The Establishment of Nunavut
Nunavut (/nuːnəˌvuːt/; French: [nynavy(t)]; Inuktitut syllabics ᓄᓇᕗᑦ [ˈnunavut]) is the newest, largest, and most northerly territory of Canada. Nunavut means "our land" in the native language Inuktitut. It was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, though the boundaries had been contemplatively drawn in 1993. The creation of Nunavut resulted in the first major change to Canada's political map since the incorporation of the province of Newfoundland in 1949.
Nunavut comprises a major portion of Northern Canada, and most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Its vast territory makes it the fifth-largest country subdivision in the world, as well as North America's second-largest (after Greenland). The capital Iqaluit (formerly "Frobisher Bay"), on Baffin Island in the east, was chosen by the 1995 capital plebiscite. Other major communities include the regional centres of Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay.
Nunavut also includes Ellesmere Island to the far north, as well as the eastern and southern portions of Victoria Island in the west and Akimiski Island in James Bay far to the southeast of the rest of the territory. It is Canada's only geo-political region that is not connected to the rest of North America by highway.
Nunavut is the largest in area and the second-least populous of Canada's provinces and territories. One of the world's most remote, sparsely settled regions, it has a population of 35,944, mostly Inuit, spread over an area of just over 1,750,000 km2 (680,000 sq mi), or slightly smaller than Mexico. Nunavut is also home to the world's northernmost permanently inhabited place, Alert. Eureka, a weather station also on Ellesmere Island, has the lowest average annual temperature of any Canadian weather station.
The region now known as Nunavut has supported a continuous indigenous population for approximately 4,000 years. Most historians identify the coast of Baffin Island with the Helluland described in Norse sagas, so it is possible that the inhabitants of the region had occasional contact with Norse sailors.
In September 2008, researchers reported on the evaluation of existing and newly excavated archaeological remains, including yarn spun from a hare, rats, tally sticks, a carved wooden face mask that depicts Caucasian features, and possible architectural material. The materials were collected in five seasons of excavation at Cape Tanfield. Scholars determined that these provide evidence of European traders and possibly settlers on Baffin Island, not later than 1000 CE (and thus older than or contemporaneous with L'Anse aux Meadows). They seem to indicate prolonged contact, possibly up to 1450. The origin of the Old World contact is unclear; the article states: "Dating of some yarn and other artifacts, presumed to be left by Vikings on Baffin Island, have produced an age that predates the Vikings by several hundred years. So ... you have to consider the possibility that as remote as it may seem, these finds may represent evidence of contact with Europeans prior to the Vikings' arrival in Greenland."
First written historical accounts
The written historical accounts of Nunavut begin in 1576, with an account by English explorer Martin Frobisher. While leading an expedition to find the Northwest Passage, Frobisher thought he had discovered gold ore around the body of water now known as Frobisher Bay on the coast of Baffin Island. The ore turned out to be worthless, but Frobisher made the first recorded European contact with the Inuit. Other explorers in search of the elusive Northwest Passage followed in the 17th century, including Henry Hudson, William Baffin and Robert Bylot.
Cornwallis and Ellesmere Islands featured in the history of the Cold War in the 1950s. Concerned about the area's strategic geopolitical position, the federal government relocated Inuit from Nunavik (northern Quebec) to Resolute and Grise Fiord. In the unfamiliar and hostile conditions, they faced starvation but were forced to stay. Forty years later, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples issued a report titled The High Arctic Relocation: A Report on the 1953–55 Relocation. The government paid compensation to those affected and their descendants and on August 18, 2010, in Inukjuak, Nunavik, the Honourable John Duncan, PC, MP, previous Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians apologized on behalf of the Government of Canada for the relocation of Inuit to the High Arctic.
Discussions on dividing the Northwest Territories along ethnic lines began in the 1950s, and legislation to do this was introduced in 1963. After its failure, a federal commission recommended against such a measure. In 1976, as part of the land claims negotiations between the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (then called the "Inuit Tapirisat of Canada") and the federal government, the parties discussed division of the Northwest Territories to provide a separate territory for the Inuit. On April 14, 1982, a plebiscite on division was held throughout the Northwest Territories. A majority of the residents voted in favour and the federal government gave a conditional agreement seven months later.
