Restricted, with an Alcohol Education Committee (October 2014)*
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There are no bank branches. Light banking is available at Northern and Co-op Stores. Interac and credit cards are accepted at most retail outlets. Internet banking is recommended.
Telephone and Internet (limited bandwidth) services are available. Cell phone service is currently unavailable.
The area around Kimmirut (formerly called Lake Harbour) is rich in evidence of inhabitation stretching back to Dorset, Pre-Dorset and Thule Peoples. Given its location on Hudson Strait, leading into Hudson Bay, local residents’ first contact with Europeans took place in the 1600s, when explorers travelled through the region and the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) first began its activities on the bay for which it is named. Given the community’s strategic location, contact with Europeans and Americans evolved with the whaling period in the 1800s. The Anglican Church was established in 1909, closely followed by an HBC post in 1911. Lake Harbour served for many years as a primary administrative centre for missionaries and HBC staff travelling out to other locations on southern Baffin Island. Dewey Soper, a Canadian biologist, artist and Arctic explorer, lived in the community in the 1930s while carrying out biological surveys in the area. The house he lived in still stands today, and a river and a lake are named after him. In January 1996, the community reverted to its original Inuktitut name, Kimmirut, which means “heel” in Inuktitut and refers to the shape of a distinctive rock outcropping on the harbour.
The Government of Nunavut (GN) Employee Orientation website offers an excellent collection of material on the general history of Nunavut, together with an overview of Inuit culture and history and an explanation of how Inuit cultural principles are being incorporated into government operations and services. We recommend exploring this site once it is available again after their restructuring, for now you can try the general GN site for information.
Kimmirut is known as a small, welcoming and friendly place, with a very traditional culture. The valley in which it is located has lush vegetation that supports the local wildlife, and many residents participate in subsistence harvesting and traditional arts and crafts activities. Buildings from Kimmirut’s early era, including the first RCMP post (1915), the Hudson’s Bay buildings, and Dewey Soper’s house, now an art gallery, are still standing and make for an interesting walking tour. Kimmirut’s only church, St. Paul’s Anglican, dates back to 1909. It was the centre of much Anglican Mission activity on southern Baffin Island and is still actively used.
Kimmirut is another of Baffin Island’s Inuktitut-speaking communities. In the 2011 Census, 91% of the population said that Inuktitut was its mother tongue, and 89% uses it as the first language at home. 16% of the population does not speak either English or French, which means that newcomers or visitors may sometimes need to find someone who speaks English to translate for them. However, 83% of the community speaks English and 77% use English at home as a first or second language. You can expect most public events and meetings to be conducted in both Inuktitut and English, but you should not expect general Inuktitut conversations to be translated automatically just because an English speaker is present. Inuktitut dialects vary widely across Nunavut, so if you have been speaking Inuktitut in another community, be prepared to learn dialectal differences and to have local residents correct your usage on occasion. The Inuit language (Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun), English and French are all official languages of Nunavut, so you have the right to request government services in the official language of your choice.
The population of Kimmirut is young, as it is many other small Nunavut communities. The 2011 Census counted 55 pre-school and 125 school-age children, making 40% of the population under 18. The median age is 23.4. Kimmirut also has a higher percentage of people over 65 than most Nunavut communities: 6% of the population.
Kimmirut has a strong local arts and crafts sector. Kimmirut soapstone is a distinctive apple green colour, and a valuable resource for world-famous local carvers. There is also mining activity in the area, particularly prospecting for precious and semi-precious gems such as sapphire, spinel, scapolite, tourmaline, iolite, apatite, zircon, moonstone, garnet, and lapis lazuli, which have been found in the vicinity. Recently, local artisans have also taken up jewellery making, particularly using these semi-precious stones. There is also a tradition in the community of scrimshaw etching on walrus ivory, which probably dates back to the influence of whalers in the area. In addition to these activities and the local service wage economy, local residents also engage in subsistence hunting and fishing. Although Kimmirut does not host any of the decentralized offices of the Government of Nunavut, its economy does benefit from nearby Katannalik Territorial Park and the historic Soper River, both of which are popular summer tourism destinations.
As in most Nunavut communities, there are no bank branches in Kimmirut, and cash supplies can often become very limited. The Northern and Co-op Stores offer “light banking” services, which may include the ability to maintain a small cash account with the store and cash cheques, etc. Interac and credit card services are available at most retail stores. It is highly recommended that newcomers establish Internet banking services and online methods of bill payment, particularly because postal service can often be delayed when bad weather disrupts transportation.
Kimmirut’s location gives it good access to both marine and inland wildlife species. Seals, beluga, walrus, whales and polar bear can be present along the coast. Community members also harvest cod and Arctic char. Inland wildlife includes caribou, wolves, and small game species, such as Arctic hares, and a variety of bird species, such as snow buntings, falcons, geese, ptarmigan, and snowy owls.
