, and trade and working arrangements ensued. Since the Inuit had hunted whales for food, they were able to join the whalers as crewmen and harpooners. Inuit women made winter clothing for the whalers.
In the 18th century, British explorer Samuel Hearne, an employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company, was instructed to search for the source of rich copper deposits reported near the Arctic Ocean. In December 1770 Hearne began a journey with a group of Chipewyan Indians, whose chief, Matonabbee, knew the route to the copper deposits. By the following summer they had reached the shores of the Arctic Ocean. On their return from the Arctic coast, Hearne and the Chipewyan spent several months at Great Slave Lake in the winter of 1771 and 1772 before returning to Prince of Wales Fort (now Churchill, Manitoba) at the mouth of the Churchill River in June 1772.
The British navy launched a series of expeditions in the 19th century searching for the Northwest Passage. British naval officer and explorer Sir Edward Parry sought the Northwest Passage early in the century, making it as far as Melville Island. Sir John Ross explored the area along the north coast of Baffin Island during the early 1830s, discovering Boothia Peninsula, the Gulf of Boothia, and King William Island. In 1845 Sir John Franklin, who had explored the Arctic coast twice before, was selected to search for the Northwest Passage. After entering the Arctic Ocean, Franklin’s ships were locked into heavy ice, and he and his men perished. During the massive searches for Franklin that ensued, the British admiralty mapped most of the islands in the Arctic Archipelago.
On his first voyage, between 1903 and 1906, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first person to successfully navigate a single ship through the Northwest Passage. Vilhjalmur Stefansson, a Canadian-born explorer, anthropologist, and writer, made the last major discoveries in the north Arctic. Between 1906 and 1918 Stefansson made three expeditions into the western and northern Arctic. He discovered several islands in the Arctic Ocean, including Borden, Meighen, Brock, and Lougheed islands.
C Colonial Status and Confederation
Between 1670 and 1870 the area that is now Nunavut was part of Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory, a vast area owned by Britain. The Hudson’s Bay Company, a British firm, controlled these lands and the northern fur trade. In 1870 Canada purchased the land from Britain. It became part of the Confederation of Canada and was renamed the North-West Territories. There were no British settlements in the territory, except for a number of whaling camps. In 1880 the British government transferred its claim to the Arctic Archipelago to Canada.
These geopolitical changes had little impact on the people in the Canadian north. More important were the European whalers, who in the 19th century employed the Inuit as pilots and hunters. Contact with Europeans brought foreign diseases to the native populations, killing many. The large number of whaling ships also wiped out herds of animals to feed the increased numbers of people. These changes caused many Inuit to start relying on Europeans for food and clothing.
D 20th Century
By the beginning of the 20th century, economic activity in Nunavut was shifting from whaling to the fur trade. The whaling industry eventually collapsed as petroleum products replaced whale oil. The Nunavut population at the turn of the century consisted of the Inuit and a few white traders, missionaries, and North-West Mounted Police. The Inuit hunted seals and caribou and trapped fur-bearing animals such as the arctic fox.
Cultural change accelerated as Anglican and Roman Catholic missionaries arrived in the wake of whalers and fur traders, converting most of the aboriginal people to Christianity. The churches undertook the task of assimilating the Inuit into the European world. The Canadian government helped this assimilation process by turning over the education of the Inuit to the churches. Both the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches established residential schools in Nunavut. These were boarding schools where Inuit children lived and worked, separated from their families. Protests by native peoples regarding harsh conditions in the residential schools led to their closure in 1969.
By the middle of the 20th century, the Inuit had come into closer contact with outsiders, at first as a result of military activity. During World War II the region was an important military air route to the United Kingdom. The United States built a number of American air bases, including one at Iqaluit (then called Frobisher Bay). The Cold War followed World War II, and the United States constructed a number of Distant Early Warning (DEW) radar stations across the Canadian Arctic. Inuit were involved in constructing these military facilities.
Attracted by wage employment and the services associated with these military construction sites, the Inuit began to build shacks around the edges of the sites. Other Inuit remained on the land, practicing a more traditional lifestyle. By the 1950s the Canadian government began sponsoring the massive movement into settlements.
World demand for energy and minerals also increased during the 20th century, and exploration for these resources increased in Nunavut. Oil companies discovered vast quantities of petroleum in the Sverdrup basin in the 1970s, but resource development is hampered by high production and transportation costs. At the end of the 20th century, only two lead and zinc mines were operating.
