Politics of Nunavut

Not to be confused with Nunavik, a region in northern Quebec, or Nunatsiavut, an autonomous Inuit region in northern Newfoundland and Labrador.
For the Canadian federal electoral district, see Nunavut (electoral district).

Coat of arms of Nunavut
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: ᓄᓇᕗᑦ ᓴᙱᓂᕗᑦ  (Inuktitut)
"Nunavut Sannginivut"
"Our land, our strength"
Capital Iqaluit
Largest city Iqaluit
Largest metro Iqaluit
Official languages Inuit (Inuktitut • Inuinnaqtun)
Demonym Nunavummiut
Nunavummiuq (sing.)[2]
Commissioner Edna Elias
Premier Eva Aariak (Independent)
Legislature Legislative Assembly of Nunavut
Federal representation (in Canadian Parliament)
House seats 1 of 308 (0.3%)
Senate seats 1 of 105 (1%)
Confederation April 1, 1999 (13th)
Area [3] Ranked 1st
Total 2,038,722 km2 (787,155 sq mi)
Land 1,877,787 km2 (725,018 sq mi)
Water (%) 160,935 km2 (62,137 sq mi) (7.9%)
Proportion of Canada 20.4% of 9,984,670 km2
Population [3] Ranked 13th
Total (2011) 31,906
Density (2011) 0.02 /km2 (0.052 /sq mi)
GDP  Ranked 13th
Total (2011) C$1.964 billion[4]
Per capita C$58,452 (6th)
Postal NU
ISO 3166-2 CA-NU
Time zone UTC-5, UTC-6, UTC-7
Postal code prefix X
Flower Purple Saxifrage[5]
Tree n/a
Bird Rock Ptarmigan[6]
Website www.gov.nu.ca
Rankings include all provinces and territories

Nunavut /ˈnnəˌvʊt/ (from Inuktitut: ᓄᓇᕗᑦ [ˈnunavut]) is the largest, northernmost and newest territory of Canada. It was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act[7] and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act,[8] though the boundaries had been contemplatively drawn in 1993. The creation of Nunavut resulted in the first major change to Canada's political map since the incorporation of the new province of Newfoundland and Labrador 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 the largest in North America. 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 Akimiski Island in James Bay to the far south. It is the only geo-political region of Canada that is not connected to the rest of North America by highway.

Nunavut is both the least populous and the largest in area of the provinces and territories of Canada. One of the most remote, sparsely settled regions in the world, it has a population of 31,906,[3] mostly Inuit, spread over land area the size of Western Europe, Mexico, or Indonesia. Nunavut is also home to the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world. Alert, a weather station further down Ellesmere Island, Eureka, has the lowest average annual temperature of any weather station in Canada.[9]


Nunavut means "our land" in Inuktitut.


Main article: Geography of Nunavut

Nunavut covers 1,877,787 km2 (725,018 sq mi)[3] of land and 160,935 km2 (62,137 sq mi)[10] 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), which belonged to the Northwest Territories. 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.[11]

Nunavut has land borders with the Northwest Territories on several islands as well as the mainland, Manitoba to the south of the Nunavut mainland, Saskatchewan to the southwest (at a single four-corner point) and a tiny land border with Newfoundland and Labrador on Killiniq Island. It also shares maritime borders with the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba and with Greenland.

Nunavut's highest point is Barbeau Peak (2,616 m (8,583 ft)) on Ellesmere Island. The population density is 0.015 persons per square kilometre, one of the lowest in the world. By comparison, Greenland has approximately the same area and nearly twice the population.[12]


Nunavut experiences a polar climate in most regions, owing to its high latitude.

Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for selected locations in Nunavut[13]
City July (°C) July (°F) January (°C) January (°F)
Eureka 9/3 48/37 -34/-41 -28/-41
Alert 6/1 43/33 -29/-36 -20/-33
Iqaluit 12/4 53/39 -23/-31 -9/-23


Main article: History of Nunavut

The region now known as Nunavut has supported a continuous indigenous population for approximately 4,000 years. Most historians identify the coast of Baffin Island with the Helluland described in Norse sagas, so it is possible that the inhabitants of the region had occasional contact with Norse sailors.

