Restricted, with an Alcohol Education Committee (October 2014)*
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No bank branches. Light banking at Northern Store and Co-op. ATM at Northern Store (limited cash supply). Interac and credit cards accepted by most retailers. Internet banking is recommended.
Telephone and Internet (limited bandwidth) service is available. Cell phone service is not currently available.
The official settlement of Qikiqtarjuaq, formerly known as Broughton Island, grew up around a Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line site, which was established in the 1950s as part of Canada’s response to the Cold War. Before the arrival of the military, Inuit had a long history of occupation throughout the area at various coastal locations, with major Inuit camps existing at Kivitoo, Padloping Island and the mouth of North Pangnirtung Fiord. Similar to Cumberland Sound to the south, whalers from both Europe and the United States were active in the area in the 1800s. Because of the abundance of whales, a whaling station was constructed at Kivitoo. The Inuit community located at Kivitoo moved to the area around the current location of Qikiqtarjuaq after a tragic accident in which a large number of community members drowned. By the late 1960s, other local camps had moved into town, as the Canadian government built medical facilities and public housing, and offered social assistance to Inuit who would move into the settlement off the land. The community changed its official name from Broughton Island to Qikiqtarjuaq, meaning “big island,” in November 1998.
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.
Qikiqtarjuaq is a small, Inuktitut-speaking community, where modern telecommunications and technology, such as televisions, the Internet and high-performance snowmobiles, coexist with traditional Inuit activities that are important to the local lifestyle. Hunting, fishing and other traditional harvesting activities, such as berry-picking, happen regularly with the cycles of the seasons. Qikiqtarjuaq has two churches, which also form part of the community’s social fabric: St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church (an outpost of St. Luke’s in Pangnirtung), and the Katisivik Full Gospel Church.
The Inuktitut language is very strong in Qikiqtarjuaq: you will hear it on the street and used regularly in daily life. In the 2011 Census, 93% of the population said that Inuktitut was their mother tongue and the language they used first at home. In addition, 13% said they did not speak either English or French, which means that newcomers or visitors may occasionally need to find someone who speaks English to translate for them. Although there are a few French speakers in Qikiqtarjuaq, English is used as a second language by 85% of residents. More than half of the community also uses English as a second language at home. 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.
Qikiqtarjuaq is not among the youngest communities in Nunavut, although the population is considerably younger than the Canadian average. The 2011 Census counted 50 pre-school and 140 school-age children, making 37% of the population under 18. The median age is 25.5, and 4% of the population is over 65.
With the scaling down of the DEW Line system in North America, one major outside influence on Qikiqtarjuaq’s economy has diminished. Much of the local economy now focuses on providing goods and services to local residents. It does not have the decentralized Government of Nunavut offices that have stimulated the economies of some other communities, such as nearby Pangnirtung. However, the fishing industry is developing a presence in Qikiqtarjuaq, and there is an ongoing seal fishery. One group of local scuba divers will occasionally dive to harvest clams for sale to the community. There is also a satellite office of Parks Canada for Auyuittuq National Park, because Qikiqtarjuaq lies at the other end of Aksayuk Pass from Pangnirtung. Tourism therefore offers good opportunities for local outfitters. Visitors are often interested in snowmobiling, dogsledding, and cross-country skiing in winter and spring, and hiking and wildlife viewing are popular in summer months. Local artists are known especially for carvings in narwhal ivory. Many people engage in subsistence hunting and fishing for seal, walrus, narwhal and Arctic char.
As in most Nunavut communities, there are no bank branches in Qikiqtarjuaq, and cash supplies can often become very limited. The Northern Store and Co-op offer “light banking” services, which may include the ability to maintain a small cash account with the store, cash cheques, etc. There is an ATM at the Northern Store, with a limited cash supply. Interac and credit cards are generally accepted. It is highly recommended that newcomers establish Internet banking services and online methods of bill payment, particularly since postal service can often be delayed because of bad weather and transportation disruptions.