E Recent Developments
Two major developments took place during the 1990s: settlement of the Inuit land claims and creation of the Territory of Nunavut. Together, these developments provided the Inuit with the tools to shape their destiny in the 21st century.
E1 Inuit Land Claims Agreement
The creation of the Territory of Nunavut is linked to settlement of the Inuit’s land claims with the Canadian government. During the 1970s, the Inuit claimed the rights to aboriginal land in the central and eastern Arctic. The Tungavik Federation of Nunavut was the Inuit negotiating organization that reached a land claim agreement with the federal government. After the passing of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act by the Canadian government in 1993, the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut became Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, which manages the cash benefits obtained under the Nunavut Lands Claim Agreement. The agreement also included the Nunavut Political Accord, which called for the establishment of a separate territory for the Inuit. In 1993 the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act were ratified by parliament at the same time. A transition period to 1999 was designed to help the Inuit prepare for the new government of Nunavut and for the training of Nunavut residents for job opportunities created by the government of Nunavut.
Three major obstacles remained. The first was determining whether a majority of people in the Northwest Territories favored splitting the territory. In 1982 a plebiscite, or direct vote of the people, was taken and the voters approved dividing up the Northwest Territories. Second, the Inuit and Dene, the people native to the western Northwest Territories, had to agree on the boundary separating Nunavut from the Northwest Territories. In 1992 residents in the Northwest Territories approved the proposed boundary. Finally, the Inuit had to ratify the final Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act with the government. The Inuit ratified the agreement in November 1992 with the support of 85 percent of Inuit voters.
With these obstacles overcome, the national government in Ottawa proceeded to enact the appropriate legislation. In 1993 the Parliament of Canada passed the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, ratifying the agreement with the Inuit, and the Nunavut Act, creating Nunavut out of the Northwest Territories.
The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act represents the largest land claims settlement in Canada. Under this agreement, the Inuit surrendered their aboriginal rights to lands and waters anywhere in Canada in exchange for a number of benefits. The agreement included a cash benefit totaling C$1.148 billion, spread over 14 years, with the first payment in 1993. In addition, a C$13 million Training Trust Fund was established to prepare the Inuit for the approximately 600 new government jobs in Nunavut. The Inuit received legal title to 350,000 sq km (135,000 sq mi) of land, 35,200 sq km (13,600 sq mi) of which include mineral rights.
The agreement also established clear rules of ownership and control over land and resources within Nunavut. For example, the Inuit have equal representation on the management boards for wildlife, resources, and the environment in Nunavut. Other features include the right to harvest wildlife on government lands and waters; a share of federal government royalties from oil, gas, and mineral development on government lands; and the creation of three new national parks. The agreement contained a provision establishing the Territory of Nunavut and through this territory a form of self-government for the Nunavut Inuit.
E2 The Territory of Nunavut
The Nunavut Act envisaged that the government of Nunavut would evolve into a full-fledged territorial government by April 1, 1999. It set a transition period to allow the Inuit to take charge of their new government. The Nunavut Act established the Nunavut Implementation Commission to handle matters during the transition period between 1993 and 1999. The commission’s mandate was to advise the government of Canada, the government of the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated regarding the organization and structure of the new government leading up to April 1, 1999.
The commission faced two pressing issues: dividing the assets and liabilities of the Northwest Territories between the two territories, and devising a timetable for transferring services from the government of the Northwest Territories to the government of Nunavut. Other issues the commission dealt with were establishing training programs for Inuit seeking jobs within Nunavut’s civil service and determining the process for electing the government of Nunavut.
In February 1999 more than 10,000 voters, representing 88 percent of those eligible to vote, selected the 19 members of Nunavut’s first legislative assembly. The assembly met the following month to elect a premier, a cabinet, and a deputy of the assembly so that the Nunavut government was in place on April 1, the official establishment day for the territory.
F The Future
The birth of Nunavut fulfills a dream. The combination of a land claims agreement and a political state is unique in Canadian history. Even though Nunavut’s geography limits its opportunities to develop its economy, the Inuit now have control over their lands and people. Events in the 1990s provided the foundation for a better future. The settling of outstanding Inuit land claims and the creation of a new territory allow the Inuit to focus their energies on economic and social issues. Expectations are high, but major challenges confront the government and the managers of the Inuit lands. Both must encourage economic and social developments that break the poverty cycle holding back many Inuit families. Although development involves many factors, many more young Inuit will have to prepare themselves for these new economic opportunities if Nunavut is to reach its full potential.

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