Restricted, with an Alcohol Education Committee (October 2014)*
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First Nations bank kiosk located in the Co-op store. Interac 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).
Baker Lake owes its location to the fact that it has been a gathering place for summer hunting and fishing since prehistoric times, and that many traditional transportation routes inland or to Hudson Bay pass through the area. Nunavut’s only inland community, Baker Lake is called Qamani’tuaq by Inuit, meaning “a huge widening of a river.” It received its English name after a visit from Captain Christopher of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1762, who named the lake after Sir William Baker, one of the company’s governors.
Because of the area’s importance as a gathering place, the Hudson’s Bay Company set up a trading post there in 1916 and Revillon Frères in 1924. Both the Church of England and Catholic Church established missions there in 1927. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police established a post in 1930, although the RCMP was present in the area for many years by this point. In 1936, the Hudson’s Bay Company bought out Revillon Frères, consolidating operations by moving its post from Ookpiktuyuk Island to the mainland, the current location of the community. In the late 1940s the federal government constructed a weather station, and in the 1950s it built a hospital and a regional school. During the 1950s, the shortage of caribou in the region, the main staple of many of the family camps, led the federal government to relocate family camps to the settlement location. As a result, the Inuit community represents an amalgam of different groups of people from the broader region. The Hamlet website provides a thorough overview of Baker Lake’s history and its Inuit heritage.
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.
In an effort to preserve and promote Inuit language, local history and culture, local residents have formed Qatqamiut Baker Lake Historical Society, which runs a traditional summer camp every year. An Inuit family maintains the camp through the summer and they demonstrate traditional skills to interested visitors. Baker Lake is also home to the Akumalik Visitors’ Centre, which is located in the original HBC post on the waterfront. In the summer months it serves as a local museum and tourism information centre. At the request of local Elders, Baker Lake also has its Inuit Heritage Centre, a museum that interprets the traditional lifestyle of the inland Inuit. Three Christian denominations have churches in Baker Lake: Anglican, Roman Catholic and Glad Tidings. There is also a Baha’ï House. See the contact list for phone numbers.
Baker Lake lies in the traditional lands of the Caribou Inuit, the only inland Inuit in Canada. A long history of contact with Europeans and resource seekers may have contributed to the current language situation, which in the 2011 Census showed more language diversity than in many Nunavut communities. Inuktitut is the mother tongue of the majority of Baker Lake residents: 64% claimed Inuktitut as a mother tongue in the 2011 Census, 35% said English, and a few said French. However, most of the population, 96%, speaks English, around 2% can speak English and French, and 4% can speak only Inuktitut. At home, Inuktitut is the language of preference for 28%, and English for 72%. 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.
Baker Lake falls into a group of medium-size Nunavut communities. According to the 2011 Census, it currently stands fourth in population size, at around 1900 residents. Although the population is young by Canadian standards, it is one of the Nunavut communities with a slightly older population. The 2011 Census counted 225 preschool and 500 school-age children, making 39% of the population under the age of 18. The median age is 22, and 5% of the population is over 65.
Baker Lake enjoys a fairly diversified economy, including employment in government and local services, the mining industry, arts and crafts, and tourism, as well as traditional subsistence hunting and fishing. Baker Lake is one of the communities benefiting from the economic stimulus of decentralized Government of Nunavut offices. It is the location of corporate services offices for the Qulliq Energy Corporation (the territory’s electrical power supplier), the headquarters for Nunavut Public Library Services, and offices of sport and recreation. It is also the home for Kivalliq School Operations, which oversees the region’s schools. Mineral resources are now adding significantly to the local economy, with the nearby Meadowbank gold mine offering current employment and the proposed Kiggavik uranium mine in the process of development.
Baker Lake is world famous for its arts and crafts. In the 1950s, a group of Baker Lake artists was in the forefront of developing Arctic printmaking from carved soapstone plates. Embroidered duffle wall hangings are also well known, exemplified by the work of Jessie Oonark. Local artists carve in black soapstone and seamstresses create unique pieces of traditional and modern clothing. Saviirsgayak Society Inuit Jewellery and Metalwork studio members produce fine jewellery. There are several retail outlets for arts and crafts listed on the Baker Lake Arts website. Tourism and related cultural industries are also significant. Many visitors employ local outfitters and guides for hunting and fishing expeditions.
A First Nations bank kiosk is located in the Co-op store. The Northern 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. 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 if bad weather disrupts transportation.
The area around Baker Lake is home to many barren-ground species: muskox, white wolves, moose, barren-ground grizzly, wolverine, gyrfalcons, peregrine falcons and more than 10,000 moulting Canada geese, plus 60 species of birds. The barren grounds are most noted, however, for their migrating caribou herds: the 275,000 strong Beverly caribou herd, which crosses the Thelon river in large groupings at a number of spots during the herd’s annual migration, and the 500,000 strong Qamanirjuaq caribou herd, which migrates through the Kazan River area. Lakes hold lake trout and grayling. Farther to the west, halfway between Baker Lake and Yellowknife, lies the 52,000 sq km Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary, established in 1927 to protect muskox.
