Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit January 02, 2018 - 3:30 pm

A look back at 2017 in Nunavut’s capital

A new pool, a shuttered hotel, a stranded plane and a visit from a prince

STEVE DUCHARME AND BETH BROWN
Charles, the Prince of Wales, middle, visits with elders at Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park June 29 along with then-Nunavut premier, Peter Taptuna, seated left, and Carolyn Bennett, federal minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
Charles, the Prince of Wales, middle, visits with elders at Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park June 29 along with then-Nunavut premier, Peter Taptuna, seated left, and Carolyn Bennett, federal minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
Then-Finance Minister Keith Peterson buys 12 Corona at Iqaluit’s new beer and wine story on opening day, Sept. 6. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
Then-Finance Minister Keith Peterson buys 12 Corona at Iqaluit’s new beer and wine story on opening day, Sept. 6. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
A man flies off the diving board into Iqaluit's new Aquatic Centre at the grand opening Jan. 26. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
A man flies off the diving board into Iqaluit's new Aquatic Centre at the grand opening Jan. 26. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
Pangnirtung’s Riit performs with the Jerry Cans Sept. 29 at the Iqaluit Legion, as part of Aakuluk Music’s Nunavut Music Week. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
Pangnirtung’s Riit performs with the Jerry Cans Sept. 29 at the Iqaluit Legion, as part of Aakuluk Music’s Nunavut Music Week. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
The new Iqaluit International Airport officially opens Sept. 13. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
The new Iqaluit International Airport officially opens Sept. 13. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

Any way you look at it, 2017 was a year to remember in Nunavut’s capital.

Not only did the city’s four-year drought without a functioning pool end in January, when the ultra-modern aquatic and fitness centre opened its doors, Iqalungmiut also got a chance to whet another whistle, when the Government of Nunavut opened the first beer and wine store seen in the city since the 1970s.

But what 2017 giveth, it taketh away as well.

In August, the city lost one of its largest hotels, the Hotel Arctic, when owners sold the building. The city’s accommodations deficit grew to troubling proportion as visitors travelling to the capital for conferences and other events scrambled to find a place to stay.

And the unexpected? Iqaluit had that this year too—like when Swiss International Airlines Flight 40, flying to New York City from Europe, was forced to make a dramatic emergency landing in Iqaluit after one of the jet’s engines failed mid-flight.

The airline sent a replacement to rescue passengers and the Boeing 737-300 departed Iqaluit a week later, after mechanics managed to install a new engine in extreme sub-zero temperatures—a feat that drew international attention and that was described by its owners as nothing short of an engineering marvel.

Here is the Nunatsiaq News list of our most memorable Iqaluit stories from 2017:

January

• The City of Iqaluit announces a byelection to replace two vacant seats on city council after the abrupt resignation of Coun. Megan Pizzo-Lyall, Jan 10. Coun. Gideonie Joamie had already resigned in 2016 but that seat was not immediately filled.

• Iqaluit’s $40.6 million aquatic centre opens with a splash, Jan. 26, after four years of development by the cash-strapped city administration. Officials promise that low-income families would enjoy subsidized drop-in fees by a future program, later announced as the “Jimmy Kilabuk Children’s Recreation Fund.”

• More than 80 residents in Nunavut’s capital form a circle around Iqaluit’s first and only mosque, honouring victims of a deadly shooting at a mosque in Sainte-Foy, Quebec, Jan. 29, that killed six people and injured another 19.

• The City of Iqaluit and two of its employees, Keith Baines and Ben Kovic Jr., are formally charged with numerous violations under the Nunavut Safety Act, Jan. 31, stemming from the near-fatal injury sustained by city worker James Dorrington during a workplace accident last April.

February

• More than 200 people aboard a Swiss International Airlines flight to New York City are stranded in Iqaluit when their Boeing 777-300 was forced to make an emergency landing, Feb. 1, after one of the plane’s engines conked out over the Atlantic. The plane departs a week later after a new engine is flown to Nunavut’s capital and installed at a cost of $24 million.

• Iqaluit resident Brian Czar is charged with trafficking narcotics after police seize 40 pounds of marijuana in his luggage aboard a flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit, Feb. 4. The bust is part of a larger investigation into the illegal drug trade in Nunavut.

• Five public housing units are destroyed Feb. 21 during a late-evening fire that guts a six-plex housing unit on Siku Crescent in Iqaluit’s 300s area. City firefighters take three hours to bring the flames under control in overnight temperatures that fall below -30 C.

• The Government of Nunavut announces it will create an internal advisory board for the Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit, Feb. 22, drawing criticism from Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak that a GN-controlled board won’t address administrative concerns raised in a 2011 report.