Archaeological findings

In September 2008, researchers reported on the evaluation of existing and newly excavated archaeological remains, including yarn spun from a hare, rats, tally sticks, a carved wooden face mask that depicts Caucasian features, and possible architectural material. The materials were collected in five seasons of excavation at Cape Banfield. Scholars determined that these provide evidence of European traders and possibly settlers on Baffin Island, not later than 1000 CE. They seem to indicate prolonged contact, possibly up to 1450. The origin of the Old World contact is unclear; the article states: "Dating of some yarn and other artifacts, presumed to be left by Vikings on Baffin Island, have produced an age that predates the Vikings by several hundred years. So [...] you have to consider the possibility that as remote as it may seem, these finds may represent evidence of contact with Europeans prior to the Vikings' arrival in Greenland."[14]

First written historical accounts

The written historical accounts of Nunavut begin in 1576, with an account by an English explorer. Martin Frobisher, while leading an expedition to find the Northwest Passage, thought he had discovered gold ore around the body of water now known as Frobisher Bay on the coast of Baffin Island.[15] 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.

Cold War

Cornwallis and Ellesmere Islands feature in the history of the Cold War in the 1950s. Concerned about the area's strategic geopolitical position, the federal government relocated Inuit from the High Arctic of northern Quebec to Resolute and Grise Fiord. In the unfamiliar and hostile conditions, they faced starvation[16] but were forced to stay.[17] Forty years later, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples issued a report titled The High Arctic Relocation: A Report on the 1953–55 Relocation.[18] The government paid compensation to those affected and their descendants, but it did not apologize.[19]

Recent history

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.[20]

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[8] and the Nunavut Act[7] were passed by the Canadian Parliament. The transition to establish Nunavut Territory was completed on April 1, 1999.[21] The creation of Nunavut has been followed by growth in the capital Iqaluit, a modest increase from 5200 in 2001 to 6600 in 2011.


As of the 2011 Census, the population of Nunavut was 31,906, an 8.3% increase from 2006.[3] In 2006, 24,640 people identified themselves as Inuit (83.6% of the total population), 100 as First Nations (0.34%), 130 Métis (0.44%) and 4,410 as non-aboriginal (14.96%).[22]

Ten largest communities
Municipality 2006 2001 growth
Iqaluit 6,184 5,236 18.1%
Rankin Inlet 2,358 2,177 8.3%
Arviat 2,060 1,899 8.5%
Baker Lake 1,728 1,507 14.7%
Igloolik 1,538 1,286 19.6%
Cambridge Bay 1,477 1,309 12.8%
Pangnirtung 1,325 1,276 3.8%
Pond Inlet 1,315 1,220 7.8%
Kugluktuk 1,302 1,212 7.4%
Cape Dorset 1,236 1,148 7.7%

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 April and July 2010, Nunavut had the highest population growth rate of any Canadian province or territory, at a rate of 1.01%.[23] The second highest was Yukon, with a growth rate of 0.90%. However, Nunavut has a large net loss from migration, due to many native Inuit leaving the territory for better economic opportunity elsewhere.


Along with the Inuit Language (Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun), English, and French are also official languages.[1]

In his 2000 commissioned report (Aajiiqatigiingniq Language of Instruction Research Paper) to the Nunavut Department of Education, Ian Martin of York University states that a "long-term threat to Inuit language 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 provides a 20-year language plan to create a "fully functional bilingual society, in Inuktitut and English" by 2020. 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.[24]

Of the 29,025 responses to the census question concerning 'mother tongue', the most commonly reported languages were:

1. Inuktitut 20,185 69.54%
2. English 7,765 26.75%
3. French 370 1.27%
4. Inuinnaqtun 295 1.02%

Only English and French were counted as official languages in the census. Nunavut's official languages are shown in bold. Figures shown are for the number of single-language responses and the percentage of total single-language responses.[25]

In the 2006 census it was reported that 2,305 people (7.86%) living in Nunavut had no knowledge of either official language of Canada (English or French).[26]


The largest denominations by number of adherents according to the 2001 census were the Anglican Church of Canada with 15,440 (58%); the Roman Catholic Church (Roman Catholic Diocese of Churchill-Baie d'Hudson) with 6,205 (23%); and Pentecostal with 1,175 (4%).[27] In total, 93.2% of the population are Christian.


The economy of Nunavut is Inuit and Territorial Government, mining, oil gas mineral exploration, arts crafts, hunting, fishing, whaling, tourism, transportation, education - Nunavut Arctic College, housing, military and research – 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 on going in Nunavut.

Mining and Exploration

The current and only mine in production in 2013 is Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd - Meadowbank Division. Meadowbank is an open pit mine with an estimated mine life 2010-2018 and employs 678 persons. Cost to produce an ounce of gold is $913.00[28] The north holds vast reserves of coal, oil, and gas and, increasingly, these areas are being looked at to move into production.