Insect life is also abundant in the summer months, particularly mosquitoes and black flies, so effective bug repellent and insect-proof clothing is essential.
Baker Lake, Nunavut’s only inland community, can experience wide variations in temperature. Winters are cold, with a daily average between -28ᵒC and -31ᵒC from December to February, and 100 days a year the temperature is under -30ᵒC. In the summer, however, June, July, and August temperatures can be in the teens, and have been known on occasion to exceed 20 or even 30º C. Average precipitation in a year is 156.7 mm of rain and 130.7 cm of snow. Baker Lake is also breezy, with an average wind speed of 20.4 km/h through the year. Residents of Baker Lake usually experience several blizzards every year, and wind chills in the -50ᵒC range are not uncommon in winter months. Current weather conditions and forecasts for Baker Lake 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 64 degrees latitude, Baker Lake 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, Baker Lake has 510 occupied private dwellings, comprising 285 single detached houses, 140 row houses, 75 duplex apartments and 10 apartment buildings under five storeys. The Nunavut Economic Developers Association website indicates that about 20% of these homes are privately owned. Housing in Nunavut is in short supply, so you should ask your employer about the housing provisions of your employment and its cost. There is the 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 Baker Lake.
Water and sewage services, provided by the Hamlet, 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, 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. Cellphone service is available, but not for 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 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 Sanivik Co-Operative Association, the Northern Store and Northern Convenience Store. 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 the 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 from the Jesse Oonark Centre, the Ookpiktuyuk Art Gallery, Baker Lake Fine Arts and Crafts and Qamani'tuaq Fine Arts. See the contact list for phone numbers. 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 identify 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]. As well, 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 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, 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. Companies that provide this service in Baker Lake are Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping and Nunavut Sealink and Supply. See the contact list for phone numbers and websites.
Baker Lake 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. Baker Lake has regular visits from community physicians, in addition to specialist visits and dentist visits. Regional services are provided through the Rankin Health Centre, with support from hospitals in Churchill and Winnipeg. Those requiring specialist or serious emergency treatment are frequently 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 health care. You must be resident 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 form](http://www.gov.nu.ca/health/information/health-care-card), 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. In the meantime, it is recommended that you obtain extra health coverage for this period to cover any emergency situation, such as the need for medical transportation, which is usually by air charter, very expensive, and not covered by health care plans from other jurisdictions. 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 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 delivery method and weather conditions. Baker Lake has two dental clinics. A dentist visits the community 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. [You can check online for more information about Nunavut’s health system].
Travel to Baker Lake is routed through Rankin Inlet via First Air and Canadian North. First Air (Sakku First Aviation) flies into Baker Lake. 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 scheduling. 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 initial relocation costs are covered by your employer, you should check prices before making personal travel plans.
Taxi service in town is available; see the contact list for details. Nunamiut Lodge provides transportation services, but for guests only. Baker Lake Contracting and Supplies will provide vehicle rentals. 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.
Baker Lake has a number of recreational facilities and activities that the Hamlet manages. A fitness room with exercise equipment is currently available at the Recreation Centre. Outdoor basketball and volleyball courts and a soccer field are usually operated in the summer months. The indoor arena hosts a men’s hockey league and a very popular minor hockey league. There is also a seasonal swimming pool, which opens in late June or early July and closes in late August or early September. Hamlet Recreation also runs a youth drop-in centre, and partners with teachers and local youth to run the Baker Lake Youth Athletic Association, called “The Blizzard,” (www.bakerlakeblizzard.com) which provides coaching and fundraising for youth athletics. Contact the Hamlet recreation office for current scheduling and program information. Although the Nunavut Public Library Services headquarters building does not provide direct service to the general public, there is a public library, Thomas Tapatai Library, which is located in Jonah Amitnaaq School. Contact the library for current hours.
There are several well-marked trails around Baker Lake for those who enjoy hiking. Check the Hamlet website for details. Trail guides are available from the Visitors Centre. Inuujarvik Territorial Park campground is used frequently by paddlers travelling the Thelon or Kazan Heritage River routes. Hunting and fishing are also popular activities for many people. Hunting and fishing regulations differ for residents who are beneficiaries under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. Contact the local GN Wildlife Management Office for necessary licenses or wildlife tags.
The Hamlet also organizes a number of community events. Hamlet Day usually occurs in the first week of May and related activities run for a week, including games, square dancing and snowmobile races. Games and square dancing are also organized for Easter Monday. Christmas festivities run from Christmas through to the New Year and may include activities such as dances, feasts and traditional games.
Under the Nunavut Liquor Act and Regulations, Baker Lake 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 as Hamlet councillors. The committee’s mandate is to educate its community on 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. More information about the system is available on the website.