"Our land", in Inuktitut; Canada's newest territory, as of 1 April 1999, carved out of the eastern portion of the Northwest Territories (~2M km2, population ~20k). The star-studded opening gala (attended by Prime Minister Jean Chretien, a Native Affairs Minister back in the day) had all the "excitement" of the NHL Awards Show, but that's a mere blip on the screen. Better things ahead. Capital city: Iqaluit. Three flights daily from Newark.

Nunavut, pronounced "Noo-na-voot" and written as Nunavut in both English and French, means "our land" in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit. Nunavut is a territory, but unlike the Northwest Territories, the word "territory" is not part of Nunavut's official name.

Nunavut is 1,994,000 km2 (one-fifth the size of Canada, which is 9.98 million km2).

The 1996 census of the area had the population laid out as 24,730.
The ethnic breakdown of Nunavut, also by the 1996 census, was:
Inuit: 20,480
Non-aboriginal: 3,975
North American Indian: 90
Métis: 80
Multiple aboriginal: 35
Other aboriginal: 10

The capital city of Nunavut is Iqaluit, with a population 4,220. Because of the large amount of land, Nunavut (like the NWT before it) is divided into three regions. Nunavut's three regions are called the Qikiqtaaluk (or Baffin) Region in eastern and northern Nunavut, the Kivalliq (or Keewatin) Region in the south and central portions of Nunavut near Hudson Bay, and the Kitikmeot Region in central and western Nunavut. A lot of place names in Nunavut are going back to their traditional Inuktitut names. The term "Kivalliq" has been used for several years now, and "Qikiqtaaluk" is just starting to catch on, however, people still use the names Baffin and Keewatin.

The official languages of the territory are Inuktitut, English and French.

Nunavut covers three time zones: Eastern Standard Time (UTC - 5h), Central Standard Time (UTC - 6h) and Mountain Standard Time (UTC - 7h). Parts of eastern Baffin Island, including the hamlet of Pangnirtung, actually fall inside the Atlantic time zone, but the community operates on Eastern time. Nunavut follows Daylight Saving time.

Nunavut shares an area code with both the Yukon and the NWT: 867.

As for the territory's "postal designator":
Originally, mail to the new territory was to continue as addressed to "NT", the designator for the Northwest Territories. The reason?

    Mail to Nunavut addresses should be labelled NT, the same postal designator as for the Northwest Territories. Canada Post says that changing it at this time would cause equipment and infrastructure problems for Canada Post, particularly for Year 2000 compliance. Nunavut residents keep their current mailing address and have the option of using "Nunavut" in full or "NT."

    A lot of people assumed Nunavut's postal designator would be NU. However, according to an April 29, 1999, article in Nunatsiaq News, Canada Post thought NU would offend francophones, because "nu" means "nude" in French.

Be that as it may, since the creation of the territory, common sense prevailed and you can write to Iqaluit, NU.

National Parks in Nunavut:
Ellesmere Island National Park Reserve, NU. Established in 1986, 39,500.0 km2.
Auyuittuq National Park Reserve, NU. Established 1972, 21,471.1 km2.
The soon-to-be-created Ukkusiksalik National Park, which will be 22,000 km2.

The territorial flag of Nunavut:
The flag of Nunavut is really, really cool. Picture, if you will, the left half of the flag a bright yellow and the right half white. Overlain in the centre is a brilliant red inuksuk. In the top right corner there is a small blue star. You can view the flag at http://www.nunavut.com/misc/english/flag.html.

The most important of all: Who keeps the polar bear licence plates?
Answer: Both territories, NWT and Nunavut. Boing.

The question on everyone's mind:
Why was Nunavut created?

    Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, from which Nunavut was governed until April, 1999, is as far from Iqaluit as Vancouver is from Thunder Bay, Ontario. Now the territory's capital is, for most residents of Nunavut, closer to home, and a policy of decentralized government -- in which territorial government departments are headquartered in various of the larger Nunavut communities -- brings the administration of day-to-day affairs still closer.

    Perhaps more importantly, the new territory permits territorial-level government to reflect the circumstances of the central and eastern Arctic, which are very different economically and culturally than those in the western Arctic.

    The creation of Nunavut also returned to Inuit control over their own affairs. Although Inuit did not have formal governments when they lived nomadically in scattered camps before being moved into permanent settlements by the Canadian government earlier this century, there were camp bosses and an informal system of management that served Inuit well.

From none of it to Nunavut: A brief history

  • 1973 -- Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (ITC) begins a study of Inuit land use and occupancy, which eventually demonstrates the extent of Inuit aboriginal title in the Arctic.
  • 1976 -- ITC proposes the creation of a Nunavut Territory as part of a comprehensive settlement of Inuit land claims in the Northwest Territories. The Nunavut Proposal calls for the Beaufort Sea and Yukon North Slope areas used by the Inuvialuit to be included in the Nunavut Territory.
  • 1980 -- At its Annual General Meeting in October, ITC delegates unanimously pass a resolution calling for the creation of Nunavut.
  • 1990 -- Tungavik Federation of Nunavut (TFN) and representatives of the federal and territorial governments sign a land claims agreement-in-principle in April. The agreement supports the division of the Northwest Territories and provides for a plebiscite on boundaries.
  • 1992 -- In January, TFN and government negotiators come to an agreement on the substantive portions of a final land claims agreement for the Nunavut region. The agreement contains commitments for the creation of a Nunavut territory and government, subject to a boundary plebiscite and the conclusion of the Nunavut Political Accord.
  • 1992 -- An overall majority of voters in the Northwest Territories and the Nunavut area approve the proposed boundary for division in a May plebiscite.
  • In October, TFN and government representatives sign the Nunavut Political Accord, setting the creation of Nunavut as April 1, 1999.
  • In November, in a Nunavut-wide vote, the Inuit of Nunavut ratify the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
  • 1993 -- The Nunavut Agreement is signed in May. In June, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the Nunavut Act are adopted by Parliament and receive Royal Assent.
  • 1995 and 1996 -- Footprints in New Snow and Footprints II, documents written by the Nunavut Implementation Commission, recommend that certain headquarter and regional functions of the Nunavut government be decentralized to communities. Footprints II is used as the blueprint for the foundation of the Government of Nunavut.
  • 1997 -- The Office of the Interim Commissioner is established to help prepare for the creation of Nunavut. It is responsible for setting up an operational government ready to function effectively on April 1, 1999.
  • 1998 -- Amendments to the Nunavut Act are adopted by Parliament and receive Royal Assent.
  • 1999 -- The Nunavut Territory and Government come into existence on April 1.

But, you ask, what is the difference between a territory and a province? Well, a province is its own legal entity with rights and responsibilities enshrined in the Constitution. A territory is created by federal law. In a territory, the federal government is allowed to take on provincial responsibilities, such as education and health care. Nunavut is a bit different as a territory than the NWT and the Yukon, due to the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. The government of Nunavut has more control due to that agreement.

I could go on for hours about the people, places, environment and culture of Nunavut, but I will instead direct you to the Web sites listed below. I would like to end with what is arguably the most important political point about Nunavut.

The Government of Nunavut is the first and only political body in Canada that is majority aboriginal. The population is over 80-per-cent Inuit. The government is a kind of de facto aboriginal self-government. It is a lot more representative of the ethnic makeup than some places to the south. There are 19 MLAs, who serve in a consensus government (no political parties). It's different, and it's working.

Thank you for your time. If you're interested, visit these sites for more info:

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