Restricted, with an Alcohol Education Committee (October 2014)*
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No bank branches. Light banking at Northern Stores and Co-op; Interac accepted by most retailers. ATM (limited cash supply) available at Northern Stores. Internet banking is recommended.
Telephone and Internet (limited bandwidth) services are available. Limited cell phone service available.
Historically rich in wildlife, the area in and around Igloolik is scattered with many archaeological sites that indicate the land there has been in use for over 4000 years. Iglulik means “place of igloos” in Inuktitut. William Parry recorded the first European contact with the local Inuit, called Iglulingmiut, in 1822, when he overwintered there during his bid to find the Northwest Passage. Charles Francis Hall travelled through the area in 1867 and 1868 during his expedition to find evidence or remains of the ill-fated Franklin expedition. A prospector, Alfred Tremblay, followed in 1913, and Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen in 1921. The Roman Catholic Church arrived in what is now Igloolik to establish a mission in 1930, with the Hudson’s Bay Company establishing a post in the community shortly afterward. As with many communities in Nunavut, the late 1950s and early 1960s brought the increasing involvement of the Canadian government with the construction of a nursing station, a day school, and an RCMP post. The Anglican Church established a mission in 1959. Igloolik was an early adopter of the Co-op movement with the establishment of the Igloolik Co-op in 1963. In the 1970s, the federal government constructed three Arctic research centres in Inuvik, Igloolik and Iqaluit. These facilities became major bases for arctic research and community engagement. Igloolik has continued to grow and is one of the communities with decentralized offices of the Government of Nunavut, with major territorial departmental presence.
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.
Iglulingmiut (residents of Igloolik) deeply value traditional culture. Igloolik is the home of Isuma Productions, a company noted for its films depicting traditional Inuit lifestyles. The best-known is Atanarjuat, the Fast Runner, but Isuma has produced many films that deal with various aspects of traditional Inuit life and the effect of contact with Europeans, such as in the film The Journals of Knud Rasmussen. Many of the films can be viewed online. Igloolik is also home to Artcirq, the only Inuit circus troupe in the world. Events such as the annual Return of the Sun Festival offer opportunities for the community to celebrate local culture with igloo-building contests, dog-team races, and traditional games. Iglulingmiut have also retained a taste for traditional “country food” (wildlife hunted or fished as food). The community is famous for its igunaq, or fermented walrus meat, is a local delicacy. Religion has also played a significant role in community life. There are two churches in Igloolik, St. Stephen’s Catholic Church and St. Matthias Anglican Mission. The Catholic parish was established in the 1930s, and a much-photographed stone church was built in the 1960s. St. Stephen’s had to be torn down in 2006 for safety reasons and has been replaced by a newer sanctuary.
As in many Qikiqtani region communities, eastern Arctic Inuktitut is the chief language of Iglulingmiut. In the 2011 Census, 93% of the population described Inuktitut as their mother tongue, 84% said it was the first language of the home, and another 8% use it as a second language in the home. As well, 13% indicated they did not speak either English or French. English is commonly used by 85% of the population, and around 75% uses English at home as a first or second language. There is also a small group of French speakers. 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 to have local residents occasionally 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.
Igloolik has a very young population. The 2011 Census counted 225 pre-school and 425 school-age children, making 45% of the population under 18. The median age of the community is 21.1 and only 2% of the population is over 65. There is considerable effort to preserve the knowledge of Igloolik’s few Elders. Through an active Elders group, the Inullariit Society, the Elders teach valuable land skills and traditional sewing techniques to the community. The Igloolik Research Centre has also spearheaded the Igloolik Oral History Database, a project aimed at preserving the Elders’ traditional knowledge.
Igloolik is one of the communities benefiting from the economic stimulus of decentralized Government of Nunavut offices. It is the location of community development positions for the Department of Culture and Heritage, and wildlife management for the Department of Environment. In addition to government employment and the local service wage economy, many residents hunt and fish to provide for their families. Igloolik also has a significant cultural industry, with Isuma Productions and Artcirq based here. Providing traditional items of clothing, tools and household items for films is also a part of this industry. Tourism offers seasonal employment for guides, outfitters, and cultural performers.
There are no bank branches in Igloolik 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, cash cheques, etc. An ATM with a limited cash supply is available at the Northern Store. 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 postal service can often be delayed when bad weather disrupts transportation.
