Restricted, with an Alcohol Education Committee (October 2014)*
Click here for an update
No bank branches. Interac cash withdrawal available at Northern Store (cash supplies limited). Internet banking is recommended.
Telephone and Internet (limited bandwidth) service is available. Cell phone service is not currently available.
Arctic Bay is on the northern tip of Baffin Island. Of the civilian communities in Nunavut, only Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord lie in a more northerly location. When the Nunavut Implementation Commission created its map of Nunavut for the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, it listed the Inuktitut name of Arctic Bay as ᑐᓄᓂᕈᓯᖅ, Tununirusiq. However, local people call it ᐃᒃᐱᐊᕐᔪᒃ, Ikpiarjuk, an Inuktitut word meaning “in a pocket,” because of the community’s location on a cove, nestled among the surrounding high hills. The area has been inhabited and used by Inuit since prehistoric times, but was a Scottish whaler who gave it its English name in 1872. Non-Inuit made sporadic visits over the years for various reasons, leaving historic artifacts behind: Captain Joseph Bernier arrived in 1911 on a Canadian sovereignty expedition, an early Hudson’s Bay trading post opened in 1926 for a year and then again in 1933, Rev. Turner established an Anglican mission at nearby Moffat Inlet in 1937, and a Canada-US weather station was built in 1941 that operated for 20 years and is still standing. The first school was built in 1959 and in the 1960s the Canadian government built medical facilities and public housing, and offered social assistance to Inuit who would move off the land and into the settlement. The last nomadic families in the region moved into the settlement in the early 1970s, and Arctic Bay gained official Hamlet status in 1976.
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.
Arctic Bay is a community in which traditional Inuit activities are important to the local lifestyle. Community activities, such as the Pangaggujjiniq Nunavut Quest dog sled race, are also promoted to preserve traditional Inuit heritage. The Hamlet runs the Qimatuligvik Heritage Organization Gift and Visitor Centre and it is a place to learn about local history and culture. It has a diorama and a local arts and crafts gift shop.
There are two churches in Arctic Bay: All Saints Anglican Church and the Full Gospel Church, both of which hold Sunday morning services. There may be evening services as well. Services are held in Inuktitut, but there may be an English component or an interpreter for the service, as the churches make an effort to accommodate unilingual speakers of English.
The Inuktitut language is very strong in Arctic Bay: you will hear it spoken on the street and used regularly in daily life. According to the 2011 Census, 96% of the population claim Inuktitut as their mother tongue, and only 4% English. Three-quarters of Arctic Bay residents speak English, and a handful speaks English and French, but 23% speak only Inuktitut. Inuktitut is the language of the home for 92% of the population, and 3% of the English-speaking families also use Inuktitut regularly in the home. You can expect most public events and meetings to be conducted in both languages, 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 perhaps to have local residents correct your usage. 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.
Arctic Bay has a very young population. According to the 2011 Census, the median age is 22.5 years. There were 145 pre-school and 190 school-age children in 2011, making 40% of the population under the age of 18. Only 5% of the population is over the age of 65, and the traditional knowledge of these Elders is highly valued.
Arctic Bay is a traditional community in which the local economy is focused largely on providing goods and services to local residents. Many people still engage in subsistence hunting. There are also many skilled artists and craftspeople, including sculptors working in marble and accomplished seamstresses who make traditional winter clothing. Although Arctic Bay does not have the decentralized government offices that form a significant part of the economy of many Nunavut communities, efforts are being made to increase the Hamlet’s tourism potential, given its abundant wildlife and spectacular scenery.
As in most Nunavut communities, there are no bank branches in Arctic Bay, and cash supplies can often become very limited. The Northern Store offers “light banking” services, which may include the ability to maintain a small cash account with the store, cash cheques, etc. There is Interac at the Northern Store, with a limited cash supply. It is highly recommended that newcomers establish Internet banking services and online methods of bill payment, particularly since postal service can often be delayed when bad weather disrupts transportation.
Marine mammals that can be seen near Arctic Bay include bowhead whales, narwhals, seals and, occasionally, polar bears. Land mammals include Arctic hares, Arctic foxes, lemmings and marmots. Dozens of species of migratory high Arctic seabirds, such as thick-billed murres, snow geese, kittiwakes, ivory gulls and Ross’s gulls, have breeding grounds in the vicinity that are very active in the summer. One local birder has posted a personal blog of sightings.
