Prohibited (October 2014)*
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There are no bank branches. Light banking is available at the Co-op and Northern Store. ATM (limited cash supply) at Northern and Co-op stores. Interac and credit cards are accepted at stores. Internet banking is recommended.
Telephone services provided by NorthWesTel. Cell phone service provided locally by Mitiq Co-op. Internet service provided by two providers: Qiniq and Xplornet.
The Belcher Islands, home to the community of Sanikiluaq, have been occupied over time by both the Dorset and Thule peoples. Given the proximity of the islands to the northern Québec coast, there was also migration and travel between the two locations. The first recorded European contact was in 1610 when Henry Hudson, for whom Hudson Bay was named, logged the islands on his ill-fated journey of exploration. Although Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) employee Thomas Wiegand visited the islands in the 1840s, there is no evidence of Europeans overwintering until Robert Flaherty arrived in 1914. The HBC first opened a trading post in 1928, which was relocated to “Eskimo Harbour” in 1961, the same year the federal government built a school in the southern part of the islands. The Hamlet of Sanikiluaq was established in 1974, coinciding with the consolidation of federal services, and the movement of residents to one location from two “camps” located at the north and south ends of the islands. According to some sources, the Hamlet is named after a local legendary Inuk (person) named Sandy Kiluaq, an adopted boy who grew up to become the best hunter and best provider in the region and a hero to his community.
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.
Sanikiluaq Inuit have a distinct culture, based on the unique resources available to them in their island location. They are famed for creating clothing from bird feathers and skin, documented in Jill Oakes’s book Coats of Eider (on the additional reading list), and fish skin dolls. They are also noted basket weavers. Their carvings are made from local argillite, rather than the soapstone more common in many other communities. Their cultural distinctions have been maintained in part because connections to Sanikiluaq from other Nunavut communities are indirect.
Sanikiluaq’s Anglican church, St. Phillips, forms part of the Great Whale River parish and shares its clergy with Great Whale River in northern Québec, in the Hudson Deanery. Most services are conducted by lay ministers, and church is attended regularly by up to 20% of the population.
Inuktitut is the language of daily life in Sanikiluaq. In the 2011 Census, 97% of the population claimed Inuktitut as their mother tongue, 92% speak it as the first language at home, and another 3% used it as a second language at home. As well, the number of bilingual homes is lower in Sanikiluaq than in most communities because 78% of the population does not speak more than one language at home. The number of people who do not speak either English or French is also high. Some 22% of the population is made up of unilingual Inuktitut speakers, which means that on occasion newcomers or visitors will need to find someone who speaks English to translate for them, particularly when communicating with Inuit Elders. Although there are a few people able to speak French in Sanikiluaq, English is the most commonly used second language (77% of the population). Most of the community uses English in the workplace or at school. Only 19% use 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 perhaps 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.
The community is small and close-knit. It is also young. The 2011 Census counted 105 pre-school and 240 school-age children, making 43% of the community under 18. The median age is 21.1, and only around two dozen people are over 65, or 3% of the community.
Like many small communities in Nunavut, the local economy is primarily based on providing goods and services within the community. The traditional economy, which is based on hunting and fishing, is strong, and a local arts and crafts industry provides income for a number of residents. Basket weaving is an important local craft. A small tourism industry that focuses on wildlife, birding and adventure camping tours provides seasonal employment.
As in most Nunavut communities, there are no bank branches in Sanikiluaq, 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 balance with the store, cash cheques for a service fee, etc. ATMs, Interac and credit card services are available at the stores, although ATMs may run out of cash. 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.
The Belcher Islands, located in Hudson Bay, support a wide variety of wildlife. The islands are well known for their large concentration of eider ducks, as well as host geese, loons, terns, gulls, ptarmigans and various raptors, such as peregrine falcons and rough-legged hawks. Marine wildlife includes seal, beluga whales, walrus and polar bears, and fish, such as cod and capelin. Arctic char and whitefish can also be found. Small game is present on the island, including hare, fox and lemmings, and reindeer were introduced to the islands in 1978.
Sanikiluaq is Nunavut’s most southerly location, and experiences a climate similar to the coastal communities of northern Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Winter months are moderately cold, with an average temperature of -20ᵒC, and summers are moderate, with a July average of 15ᵒC and temperatures mostly in the teens throughout the summer. Fog is common, and can disrupt air transportation and supply lines. Current weather conditions and forecasts for Sanikiluaq 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 56 degrees latitude, Sanikiluaq is the only one of Nunavut’s communities that is south of the 60th parallel. It does not experience midnight sun in summer, but days are long, and the sun will set only briefly, leaving the land in a twilight state for three or four hours. In winter, the sun rises for a few hours at midday, with long dawn and twilight periods.
According to the 2011 Census, Sanikiluaq has 195 occupied private dwellings, including 190 single detached houses and five semi-detached houses. 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 and public housing. Housing in Nunavut is in short supply, so make sure you 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 Sanikiluaq.
Water and sewage services, provided by the Hamlet, are supplied by trucked service. This means 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 Silas Tookalook Gas and Oil Services 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 provided by NorthWesTel. Cell phone service is available from Mitiq Co-op. There are two internet providers offered by 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. See the contact list for telephone numbers and websites attached to the "At a Glance" tab.
Local shopping and perishables are available from the Northern Store and Mitiq 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 poor weather. Store managers can sometimes order special items if they are requested. “Country food” (wildlife hunted or fished for food), such as duck, 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 Co-Op. 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 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, 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 during the short shipping season, and orders must be placed with shipping marshalling deadlines in mind. Companies that provide this service in Sanikiluaq are Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping and Nunavut Sealift and Supply. See the contact list for phone numbers and websites.
Sanikiluaq is served by a Health Centre (also referred to as the 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 nurses at the Health Centre reflects the size of the community. Sanikiluaq has regular visits from community physicians, in addition to specialist and dentist visits. Uniquely among Qikiqtani region communities, regional services are provided through the Rankin Health Centre, with support from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Those requiring specialist or serious emergency treatment are frequently sent “south” to Winnipeg, 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 form, and then mail the completed 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.
The nearest pharmacies are located in Churchill or 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 because delivery could be delayed by poor weather conditions.
A dentist visits Sanikiluaq 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.
More information about Nunavut’s health system is available online.
First Air and Canadian North, the airlines that provide service in most of Nunavut, do not provide direct service to Sanikiluaq. Air Inuit flies into Sanikiluaq from Montreal, as well as Kivalliq Air that flies from Winnipeg, but both does not fly on a daily basis. Check their airline schedules for more up-to-date 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 covered your initial relocation costs, you should check prices before making personal travel plans.
The Amaulik Hotel provides a transportation service from the airport to the hotel. There is currently no taxi service in Sanikiluaq (unless one was started recently), so if you are not staying at the hotel, you should arrange transportation from the airport with local contacts before arriving. Most people get around on snowmobiles in the winter and all-terrain vehicles in the summer. There are private vehicles in-town, but garage services are very limited.
The Hamlet maintains an arena and the Old Community Hall. People in Sanikiluaq gather for special events and holidays and celebrate with games and dances. Any visiting musical groups are always enjoyed by the whole community. Much of the community goes camping in the summer, and snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and boats are used to explore the area. Hunting and fishing are a regular part of everyday life here. 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 participate in these activities.
Under the Nunavut Liquor Act and Regulations, Sanikiluaq is a Prohibited community. This means that 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 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 and you can consult its website for more information about the system.