Prohibited (October 2014)* Click here for an update.
*Alcohol control disclaimer: Please check-in with the local RCMP officers (in the community) for the most up-to-date alcohol status set by the community, as the status stated above could have changed. Violation of these rules can lead to prosecution and fines.
No bank branches. Light banking services and ATMs available at the Northern, Eskimo Point Lumber Supply (EPLS), and Co-op stores. Interac and credit card services are available at most retail stores. Internet banking is recommended.
Telephone and Internet (limited bandwidth) service is available. Limited cell phone service is available (check with service providers).
Arviat is now the second largest community in Nunavut by population, and the southernmost mainland community. Formerly known as Eskimo Point, it is located on the west coast of Hudson Bay, and has some ties with Churchill, Manitoba, which can be reached by boat in the summer and by snowmobile in the winter.
The community’s Inuktitut name means “place of the bowhead whales.” Inuit have lived in the area since the period of Thule occupation. They have travelled extensively and interacted with other Inuit, Cree and Dene from further down the coast. Like other locations on the west Hudson Bay coast, Arviat was the site of a productive whaling industry. Parks Canada recognized its historical significance by announcing a National Historic Site at Arvia’juaq and Qikiqtaarjuk in 1995.
Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) ships called at Arviat for many years before establishing a permanent trading post in 1921. Catholic and Anglican missions followed in 1924 and 1926. Over time, Inuit families settled permanently in the community to take advantage of various services provided by the missions. An RCMP post was established in 1937, followed by a federal school in 1959. The latter part of the 1940s and early 1950s was a difficult time for Inuit in the area as wildlife patterns changed, affecting both income from trapping and the provision of food to support families. In addition, the community experienced both tuberculosis and diphtheria epidemics. During this period, the federal government began to move Inuit into Arviat from other areas in an effort to address these situations. In 1989, the hamlet officially changed its name from Eskimo Point to Arviat.
The Nanisiniq Arviat History Project is a multimedia website project involving youth and Elders, which documents the history and culture of Arviat. 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.
Inuit culture and language are strong in Arviat. Arviat Tourism runs a number of cultural programs that can be made available to visitors and newcomers, including storytelling by Elders, performances of traditional Inuit throat singing, and exhibitions of historic photograph collections. Margaret Aniksak Visitors’ Centre has local history and culture displays. The Nanisiniq Arviat History Project also contains substantial material on local culture, including a number of video interviews with Elders. The traditional cultural landscape of the area is preserved at the nearby Arvia’juaq and Qikiqtaarjuk National Historic Site.
Religion plays an important part in community life for many of its residents. There are a number of churches in Arviat of different Christian denominations. Please see the contact list for the names of those who have telephones.
Inuktitut is the language heard most commonly in Arviat. It is the mother tongue of most people, about 94% according to the 2011 Census, and 20% of people in Arviat described themselves as unilingual Inuktitut speakers. Most elementary and preschool children speak in Inuktitut. English is spoken by 80% of the population, with a few people who also speak French. 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. As well, Inuktitut dialects vary widely across Nunavut, so if you have been speaking Inuktitut in another community, be prepared to learn dialectal differences and perhaps be corrected in your usage by local residents. 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.
Arviat is a very young community with a high birth rate and an increasing number of school children. The 2011 Census counted around 320 preschool and 700 school age children, making 44% of the hamlet under 18. The median age of the community is 20. Only 3% of the population is over 65.
Arviat is one of the communities benefiting from the economic stimulus of decentralized Government of Nunavut offices. It is the location of the head office for Nunavut Arctic College, home ownership programs for the Nunavut Housing Corporation, and Adult Learning and Curriculum Development for the Department of Education. In addition to government employment and the local service wage economy, many residents engage in traditional hunting and fishing to provide for their families. In addition, talented local seamstresses offer their work for sale, producing beautiful and practical custom-made outerwear in both traditional and modern materials. Local artists include talented soapstone and antler carvers. Tourism offers seasonal employment for guides and outfitters, and for cultural performers.
As in many Nunavut communities, there are no bank branches in Arviat, and cash supplies can often become very limited. The Northern, Eskimo Point Lumber Supply (EPLS), and Co-op stores offer “light banking” services, which may include the ability to maintain a small cash account with the store, cash cheques, etc. ATMs are available at the Northern, EPLS and Co-op stores, with limited cash supply. 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 since bad weather and transportation disruptions can often delay the postal service.
There is no shortage of wildlife around Arviat. Thanks to its location on Hudson Bay, it is on the migratory route for polar bears, which have been known to wander through town in certain seasons — the source of many interesting stories, as you will discover when you start talking to Arviammiut (the people of Arviat). Snow geese, ptarmigan, owls, loons, ducks, and swans are among the many birds that congregate in the area in nesting season; the annual return of geese signals an exciting period of hunting and egg collecting for local residents. The McConnell River Migratory Bird Sanctuary, about 27 km south of Arviat, protects wetlands of international importance for 250,000 migratory birds, chiefly snow geese. Enthusiastic birders can also spot many shore birds, such as Arctic terns, sandpipers, plovers and phalaropes, as well as the ravens and snow buntings that are common across the Arctic. Ring, harbour and harp seals, as well as beluga whales, can all be found in the ocean. There are also caribou in the area, although their migration patterns may vary. Arctic char is a staple of the local diet.
Insect life is abundant in the summer months, particularly mosquitoes and black flies; effective bug repellent and insect-proof clothing is a good idea.