The land claims agreement was completed in September 1992 and ratified by nearly 85% of the voters in Nunavut in a referendum. On July 9, 1993, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the Nunavut Act were passed by the Canadian Parliament. The transition to establish Nunavut Territory was completed on April 1, 1999. The creation of Nunavut has been followed by growth in the capital, Iqaluit—a modest increase from 5,200 in 2001 to 6,600 in 2011.
Government and Politics
Nunavut has a Commissioner appointed by the federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. As in the other territories, the commissioner's role is symbolic and is analogous to that of a Lieutenant-Governor. While the Commissioner is not formally a representative of Canada's head of state, a role roughly analogous to representing The Crown has accrued to the position. Nunavut elects a single member of the House of Commons of Canada. This makes Nunavut the largest electoral district in the world by area.
The members of the unicameral Legislative Assembly of Nunavut are elected individually; there are no parties and the legislature is consensus-based. The head of government, the premier of Nunavut, is elected by, and from the members of the legislative assembly. On June 14, 2018, Joe Savikataaq was elected as the Premier of Nunavut, after his predecessor Paul Quassa lost a non-confidence motion. Former Premier Paul Okalik set up an advisory council of eleven elders, whose function it is to help incorporate "Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit" (Inuit culture and traditional knowledge, often referred to in English as "IQ") into the territory's political and governmental decisions.
Due to the territory's small population, and the fact that there are only a few hundred voters in each electoral district, the possibility of two election candidates finishing in an exact tie is significantly higher than in any Canadian province. This has actually happened twice in the five elections to date, with exact ties in Akulliq in the Nunavut general election, 2008 and in Rankin Inlet South in the Nunavut general election, 2013. In such an event, Nunavut's practice is to schedule a follow-up by-election rather than choosing the winning candidate by an arbitrary method. The territory has also had numerous instances where MLAs were directly acclaimed to office as the only person to register their candidacy by the deadline, as well as one instance where a follow-up by-election had to be held due to no candidates registering for the regular election in their district at all.
Owing to Nunavut's vast size, the stated goal of the territorial government has been to decentralize governance beyond the region's capital. Three regions—Kitikmeot, Kivalliq and Qikiqtaaluk/Baffin—are the basis for more localized administration, although they lack autonomous governments of their own.
The territory has an annual budget of C$700 million, provided almost entirely by the federal government. Former Prime Minister Paul Martin designated support for Northern Canada as one of his priorities in 2004, with an extra $500 million to be divided among the three territories.
In 2001, the government of New Brunswick collaborated with the federal government and the technology firm SSI Micro to launch Qiniq, a unique network that uses satellite delivery to provide broadband Internet access to 24 communities in Nunavut. As a result, the territory was named one of the world's "Smart 25 Communities" in 2006 by the Intelligent Community Forum, a worldwide organization that honours innovation in broadband technologies. The Nunavut Public Library Services, the public library system serving the territory, also provides various information services to the territory.
In September 2012, Premier Aariak welcomed Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, to Nunavut as part of the events marking the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
Due to prohibition laws influenced by local and traditional beliefs, Nunavut has a highly regulated alcohol market. It is the last outpost of prohibition in Canada, and it is often easier to obtain firearms than alcohol. Every community in Nunavut has slightly differing regulations, but as a whole it is still very restrictive. Seven communities have bans against alcohol and another 14 have orders being restricted by local committees. Because of these laws, a lucrative bootlegging market has appeared where people mark up the prices of bottles by extraordinary amounts. The RCMP estimate Nunavut's bootleg liquor market rakes in some $10 million a year.
Despite the restrictions, alcohol's availability leads to widespread alcohol related crime. One lawyer estimated some 95% of police calls are alcohol-related. Alcohol is also believed to be a contributing factor to the territory's high rates of violence, suicide, and homicide. A special task force created in 2010 to study and address the territory's increasing alcohol-related problems recommended the government ease alcohol restrictions. With prohibition shown to be highly ineffective historically, it is believed these laws contribute to the territory's widespread social ills. However, many residents are skeptical about the effectiveness of liquor sale liberalization and want to ban it completely. In 2014, Nunavut's government decided to move towards more legalization. A liquor store has opened in Iqaluit, the capital, for the first time in 38 years as of 2017.