Nunavut is the largest and newest 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 actual boundaries were established in 1993. The creation of Nunavut resulted in the first major change to Canada's map since the incorporation of the new province of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1949.
Nunavut (the Inuktitut word for “our land”), its 26 communities range in size from tiny Bathurst Inlet (population 25) to Iqaluit, the capital (population almost 6,000). For millennia a major Inuit homeland, Nunavut today is a growing society that blends the strength of its deep Inuit roots and traditions with a new spirit of diversity.
It is a territory that spans the two million square kilometers of Canada extending north and west of Hudson’s Bay, above the tree line to the North Pole. With landscapes that range from the flat muskeg of the Kivalliq to the towering mountain peaks and fiords of North Baffin, it is a Territory of extraordinary variety and breathtaking beauty.
With a median age of 22.1 years, Nunavut’s population is the youngest in Canada. It is also one of the fastest growing. Inuit represent about 85 percent of the population, and form the foundation of the Territory’s culture, with four languages Inuktitut, Inuinaqtun, English and French.
Inuit traditional games are based on hunting and survival skills. Bones, stones, thread – items found in ancient homesteads – become pieces in skill testing challenges. The Inuktitut language is the first language in Nunavut schools. Culture in this part of Canada is simply different from anywhere else in the world.
Inuit in Nunavut are recognized internationally for their stone sculptures, fine art prints and fabric arts. Over 27% of the population is involved in the production of Inuit art. Every community has amazing, artists producing original works in stone, bone, cloth, skins, prints and paints. It is pure magic!
Nothing in Nunavut is accessible by road or rail; everything, from people to fuel to food, arrives by plane or sealift. This physical isolation accounts for the highest cost of living in Canada, reflected in prices throughout the Territory. The largest employer in Nunavut is government – federal, territorial, and municipal. But new jobs are rapidly emerging in the mining and resource development sectors. Important growth is also occurring in the tourism sector, in fisheries, and in Inuit art such as carvings and prints.
Vast distances, a small but growing population, the high cost of materials
and labour, and extreme climate make the provision of adequate infrastructure one of Nunavut’s greatest challenges. The Government is currently pursuing federal assistance for a number of key infrastructure projects and other initiatives that will address that challenge, and provide a firm foundation for self-reliance and social and economic development.
The realization of Nunavut’s full economic potential will, in part, be contingent upon the improvement of the Territory’s infrastructure. Existing housing, sewage and waste management, transportation and telecommunications systems are already stretched beyond their limits, and will come under even greater pressure from Nunavut’s growing population.
One of the first things a visitor to Nunavut will notice is the absence of roads. Within communities, most roads are unpaved. The Government is exploring potential linkages to southern Canada. Under consideration are an all weather road from the central Kivalliq region in Nunavut to Manitoba, as well as the Bathurst Inlet road and port project to access the mineral rich area of the western Kitikmeot region.
In the absence of roads and marine infrastructure, air links are Nunavut’s lifeline.
Although each community has an airstrip, smaller communities are limited in the number and size of aircraft they can accommodate. With assistance from Canada, Nunavut is investing in airport infrastructure at community airports and exploring options for expanding the capacity of the Iqaluit airport, a key gateway to the Territory.
Nunavut is completely dependent on imported oil for its diesel power generation. Every drop of oil is brought in by ship or by air and stored in tanks over the winter months when the ocean freezes.
In a land without wood for cooking, uncooked meats are common. Certain walrus and whale dishes are for the extremely adventurous only. Even seeing these unique foods prepared and eaten will be a cultural experience you’ll remember forever.
Northern foods will surprise you with their texture and flavors. Arctic Char is a wonderful example. You can have this salmon-like fish smoked, dried, cooked in a stew or baked. Caribou meat has a very fine texture. Other foods can be exceptionally exotic.
Everywhere you turn you encounter people living with traditions and customs completely different from those found anywhere else. It’s totally authentic, casual and wonderful.
Nunavut is among the earth’s rarest treasures, pristine, unequalled and off the beaten track. Whether a day excursion or a backpacking trek in the wilderness, a unique hike awaits.
Whether a casual day trip or a well-planned journey, canoe trips are spectacular. Nunavut has a vast network of exceptional canoe rivers. Carved deep in the hinterland, many routes create protected areas where local plants and animals thrive. Be prepared to encounter musk-ox, caribou, or even grizzlies.
Sea kayaking is part of Inuit heritage. Nunavut’s 45,000 kilometers of coastline offers one of the world’s most diverse sea kayaking destinations, and many experienced guides.
And if its fish you enjoy Arctic Char is the hardest hitting, most dominant fish in the crystal clear waters of Nunavut. Fighting a 9 kg (20 lb.) char on a fly or light tackle will take all your skill and patience. Char – both sea-run and freshwater – can be found virtually everywhere in Nunavut. Their seasonal fiery red coloring and fabulously rich-red meat make them the premier Arctic fish. Outfitters in almost every community can lead you right to these magnificent fish.
Relax and enjoy nature in the comfort of Nunavut’s full service wilderness lodges. These lodges are located in some of the most pristine environments in the world and are havens for arctic wildlife and many species of birds.
Visiting Nunavut is always a pleasurable experience filled with culture.