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May 5, 2008

Wikipedia: Iqaluit

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Aerial view of Iqaluit

Aerial view of Iqaluit

Flag of Iqaluit
Location of Iqaluit in Nunavut, Canada


Location of Iqaluit in Nunavut, Canada

Coordinates: 63°44′55″N 68°31′11″W / 63.74861, -68.51972
Settled 1942
City status April 19, 2001
– Type Iqaluit Municipal Council
– Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik
Area [1]
– Total 52.34 km² (20.2 sq mi)
Population (2006)[1]
– Total 6,184
– Density 118/km² (305.6/sq mi)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
– Summer (DST) EDT utc_offset_DST =-4 (UTC)
Canadian Postal code X0A 0H0, X0A 1H0
Area code(s) 867
Telephone Exchanges 222, 975, 979
NTS Map 025N10

Iqaluit (IPA: /ɨˈkæljuːɨt/; IPA: [iqaluit], ᐃᖃᓗᐃᑦ in Inuktitut syllabics), formerly Frobisher Bay, is the territorial capital and the largest community of Canada’s youngest territory, Nunavut. As of the 2006 census the population was 6,184, an increase of 18.1% from the 2001 census; it has the lowest population of any capital city in Canada.[1] Iqaluit was selected to serve as the new territory’s capital in a territory-wide referendum, in which it was chosen over Rankin Inlet. Inhabitants of Iqaluit are called Iqalummiut (singular: Iqalummiuq).



The Royal Canadian Mounted Police on parade in Iqaluit, Canada Day 1999.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police on parade in Iqaluit, Canada Day 1999.

Begun in 1942 as an American airbase, Iqaluit’s first permanent inhabitant was Nakasuk, an Inuk guide who helped American planners to choose the site. One of Iqaluit’s elementary schools is named after Nakasuk. Long regarded as a campsite and fishing spot by the Inuit, the place chosen had traditionally been named Iqaluit – “many fish” in Inuktitut – but Canadian and American authorities baptised it Frobisher Bay, after the official name of the body of water it abuts.

The Hudson’s Bay Company moved its south Baffin operations to the neighbouring valley of Niaqunngut, officially called Apex, in 1949 to take advantage of the airfield. The population of Frobisher Bay increased rapidly during the construction of the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW line, a system of radar stations, see NORAD) in the mid-1950s. Hundreds of construction workers, military personnel and administrative staff moved into the community, and several hundred Inuit followed to take advantage of the access to medical care and jobs the base provided. Of the town’s 1,200 residents, 489 were reported to be Inuit in 1957. After 1959, the Canadian government established permanent services at Frobisher Bay, including full-time doctors, a school and social services. The Inuit population grew rapidly in response, as the government encouraged Inuit to settle permanently in communities with government services.

The American military left Iqaluit in 1963, as ICBMs diminished the strategic value of the DEW line and Arctic airbases, but Frobisher Bay remained the government’s administrative and logistical centre for much of the eastern Arctic. In 1964, the first elections were held for a community council, and in 1979 for the first mayor. The founding of the Gordon Robertson Educational Centre (now Inukshuk high school) in the early-1970s at Iqaluit confirmed the government’s commitment to the community as an administrative centre. At the time of its founding, it was the sole high school operating in more than a seventh of Canadian territory.

On January 1, 1987, the name of this municipality was officially changed from “Frobisher Bay” to “Iqaluit” – aligning official usage with the name that the Inuit population had always used. In December 1995, it was selected in a referendum to be the future capital of Nunavut and on April 19, 2001 it was officially recognized as a city.