Kimmirut has, by Arctic standards, a moderate climate. Winters are cold, with a range of temperatures between -20ᵒC and -30ᵒC from December to February, with occasional dips into the -40ᵒC range. In the summertime, between June and August, temperatures are moderate, averaging 8-11ᵒC with occasional days in the teens. Kimmirut can experience blizzards in the winter, with a high wind chill factor. Current weather conditions and forecasts for Kimmirut can be found on the Environment Canada website.
People’s tolerance for cold varies with experience, but warm winter clothing is required for several months of every year. If you are moving to Nunavut, make sure you bring essential winter gear. Although you can sometimes purchase hand-made clothing, such as parkas and mitts, from local seamstresses, their services are not always available, and commercial winter clothing and footwear may be in low supply in the local stores. Check- in with your principal or colleagues for their advice on practical winter gear to purchase and bring with you.
At 63 degrees latitude, Kimmirut is “north of sixty” but not quite in the land of the midnight sun. Throughout the summer, the sun will skim just below the horizon, setting but leaving the land in a twilight state for three or four hours. In winter, the sun rises for a few brief hours at midday, with long dawn and twilight periods.
According to the 2011 Census, Kimmirut has 120 occupied private dwellings, including 70 single detached houses, 30 semi-detached houses, and 20 row houses. The Nunavut Economic Developers Association website indicates that about 18% of these homes are privately owned. The remainder is made up of employer-provided rental housing and public housing. As housing in Nunavut is in short supply, ask your employer about the housing provisions of your employment and its cost. There is a possibility that you may be required to share housing with another colleague. You should also ask about the appropriate housing insurance to acquire. If you have pets, the need for pet-friendly accommodation should be clearly indicated in any housing applications or documentation. You should also be aware that there is no veterinary service in Kimmirut.
Water and sewage services, provided by the Hamlet, are supplied by trucked service. This means you will have water and sewage tanks in the home, which are filled up and pumped out respectively on a regular schedule. Contact the Hamlet for details. People on trucked service need to be conscious of their level of water consumption, as supplementary fees may be charged if you require a special fill-up or pump-out. The Hamlet also provides a garbage pick-up service. Most homes are heated with oil furnaces and the Co-op is the local heating fuel provider. Electrical power is supplied by Qulliq Energy’s local power plant. All telecommunications arrive in Nunavut via satellite. Telephone service is available only through NorthwesTel. No cell phone service is currently available. Internet service is available from the local service providers (Qiniq, NorthwesTel dial-up), with limited bandwidth capacity, or direct-to-home satellite (Xplornet), which requires special arrangements for satellite dish installation. Cable TV is provided by the Co-op and direct-to-home satellite TV by Bell Canada TV. See the contact list for telephone numbers and websites.
Local shopping and perishables are available from the Northern Store and Kimik Co-operative. Basic fresh staples, such as milk, bread, and some fresh produce, along with canned and dry goods, are normally stocked throughout the year, although shortages can occur if supply planes are delayed by bad weather. Store managers can sometimes order special items if they are requested. “Country food” (wildlife hunted or fished for food), such as caribou, fish or seal, is not usually sold in these stores, but if you are interested you can sample these delicious and nutritious foods at community feasts and may occasionally be able to obtain them from local hunters. See the contact list for phone numbers. Local arts and crafts can also be purchased at the Soper House Gallery, which is open most Saturdays throughout the year. Contact the Hamlet office for more information about Soper House.
Food and supplies in Nunavut are generally expensive because of the added cost of shipping items north, despite the cost-of-living allowances paid by many employers, such as the Government of Nunavut’s Northern Allowance. Perishable items arrive by air freight, sea shipping lanes are open for only a brief period every year, and there are no highway links. Weather conditions also affect the arrival of planes, occasionally causing temporary shortages. If you have special dietary requirements (e.g., gluten-free, allergy-related, organic), you may wish to look into stocking up on particular supplies or find suppliers that will ship north. You can find information about obtaining the food subsidies available for direct or personal orders under the Government of Canada’s Nutrition North program on its website. Many businesses will also ship items in unsubsidized food mail. Free shipping from Internet-based suppliers often becomes an important consideration. Local residents can suggest favourite delivery methods and suppliers for food and supplies that are not available in the community, including “country food” from other Nunavut communities.
Bulk supplies, large or heavy items (e.g., vehicles, furniture) and building supplies are usually brought in by annual sealift. The shipping season is short, and orders must be placed with shipping marshalling deadlines in mind. Companies that provide this service in Kimmirut are Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping and Nunavut Sealift and Supply. See the contact list for phone numbers and websites.
Kimmirut is served by a Health Centre (also referred to as the Nursing Station) staffed by nurse practitioners. Basic medical care is provided, such as regular checkups, the treatment of minor illnesses, and emergency first response. The number of nurses at the Health Centre reflects the size of the community. Kimmirut has regular visits from community physicians, in addition to specialist and dentist visits. Regional services are provided through the Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit, with support from hospitals in Ottawa. Those requiring specialist treatment are frequently sent to Iqaluit or “south,” depending on the nature and seriousness of the complaint.