Although it is located on the northern tip of Baffin Island, Arctic Bay enjoys a fairly stable climate because of its sheltered location. Winters are cold, with a daily average temperature of -27ᵒC to -30ᵒC between December and February, with days reaching a daily maximum above freezing only from June to August; the temperature almost never exceeds 8ᵒC. The area is considered to be polar desert: average precipitation in a year is 61.5 mm of rain and 173.1 cm of snow. Current weather conditions and forecasts for Arctic Bay are posted 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 73 degrees latitude, Arctic Bay is in the land of polar night and midnight sun. The amount of daylight in the winter diminishes to nothing by the second week of November and it remains dark for about two and a half months, until the end of January. The amount of daylight increases to 24 hours a day by the first week of May, and daylight is continuous for the next three and a half months until mid-August.
According to the 2011 Census, Arctic Bay has 180 occupied private dwellings, including 90 single detached houses, five apartment buildings under five storeys (mostly 1-2 storeys), 10 movable dwellings, 30 semi-detached houses, 40 row houses, and 15 duplex apartments. The Nunavut Economic Developers Association website indicates that about 21% of these homes are privately owned. The remainder is made up of employer-provided rental housing or 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 Arctic Bay.
The Hamlet provides water and sewage services, which are supplied by trucked service. This means that 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. 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. There is currently no cellphone service available. Internet service is available from the local service provider (Qiniq), 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.
Local shopping and perishables are available from the Northern Store and Taqqut 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. Local arts and crafts are available for purchase from the Qimatuliqviq Heritage Organization gift shop. See the contact list for phone numbers.
Food and supplies in Nunavut are generally expensive because of the added cost of shipping items north. In the High Arctic, average prices tend to be higher than most average northern communities (that lies closer to the south), although many employers such as the Government of Nunavut does provide a cost-of-living allowances to off-set these higher cost. 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 identify sources 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 not available in the community. 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 Arctic Bay are Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping and Nunavut Sealift and Supply. See the contact list for phone numbers and websites.
Arctic Bay is served by a Health Centre (also referred to as the Nursing Station), which is staffed by nurse practitioners. Basic medical care is provided, such as regular checkups, treatment of minor illnesses, and emergency first response. The number of nurses at the Health Centre reflects the size of the community. Arctic Bay 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 and mail it, 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. Although the Health Centre may supply some emergency prescriptions, the supplies on hand are limited. If you have a medical condition requiring 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 as it may take longer than you expect, depending on the method it was sent and weather conditions.
A dentist visits Arctic Bay 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. A mental health nurse (out of Arctic Bay) is also available, providing services to residents of Arctic Bay, Resolute and Grise Fiord. Check with the Health Centre for the availability of these services.
You can check online for more information about Nunavut’s health system.
First Air is currently the only airline that provides air service to Arctic Bay, but this may have change so please check with other airlines for updated information. See the contact list for phone numbers and websites. Because the airline market in Nunavut is small and specialized, costs are very high. Even if your employer covers your initial relocation costs, you should check prices before making personal travel plans.
Taxi service is very limited, it is highly advised that arrangements are made in advance for any new hires arriving to the community for a scheduled pick-up. See the contact list for more details. Many people get around on snowmobiles in the winter and all-terrain vehicles in the summer.
The Hamlet operates an arena and a community hall/gym. The school gymnasium is also used regularly after hours for a number of sports activities. Arctic Bay has had a public library. The Ikpiarjuk Public Library was moved in 2012 from its location inside Inuujaq School to a separate building. It may be closed, depending on the availability of staff, so check with the Hamlet whether the library is accessible. Outdoor activities are very popular: boating and camping in the summer, and dogsledding, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. Hunting and fishing regulations differ for residents who are beneficiaries under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. Contact the local GN Wildlife Management Office for any necessary licenses or wildlife tags if you intend to hunt or fish.
Arctic Bay is near the western boundary of Sirmilik National Park, which represents the Northern Eastern Arctic Lowlands Natural Region and part of the Lancaster Sound Marine Region. If you wish to visit the park, you will need to register at the park office in Pond Inlet. For more information, visit the website.
In 1999, a group in Arctic Bay decided to hold a sled dog race to celebrate the creation of Nunavut. According to the rules, the race was to include only Inuit sled dogs, using the traditional Inuit qamutiq (wooden sled) and fan-style hitch. Dog team mushers from Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Pond Inlet, Igloolik and Hall Beach participated in the first race between these communities, which was called the North Baffin Quest. It has taken place regularly since then, and in 2012 it was extensively covered by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). Now called the Pangaggujjiniq Nunavut Quest, this is an important event for all the involved communities and is a celebration of traditional Inuit culture. You can find more information on the website.
Under the Nunavut Liquor Act and Regulations, Arctic Bay is a Restricted community, with an Alcohol Education Committee (AEC). This means that 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. 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 consult its website for more information about the system.