Legislative Assembly of Nunavut building in Iqaluit

Legislative Assembly of Nunavut building in Iqaluit

  • 1576 – Englishman Martin Frobisher sails into Frobisher Bay believing he has found the route to China
  • 1861 – Charles Francis Hall, an American, camps at the Sylvia Grinnell River and explores the waters of Koojesse Inlet, which he names after his Inuit guide
  • 1942 – U.S. Army Air Corps selects Iqaluit’s current location as the site of a major air base
  • 1949 – The HBC moves its trading post from Ward Inlet to Apex
  • 1955 – Frobisher Bay becomes the centre for U.S. Canada Dew Line construction operations
  • 1958 – Telephone exchange service established by Bell Canada
  • 1963 – US military move out of Iqaluit
  • 1964 – First community council formed; population of Frobisher Bay is 900
  • 1970 – Frobisher Bay officially recognized as a Settlement
  • 1974 – Settlement of Frobisher Bay gains village status
  • 1976 – Inuit present the Nunavut proposal to the Federal government
  • 1979 – First mayor elected
  • 1980 – Frobisher Bay designated as a town
  • 1982 – Government of Canada agrees in principle to the creation of Nunavut
  • 1987 – Frobisher Bay officially becomes Iqaluit, reverting to its original Inuktitut name meaning “place of many fish”
  • 1993 – The Nunavut Land Claim Agreement is signed in Iqaluit
  • 1995 – Nunavut residents select Iqaluit as capital of the new territory[2]
  • April 1, 1999 – The Territory of Nunavut officially comes into being
  • April 19, 2001 – Iqaluit receives its Order of Official status as a city


Iqaluit is located in the Everett Mountains rising from Koojesse Inlet, an inlet of Frobisher Bay, on the south-east part of Baffin Island. It is well to the east of Nunavut’s mainland, and northeast of Hudson Bay.



About 5 km south-east (63°43′48″N 068°26′48″W / 63.73, -68.44667 (Apex)) from Iqaluit’s centre is the community of Apex, or in Inuktitut known as Niaqunngut. It is located on a small peninsula separating Koojesse Inlet from Tarr Inlet. Historically Apex was the place where most Inuit lived when Iqaluit was a military site and off-limits to anyone not working at the base. Located here are the women’s shelter, a church, a primary school, and a bed-and-breakfast.


Iqaluit has a typically arctic climate, with very cold winters and short summers that are too cool to permit the growth of trees. Average monthly temperatures are below freezing for eight months of the year.[3]. Iqaluit’s precipitation averages just over 400 millimetres annually, much wetter than many other localities in the Canadian Arctic islands, with the summer being the wettest season.

Iqaluit Climatological Data
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Mean
Record high °C (°F) 4 (39) 4 (39) 4 (39) 7 (45) 13 (55) 22 (72) 26 (79) 26 (79) 17 (63) 7 (45) 6 (43) 4 (39)
Average high °C (°F) -23 (-9) -24 (-11) -19 (-2) -10 (14) -1 (30) 7 (45) 12 (54) 10 (50) 5 (41) -2 (28) -9 (16) -19 (-2) -6 (21)
Mean °C (°F) -27 (-17) -28 (-18) -24 (-11) -15 (5) -4 (25) 4 (39) 8 (46) 7 (45) 2 (36) -5 (23) -13 (9) -23 (-9) -10 (14)
Average low °C (°F) -31 (-24) -32 (-26) -29 (-20) -20 (-4) -8 (18) 0 (32) 4 (39) 3 (37) -0 (32) -8 (18) -18 (-0) -27 (-17) -14 (7)
Record low °C (°F) -45 (-49) -46 (-51) -45 (-49) -34 (-29) -26 (-15) -10 (14) -3 (27) -3 (27) -13 (9) -27 (-17) -36 (-33) -43 (-45)
Precipitation and Sunshine Hours
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
Total mm (in) 21 (0.8) 15 (0.6) 22 (0.9) 28 (1.1) 27 (1.1) 35 (1.4) 59 (2.2) 66 (2.6) 55 (2.2) 37 (1.5) 29 (1.1) 18 (0.7) 412 (16.2)
Rainfall mm (in) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 3 (0.1) 25 (1.0) 59 (2.3) 65 (2.6) 42 (1.7) 5 (0.2) 1 (0) 0 (0) 198 (7.8)
Snowfall cm (in) 23 (9.1) 16 (6.3) 25 (9.8) 32 (12.6) 25 (9.8) 10 (3.9) 0 (0) 1 (0.4) 14 (5.5) 35 (13.8) 32 (12.6) 22 (8.7) 236 (92.9)
Sunshine hours 34 98 170 224 194 197 218 170 89 54 40 19 1506
Data recorded at Iqaluit Airport for Environment Canada. Average data recorded over a 30 year span from 1971 to 2000.