Located on Davis Strait, and at the northern entry to Auyuittuq National Park, the area around Qikiqtarjuaq is rich with a wide variety of wildlife. The marine environment supports polar bears, several types of seals, and bowhead, narwhal and humpback whales. Land mammals include small game, such as Arctic hare, lemmings, foxes and wolves. Although caribou can be found inland, their numbers are not great. Arctic char can be found at a number of locations outside the community. Bird life in the area includes falcons, ptarmigan, and a wide variety of waterfowl and seabirds, most notably fulmar and murres. Two National Wildlife Areas (NWAs) were designated in the region around Qikiqtarjuaq in 2010. Akpait NWA, approximately 130 km southeast of Qikiqtarjuaq on the northeastern tip of Cumberland Peninsula, is named with the Inuktitut word for murres and includes a significant marine area. Qaqulluit NWA is centred on Qaqulluit Island, which gets its name from the Inuktitut for Northern Fulmar, and also includes a marine area. Qaqulluit NWA is home to Canada’s largest breeding colony of Northern Fulmars, representing an estimated 22% (about 44,000 pairs) of the total Canadian population.
Winters are fairly cold, with a daily average between -22.3ᵒC and -25.8ᵒC from December to February, and 271 days a year have a temperature below 0ᵒC. In the summertime, temperatures are cool, with the average high in July being 7.3ᵒC, and only seldom do temperatures reach the teens. Average precipitation in a year is 222.8 cm of snow and 39 mm of rain. Because the community is close to the ice floe edge, periods of ice fog and fog are not unusual, and can last for days. Current weather conditions and forecasts for Qikiqtarjuaq 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 a latitude of 67ᵒ49’ N, Qikiqtarjuaq is just above the Arctic Circle and into the land of polar night and midnight sun. Winter days are short, with long dawn and twilight periods. The sun sets in the second week of December, and rises above the horizon again the first of January. For much of the summer, the sun is just below the horizon in a long twilight period, but from late May to mid-July, it does not actually set.
According to the 2011 Census, Qikiqtarjuaq has 165 occupied private dwellings, including 90 single detached houses, 30 semi-detached houses, 45 row houses and no apartments. The Nunavut Economic Developers Association website indicates that about 19% of these homes are privately owned. The remainder is made up of rental units provided by employers 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 Qikiqtarjuaq.
The Hamlet provides water and sewage services via a trucked service. This means that you will have both water and sewage tanks in your 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. There is currently no cellphone service 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. However, many residents experience difficulty with satellite dish reception because of the high mountains.
Local shopping and perishables are available from the Northern Store and Tulugak Co-operative. Basic 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 Leelie Souvenir and Gift Shop. See the contact list for phone numbers. Carvings can also be purchased directly from local artists, who are particularly known for narwhal tusk carvings. Please note that arts and crafts made from some designated wildlife sources (like narwhal ivory) may be subject to wildlife regulations, such as the requirement for tags, which you should keep in mind if you plan to remove these items from Nunavut.
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 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 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.
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 providing this service in Qikiqtarjuaq are Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping and Nunavut Sealift and Supply. See the contact list for phone numbers and websites.
Qikiqtarjuaq 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, treatment of minor illnesses, and emergency first response. The number of nurses at the Health Centre reflects the size of the community. Qikiqtarjuaq 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 the application, 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 and bear in mind that the method sent and weather conditions could delay its arrival.
Qikiqtarjuaq has a dental clinic, which is staffed by a dental therapist. A dentist visits Qikiqtarjuaq 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.
Qikiqtarjuaq currently has a scheduled airline service routed through Iqaluit with First Air and Canadian North. The flight from Iqaluit to Qikiqtarjuaq is routed through Pangnirtung. Service from Iqaluit is provided several days a week, but 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 Tulugak Inn provides a shuttle bus service from the airport to the hotel. However, there is currently no general taxi service in Qikiqtarjuaq (unless one was started up very 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. However, garage services for private vehicles are limited.
The Hamlet maintains an arena and a community hall for scheduled programs. Many popular community activities involve time out “on the land.” Snowmobiling is a popular pastime in the winter and early spring, and hiking and boating in the summer. People in Qikiqtarjuaq like to go berry picking in the fall, and in the winter they explore nearby ice caves or go ice fishing. Frequently, they go to Bubble Lake or to icebergs frozen in over winter, in order to collect fresh water. They also like to go for drives to the DEW Line site at different times of the year. Hunting and fishing are fundamental to community life. 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 to be able to to participate in local hunting and fishing activities.
Under the Nunavut Liquor Act and Regulations, Qikiqtarjuaq 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 the 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, and you can also consult its website for more information about the system.