Located adjacent to Hall Beach and sharing the same geographic area, Igloolik also has the same abundant coastal wildlife, including walrus, seals, beluga whales, and polar bears. The relatively flat topography supports a large bird population during the summer season, specifically ground nesting species such as ducks, geese, loons, plovers, snow buntings and snowy owls. Small game is present throughout the area. People fish locally for Arctic char and lake trout, and collect bird eggs in the spring.
Situated on a horseshoe-shaped island a little farther north than Hall Beach on the eastern side of Melville Peninsula, Igloolik has an Arctic coastal climate. Winters are cold, with a daily average between -26°C and -31°C between December and February, and 295 days a year the temperature is below 0°C. In the summertime, temperatures are moderate, with an average high in July of 10.7°C, although temperatures can be in the high teens and occasionally reach 20°C. Average precipitation in a year is 102.5 mm of rain and 183.1 cm of snow. Igloolik is also moderately breezy and has an average wind speed of 16 km/h throughout the year. Given the very flat terrain of the area, blowing snow and blizzards are common in winter and early spring. Current weather conditions and forecasts for Igloolik 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 69°23’ north latitude, Igloolik is in the land of polar night and midnight sun. The amount of daylight in the winter diminishes to nothing by the end of November and it remains dark until the return of brief sunrise in mid-January. The amount of daylight increases to 24 hours a day by the middle of May, and daylight is continuous for the next three months until the last week of July. The community holds an annual festival in January to celebrate the return of the sun over the horizon.
According to the 2011 Census, there are 330 occupied private dwellings in Igloolik, including 175 single detached houses, 70 semi-detached houses, and 85 row houses. The Nunavut Economic Developers Association website indicates that around 20% 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 what housing is provided with your job 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 Igloolik.
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 because 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. Limited cellphone service is available from some service providers only. 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 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.
Local shopping and perishables are available from the Northern Store, Igloolik Co-operative, and Aqiggiq Store. The Co-op also has a restaurant where people from the community can enjoy foods such as poutine, hamburgers and French fries. The Tujurmivik Hotel also takes bookings for home-cooked meals and pizza. 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 in the stores, although shortages can occur if airfreight is delayed by bad weather. Store managers can sometimes order special items if they are requested. “Country food,” such as caribou, fish, seal or igunaq, 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, 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. Free shipping from Internet-based suppliers often becomes an important consideration. 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 their 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 recommend favourite delivery methods and suppliers of 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 during the short shipping season, and orders must be placed with shipping marshalling deadlines in mind. Companies that provide this service in Igloolik are Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping and Nunavut Sealift and Supply. See the contact list at the end of this document for phone numbers and websites.
Igloolik is served by a Health Centre (also referred to as a 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 medical staff at the Health Centre reflects the size of the community. Regional services are provided through the Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit, with support from hospitals in Ottawa. Igloolik has regular visits from community physicians, in addition to specialist and dentist visits. 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. After your three-month residency you can download and complete the online Nunavut health card application form, and mail the form and the required documentation to the Department of Health. 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 supply some emergency prescriptions, but 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 extra time depending on the method sent and weather conditions.
A dentist visits Igloolik 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.
Igloolik has an airline service that is routed through Iqaluit with First Air and Canadian North. Service from Iqaluit 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 employer covers your initial relocation costs, you should check prices before making personal travel plans.
The Igloolik Hotel provides a shuttle bus service from the airport to the hotel. However, there is currently no general taxi service in Igloolik (unless one was started recently), so if you are not staying at the hotel, you should arrange transportation with local contacts before arriving . 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.
There is an arena in Igloolik for community sports activities and a community hall. Contact the Hamlet Recreation Coordinator for current programming. Igloolik’s public library, Amitturmiut Library, is a joint school-public library and is located in the high school. Contact the library for current hours. Local people enjoy time spent “on the land,” including going sledding in winter, collecting eggs in the spring, fishing in Mogg Bay, or spending the weekend out at a cabin or camping. 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 wish to participate in local hunting and fishing activities.
Every year in January, Igloolik holds a “Welcome back the sun” celebration, when the sun reappears over the horizon after the long winter night. The celebration includes traditional Inuit games and sports, dog team racing, igloo-building contests, and dances.
In 1999, a group in Arctic Bay decided to hold a sled dog race to celebrate the creation of Nunavut. 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 was extensively covered by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). Now called the Pangaggujjiniq Nunavut Quest, this is an important event for all of the communities involved and a celebration of traditional Inuit culture.
Under the Nunavut Liquor Act and Regulations, Igloolik 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 the 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 Finance Department is responsible for overseeing alcohol control and distribution in Nunavut, and you can also consult its website for more information about the system.