Canada Day celebrations in Iqaluit, 1999.

Canada Day celebrations in Iqaluit, 1999.

  • Aboriginal people[4]
    • Inuit 57.9%
    • First Nations 0.7%
    • Métis 0.4%
    • Non-aboriginal 41.0%
  • Languages[4]
    • English (Official) 41.2%
    • French (Official) 5.4%
    • English & French 0.2%
    • Non Official 53.2% (predominantly Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun but includes other First Nations languages and non-official)

The 2001 Census reported that in Iqaluit 85.6% of the aboriginal population understood the language whilst 91.9% had a knowledge of it.[5]

  • Religion[4]
    • Protestant 64.4%
    • Roman Catholic 19.4%
    • Other Christian 2.5%
    • Other religions 1.2%
    • No religion 12.6%

Notable Iqalummiut

  • Ann Meekitjuk Hanson, Commissioner of Nunavut
  • Kenn Harper, historian, teacher, development officer, linguist, and businessman
  • Nakasuk, founder of Iqaluit
  • Paul Okalik, Premier of Nunavut.
  • Abe Okpik, Inuk politician, worked on “Project Surname”
  • Ed Picco, Nunavut politician, MLA
  • Annabella Piugattuk, actress
  • Hunter Tootoo, Nunavut politician, MLA
  • Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Nunavut politician, activist
  • Aqpik Peter, Nunavut speed skater, role model/poster boy for 2010 Olympics
  • Charles Drouin, Nunavut Radio DJ and Writer


See also: Iqaluit Public Transit
Iqaluit Airport

Iqaluit Airport

Iqaluit has the distinction of being the smallest Canadian capital in terms of population and the only capital that cannot be accessed from the rest of Canada via a highway. Located on an island remote from the Canadian highway system, Iqaluit is generally only accessible by aircraft and, subject to ice conditions, by boat. Iqaluit Airport is a fully modern facility whose originally World War II-era runway is more than long enough for most classes of modern jet. Although there is a persistent rumour that Iqaluit is an emergency landing site for the Space Shuttle, this is false.[6] Iqaluit Airport is a centre for cold-weather testing of new aircraft, such as the Airbus A380 in February 2006.

In the middle of summer, a few ships — generally no larger than a Liberty class vessel — transport bulk and heavy goods to the city. Iqaluit does not have a deep water harbour, so goods must be barged ashore, or the ship may be beached at high tide and the goods unloaded when the tide goes out. The city is currently planning a deepwater port[1].

Iqaluit stop sign

Iqaluit stop sign

It is in principle possible to reach Iqaluit on foot or by dog sled or snowmobile, both from other parts of Baffin Island and from the Quebec mainland when Hudson Strait freezes. This was how the Inuit traditionally travelled, and how they still do sometimes, but it is not advised for anyone who is not experienced in Arctic travel.

Iqaluit has a local road system only stretching from the nearby community of Apex to the Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park Reserve, a kilometre west of town. Iqaluit currently has no public transportation, however there is city-wide taxi service. (There was bus service in the city before, but lack of riders forced the closure of the service.) Although a growing number of people have personal automobiles, the cost of shipping them and the wear-and-tear of the harsh Arctic climate and notoriously rough roadways mean that snowmobiles are the preferred form of personal transportation. Nevertheless, the ever-increasing number of personal automobiles is beginning to create traffic problems at peak times. All-terrain vehicles are also an increasingly common form of transportation in most of the Canadian Arctic. Snowmobiles are extensively used to travel both within the city and in the surrounding area. In winter, dog sleds are still used, however this is primarily recreational. In winter, the nearby Qaummaarviit Territorial Historic Park and the more remote Katannilik Territorial Park are only accessible by snowmobile, dog sled or foot. In the summer, both are accessible by boat.