New residents of Nunavut are not immediately covered by Nunavut health care. You must be a resident of Nunavut for three months, with at least a one-year work contract, before you are eligible. You can download and complete the online Nunavut health card application form and mail the completed form together with the required documentation, to the Department of Health after your three-month residency. Applications are also available at the Health Centre. It is very important that you have a Nunavut health card, because although your previous provincial or territorial health card may still cover your health expenses, it may not cover expenses such as medevacs (emergency chartered plane out of your community). If you intend to have family members or friends that are not residents of Nunavut visiting you, it is highly advised that they purchase medical insurance for the duration of their visit to cover expenses not typically covered by their province and territory. Under your employer’s health care benefits package you may also receive benefits for expenses such as prescription drugs, dental services and eyeglasses. Check with your assigned Benefits Officer for details.
Pharmacies are located in Iqaluit. The Health Centre may be able to supply some emergency prescriptions, but the supplies on hand are limited. If you have a medical condition that requires ongoing prescriptions, you should make arrangements with a pharmacy to have your prescriptions sent to you. Be prepared to allow plenty of time for your order to arrive because it could be delayed by poor weather conditions.
A dentist visits Kimmirut on a rotational schedule. Demand to see the dentist is usually very high. An optical team also visits on a rotational schedule, checking eyes and dispensing eyeglasses. Check with the Health Centre for the availability of these services.
More information about Nunavut’s health system is available online.
First Air is currently the only airline that provides service to Kimmirut (this may have changed, so check-in with the local airlines for more current information). Typically it is a 30-minute flight from Iqaluit. All travel to or from Kimmirut originates in Iqaluit. Iqaluit can be reached from other destinations by other airlines. There is not a daily service to Kimmirut and the flight schedule can change seasonally, so check with First Air for up-to-date scheduling. Flights to Kimmirut are on smaller aircraft (e.g., Twin Otter, King Air) because of the short airstrip, and this may affect luggage allowances, which you should verify with the airline. See the contact list for phone numbers and websites. Charter flights into Kimmirut are also not uncommon, and those chartering will on occasion post vacant charter seats for sale, but these are not predictable. Local residents often take advantage of these flights for quick trips to Iqaluit. Because the airline market in Nunavut is small and specialized, costs are very high. Even if your employer covered your initial relocation costs, you should check prices before making personal travel plans.
The Kimik Hotel provides a shuttle bus service from the airport to the hotel. However, there is currently no general taxi service in Kimmirut (unless one was started recently), so if you are not staying at the hotel, you should arrange transportation from the airport with local contacts before you arrive. Vehicle rental may also be available check the contact list for more details. Many people get around on snowmobiles in the winter and all-terrain vehicles in the summer, but private vehicles brought up on the annual sealift are becoming increasingly common. Garage services for private vehicles are limited, however.
Because Iqaluit is relatively close (in Nunavut terms) there is a well-travelled 120-kilometre snowmobile trail (the Itijjagiaq Trail) that runs from Iqaluit to Kimmirut through Katannilik Park, with shelters en route. This trail is used during the winter and for the Iqaluit-Kimmirut long-distance race as part of Iqaluit’s Toonik Tyme festivities in the spring. The trip by snowmobile normally takes about six hours, depending on the weather and the frequency of stops. Boaters also travel between Iqaluit and Kimmirut in open-water months. Cruise ships occasionally stop in Kimmirut as well, but the cruise business is highly variable.
The Hamlet operates the Akavak Community Centre and an ice arena. Outdoor recreation is popular in the summer, with visitors camping at Taqaiqsirvik Territorial Park campground on their way to and from Soper Heritage River and Katannilik Territorial Park. Local residents spend a lot of time “on the land” in the summer, camping at places such as the Reversing Falls. Hunting and fishing are favourite local activities. Hunting and fishing regulations differ for residents who are beneficiaries under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. Contact the local GN Wildlife Management Office for the necessary licenses or wildlife tags if you intend to participate in these activities. Both amateur and professional rockhounds frequent the hills in the summertime, looking for semi-precious stones.
Kimmirut holds its Hamlet Day in early April, with traditional and modern games, races, square dances and community feasts. The Iqaluit to Kimmirut round-trip long-distance snowmobile race is usually held near the end of April, during Iqaluit’s Toonik Tyme. Kimmirut also celebrates Canada Day with a parade, community feast, and traditional Inuit dress contests and games. The period between Christmas and New Year is filled with community activities, such as caroling, dances and games.
Under the Nunavut Liquor Act and Regulations, Kimmirut is a Restricted community, with an Alcohol Education Committee (AEC). This means the AEC determines how alcohol is controlled and consumed in the community. The AEC is a community-based group, created by regulation under the Liquor Act. The members are elected at the same time Hamlet councillors are elected. The committee’s mandate is to educate its community about how to prevent alcohol abuse. In general, the AEC controls and approves how much alcohol an individual can bring into the community. The community’s status was changed to Restricted from Prohibited by plebiscite in 2012. Contact the Hamlet office for current information. The Government of Nunavut’s Department of Finance is responsible for overseeing alcohol control and distribution in Nunavut, and you can also consult its website for more information about the system.