January and February are the coldest months for Arviat, with average daily temperatures of -28ᵒC to -30ᵒC. With the wind chill, temperatures can feel like -50ᵒC. Blizzards can occur from October to May, with the highest occurrences in February and March, and they frequently last more than a day. Summers are temperate, with temperatures in the teens, sometimes rising to 20ᵒC. Most days are also breezy, with an average wind speed of 22 km/h. Thunderstorms are an occasional occurrence. Precipitation averages 107 cm of snow and 160 mm of rain. The sea ice starts to break up at the end of June, and to freeze in November. Snowfall starts earlier, in October. Current weather conditions and forecasts for Arviat are posted on the Environment Canada website.
People’s tolerance for cold varies with experience, but warm winter clothing is required for many 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 61 degrees latitude, Arviat is “north of sixty” but not quite in the land of the midnight sun. Through the summer, the sun will dip just below the horizon, setting but leaving the land in a twilight state for a couple of hours. In winter, the sun rises for a few brief hours at midday, with a long dawn and twilight period.
According to the 2011 Census, Arviat has 525 occupied private dwellings, including 335 single detached houses, five apartment buildings under five storeys, 45 semi-detached houses, 140 row houses, and five duplex apartments. The Nunavut Economic Developers Association website indicates that about 30% of these homes are privately owned. The remainder is rental housing, chiefly provided by employers, or public housing. Housing is at a premium; the census indicates that 58% of households included four or more people, significantly above the Canadian average of 2.5 per home. As housing in Arviat is in such 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 inquire into 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 Arviat.
Water and sewage services are supplied by the Hamlet’s trucked services. This means that you will have a water tank and a sewage tank in your home, which are filled up and pumped out respectively on a regular schedule. Contact the Hamlet for details. People on trucked service do 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 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. Cellphone service is available, but not from all cellphone service providers. If you are a cellphone user, check to see if your current provider includes Nunavut in its coverage. Internet service is available from the local service providers (Qiniq, NorthwesTel satellite), with limited bandwidth capacity, or direct-to-home satellite (Xplornet), which require special arrangements for satellite dish installation. Cable TV is provided by the Co-op and satellite TV by Bell Canada TV.
Local shopping and perishables are available from: Padlei Co-Operative Association, the Northern Store and Northern Convenience Store, and Eskimo Point Lumber Supply (which is much more than a lumber store) and its Arcade store. See the contact list for phone numbers. 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.
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 because 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. In addition, many businesses will ship items in unsubsidized food mail. Free shipping from Internet-based suppliers often becomes an important consideration. Local residents can suggest favourite methods and suppliers for food and supplies 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, more commonly known as “the barge” in the Kivalliq region. The shipping season is short, and orders must be placed with shipping marshalling deadlines in mind. Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping and Nunavut Sealink and Supply provide services in Arviat. See the contact list for phone numbers and websites.
Arviat is served by a Health Centre (also referred to as a Nursing Station) staffed by nurse practitioners serves the population of Arviat. 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. Arviat has regular visits from community physicians, in addition to visits from specialists and dentists. Regional services are provided through the Rankin Health Centre, with support from hospitals in Winnipeg. Frequently, those requiring specialist or serious emergency treatment are sent to Rankin Inlet or “south,” depending on the nature and seriousness of the complaint.
New residents of Nunavut are not immediately covered by Nunavut’s health care. You must be a resident of Nunavut for three months, with a minimum one-year work contract, before you are eligible. You can download and complete the online Nunavut health card application, and mail the application along 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 Rankin Inlet. Although the Health Centre may supply some emergency prescriptions, 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 order well in advance because, depending on the delivery method and weather conditions, your prescriptions may take longer to reach to you than you expect.
Arviat has a dental clinic. A dentist visits the community on a rotating schedule. Demand to see the dentist is usually very high. An optical team also visits on a rotating schedule, checking eyes and dispensing eyeglasses. Check with the Health Centre for the availability of these services.
For more information about Nunavut’s health system please see their website.
Travel to Arviat is routed through Rankin Inlet with First Air and Canadian North. First Air (Sakku First Aviation) flies into Arviat. Canadian North links up with Calm Air, which also provides service from Winnipeg and Churchill. Service is not necessarily daily, and can change seasonally, so check with the airlines for up-to-date schedules. See the contact list for phone numbers and websites. Because the airline market in Nunavut is small and specialized, costs are very high. Your employer may have covered your initial relocation costs, but you should check prices before making personal travel plans.
Taxi services are available in town. Consult the Hamlet’s business directory for up-to-date listings. 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. However, garage services for private vehicles are limited. The Padlei Co-op runs a gas station.
The Hamlet’s recreation department for Mark Kalluak Hall, King Arena, John Arnalukjuak High School Gymnasium, and Qitiqliq Middle School Gymnasium, maintain all program schedules and these are posted online. Hockey is available for all ages and keeps the arena busy; some general public skating time is also available. Square dances and teen dances take place frequently at Mark Kalluak Hall. Donald Suluk Library offers public library services. Contact the library for current hours of operation.
Snowmobiling is a common winter and spring pastime, and races such as the annual Noah Muckpah Memorial Bravo Drag Race are hotly contested. In the warmer months, many people like to get out of town to camp and spend time on the land. Hunting and fishing are also popular activities for many people. Hunting and fishing regulations vary for residents, depending on whether they are beneficiaries under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. Contact the local GN Wildlife Management Office to obtain any necessary licenses or wildlife tags.
Under the Nunavut Liquor Act and Regulations, Arviat has “Prohibited” status (October 2014). This means no alcohol is allowed except for sacramental purposes, and importation or possession can make you subject to prosecution. Alcohol may be transported through prohibited communities, but it must not be consumed or disposed of in these communities. The Government of Nunavut’s Department of Finance is responsible for overseeing alcohol control and distribution in Nunavut. As the alcohol status of each community can change as plebiscites are held, please check with the local Hamlet office and RCMP station for up-to-date information, along with the Department of Finance’s website for more information about their rules and regulations.