Advanced Mining Projects

Name Company In the region of Material
Mary River Baffinland Iron Mines Pond Inlet Iron ore
Meliadine Gold Agnico-Eagle Rankin Inlet Gold
Back River Project Sabina Gold & River Corp. Bathurst Inlet Gold
Izok Corridor Project MMG Resources Inc. Kugluktuk Gold, Copper, Silver, Zinc
Hackett River Xstrata Zinc Canada Kugluktuk Copper, Lead, Silver, Zinc
Chidliak Peregrine Diamonds Ltd. Iqaluit / Pangnirtung Diamonds
Committee Bay, Three Bluffs Gold Project North Country Gold Ltd. Repulse Bay Gold
Kigavik Areva Resources Baker Lake Uranium
Hope Bay Doris North Mine TMAC Holdings Cambridge Bay Gold
Roche Bay Advanced Exploration Hall Beach Iron Ore
Ulu and Lupin Eligin Mining Ltd. Contwoyto Lake - connected to Yellowknife with an ice road Gold
Storm Copper Property Commander Resources Ltd. Taloyoak Copper

Historic Mines

  • Lupin Mine 1982–2005 - gold, current owner Elgin Mining Ltd located near the Northwest Territories boundary near Contwoyto Lake)[29]
  • 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 underground drifting/mining, none milled or processed. Newmont closed the mine and sold it to TMAC Resources in 2013.


Renewable power

Currently the people of Nunavut rely primarily on diesel fuel[32] to run generators and heat homes, with fossil fuel shipments coming from southern Canada by plane or boat because there are few to no roads or rail links to the region.[33] There is a government effort to use more renewable energy sources,[34] which is generally supported by the community.[35]

This support comes from Nunavut feeling the effects of global warming.[36][37]Climate change is very much upon us,” said Aariak. “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. Ellesmere island has mummified deciduous dawn redwood Metasequoia trees that date back to 45 million years ago, attesting to a temperate northern climate.

Government and politics

Nunavut's Chief Executive is a Commissioner appointed by the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. 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 Canada's head of state, a role roughly analogous to representing The Crown has accrued to the position.

Nunavut elects a single member of the Canadian House of Commons. This makes Nunavut the largest parliamentary riding in the world by area, just ahead of the American state of Alaska.

The members of the unicameral Legislative Assembly of Nunavut are elected individually; there are no parties and the legislature is consensus-based.[38] The head of government, the premier of Nunavut, is elected by, and from the members of the legislative assembly. As of November 14, 2008, the premier is Eva Aariak.[39]

Faced by criticism of his policies, 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.

Owing to Nunavut's vast size, the stated goal of the territorial government has been to decentralize governance beyond the region's capital. Three regionsKitikmeot, 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 for 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.

In September 2012, Premier Eva Aariak welcomed Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, to Nunavut as part of the events marking the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.[40]

Licence plates

The Nunavut 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,[41] 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.[41][42]

Flag and Coat of Arms

The flag and the Coat of Arms of Nunavut were designed by Andrew Karpik from Pangnirtung.[43]



Main article: Music of Nunavut

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.


The Inuit Broadcasting Corporation is based in Nunavut. The territory is also served by Nunatsiaq News and Nunavut News/North, published by Northern News Services, who also publish the regional Kivalliq News.[44] Broadband internet is provided by Qiniq and Northwestel through Netkaster.[45][46]


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, 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.[47] 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.[48]

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.[49][50]

Performing arts

Artcirq is a collective of Inuit circus performers based in Igloolik.[51] The group has performed around the world, including at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Nunavummiut (notable people)

Susan Aglukark is an Inuit singer and song writer. 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 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.

Jordin John Kudluk Tootoo (Inuktitut syllabics: ᔪᐊᑕᓐ ᑐᑐ; born February 2, 1983 in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada) is a professional ice hockey player with the Detroit Red Wings 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.

See also

Nunavut portal
Arctic portal


^1 Effective November 12, 2008.


Further reading

  • Alia, Valerie. (2007) ISBN 1-84545-165-1
  • Henderson, Ailsa. (2007) ISBN 0-7748-1423-3
  • Kulchyski, Peter Keith. (2005) 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

External links

  • Nunavut Kavamat / Government of Nunavut: Official site
  • DMOZ
  • 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: Martin, Ian. Aajiiqatigiingniq Language of Instruction Research Paper. Nunavut: Dept. of Education, 2000.


  • Explore Nunavut: Travel information and community guides
  • Nunavut Parks
  • Nunavut Tourism


  • CBC North Radio: hear Inuktitut and English radio from Nunavut
  • Nunatsiaq News
  • News/North

Coordinates: 73°N 091°W / 73°N 91°W / 73; -91

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