Both residents and businesses identify their locations mostly by building number, and occasionally by the name of a prominent structure. Residents must know where in the city certain building numbers are located; numbers tend to be aggregated in blocks, so a person might say that they live “in the 2600s” (twenty-six hundreds). Around 2003, street names were adopted, although there were delays in finalising them and then posting the signs. Street numbers have not been assigned, and building numbers continue to be used.

Architecture and attractions

Much of Iqaluit’s architecture is functional — designed to minimize material costs, while retaining heat and withstanding the climate. Early architecture runs from the 1950s military barracks of the original DEW line installation, through the 1970s white hyper-modernist fibreglass block of the Nakasuk elementary school, to the lines of the steel-reinforced concrete high-rise complex on the hill above it. The newer buildings are more colourful and diverse, and closer to the norms of southern architecture, but largely unremarkable.

The principal exception is the Nunavut Legislative Assembly Building, which is remarkable for its colourful interior, adorned with some of the very best in Inuit art.

St. Jude's Anglican Cathedral

St. Jude’s Anglican Cathedral

Another distinctive building was St. Jude’s Anglican Cathedral which was a white building shaped like an igloo. Originally built by the parishioners, the altar was shaped like a traditional Inuit sled, and the cross composed of two crossed narwhal tusks. An incident of arson severely affected the Cathedral structure and interior on 5 November 2005,[7] and it was finally demolished on June 1, 2006. Fundraising is in hand for rebuilding the Cathedral. On a ridge overlooking the city is the distinctive blue and white Inuksuk High School. The school is made up of four square sections joined together that give a clover leaf shape when viewed from the air.

The city is also the location of the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, which houses a large collection of Inuit and Arctic objects.

Just west of Iqaluit is the Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park Reserve. This park is characterised by the valley of the Sylvia Grinnell River. A small visitor’s centre with viewing platform is located on top of a hill overlooking scenic falls in the river.

Nearby on an island near the Peterhead inlet, is the Qaummaarviit Territorial Historic Park. It is a site with a long Inuit history and numerous artifacts have been recovered, including the remains of 11 semi-buried sod houses.

A little farther, across Frobisher Bay, are the Katannilik Territorial Park and the Soper Heritage River Park.


  • AM 1230 – CFFB, CBC Radio One
  • FM 88.3 – CBM-FM-3, CBC Radio Two
  • FM 93.3 – CIQA-FM, weather, marine info
  • FM 99.9 – CKIQ-FM, adult contemporary
  • FM 107.3 – CFRT-FM, community radio (French)
  • Channel 8 – CFFB, CBC North
  • Channel 10 – CH4161, APTN
  • Channel 12 – CH2260, SRC

Further reading

  • Baffin Regional Health Board (Nunavut), and Health Needs Assessment Project (Nunavut). Iqaluit Community Profile. Iqaluit, Nunavut?: Health Needs Assessment Project, Baffin Regional Health Board?, 1994.
  • Eno, Robert V. Crystal Two The Origin of Iqaluit. Arctic. 2003.
  • Hodgson, D. A. Quaternary geology of western Meta Incognita Peninsula and Iqaluit area, Baffin Island, Nunavut. Ottawa: Geological Survey of Canada, 2005. ISBN 0660194058
  • Keen, Jared. Iqaluit Gateway to the Arctic. Calgary: Weigl, 2000. ISBN 189699055X
  • Kublu, Alexina, and Mélanie Gagnon. Inuit Recollections on the Military Presence in Iqaluit. Memory and history in Nunavut, v. 2. Iqaluit, N.W.T.: Nunavut Arctic College, 2002. ISBN 1896204546
  • Newbery, Nick. Iqaluit gateway to Baffin. Iqaluit, NT: Published for the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 4, Iqaluit by Nortext Pub. Co, 1995. ISBN 1550364529
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