March

• Iqaluit cook Sheila Lumsden is introduced to Canada as one of Masterchef Canada’s 24 contestants during the premiere episode of the series’ fourth season on CTV, March 2.

• Kieran Drachenberg, an Iqaluit teenager and transgender rights advocate, sits behind Justice minister Keith Peterson on March 13, as he reads into law a bill amending the Nunavut Human Rights Act to include protections for gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation, at the Nunavut Legislative Assembly.

• Iqaluit community builder and long-time resident Tom Webster passes away in Ottawa after a battle with multiple myeloma, March 31. Webster was 73.

April

• Candidates Kyle Sheppard and Noah Papatsie beat out four contenders in a municipal byelection, filling two vacant seats on Iqaluit’s city council, April 10.

• Joseph Brown, a former public works superintendent with the City of Iqaluit, becomes the third employee charged with offences under the Safety Act following the near-fatal injury of city worker James Dorrington in April 2016.

• The City of Iqaluit commits more than $1 million to the city’s men’s and women’s homeless shelters over the next five years, April 11, prompting Iqaluit councillor and homeless rights advocate Joanasie Akumalik to bang his desk in approval as the motion is read in city chambers.

• Iqaluit’s springtime festival, Toonik Tyme, marks the end of its 52nd annual celebration, April 22. Toonik Tyme organizer Travis Cooper announces he will step down as the society’s president.

May

• Iqalungmiut are stunned following a vicious attack on a disabled 73-year-old elder in her home; a man breaks into her elder row house unit, attacks her in her bed and then robs her before departing, May 9.

• Daniel Hodgson, 37, is charged with the second-degree murder of Bradley Winsor, 23, who died at an Apex home in the early morning of May 19.

• Reports of improper expense claims put Apex’s Qimaavik Women’s Shelter under the microscope, prompting the Government of Nunavut to announce it will conduct a forensic audit of the society’s expenses, May 29.

June

• A dozen volunteer fitness instructors at Iqaluit’s aquatic centre depart from their positions, after the instructors complain to the city’s recreation department about safety and maintenance issues June 19.

• Students at Joamie Elementary School in Iqaluit raise more than $600, June 27, for victims of the tsunami that struck Greenland earlier in June.

• British royals Charles, Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrive in Iqaluit for the first stage of the prince’s journey through Eastern Canada. Traffic in Iqaluit’s downtown core is brought to a standstill as the royal motorcade rolls through the city.

July

• Cherished Iqaluit resident John Manning dies at 57, following an explosion that destroyed a boat in the city’s Lower Base community, July 6. “John was a valued member of the community and a respected business person, who held a special place in the hearts of all those who knew him. His readiness to help anyone in need endeared him to all Iqalummiut,” Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern said, extending sympathies on behalf of the city.

• Nunavut Judge Paul Bychok berates the southern jail system for poor treatment of inmate Michael Cooper-Flaherty, 20, who is sentenced to five years for a string of Iqaluit robberies. Minus more than three years awaiting trial, Cooper-Flaherty will serve only one-and-a-half years of the term.

• Lifeguard shortages at the city’s new aquatic facility are flagged as a problem for Iqaluit families by 11-year-old Cassiar Cousins who speaks as a delegate at a city council meeting, July 11.

• Transport Canada slots $5.4 million for the clean-up of an old Iqaluit dumpsite overlooking the Sylvia Grinnell River that is littered with metal refuse, fuel barrels and other toxic waste. A report estimates that the U.S. Air Force left most of the refuse in the 1960s.

• Daniel Hodgson, who is accused of the second-degree-murder of Bradley Winsor in Apex, is released on bail, July 27.

August

• Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada announces the design contract for a new Iqaluit daycare that will open in the Joamie Court subdivision in 2019. The federally funded daycare will be run through a partnership with Iqaluit’s Tundra Buddies Daycare Society.

• Iqaluit elders get a last-minute anonymous donation to attend a meeting of Eastern Arctic elders in Kuujjuarapik. Elders in Iqaluit almost missed attending the trip when only $5,000 of the $30,000 needed was raised.

• Iqaluit’s Amarok Hunters and Trappers Association gets a three-year window to iron out start-up snags on a community freezer project proposed to be built in a sea can near the city’s waterfront. The project is stalled after a paid-for land survey was deemed insufficient.

• Iqaluit’s Qayuqtuvik Society Food Centre beseeches community members for help after funding from a partnership with the non-profit catering company Inclusion Café runs out. The centre feeds between 80 and 120 people each day.

• Iqaluit’s Waters’ Edge Seafood and Steakhouse restaurant and the Kickin’ Caribou pub closes for good after Northview REIT sells the Hotel Arctic to Qikiqtaaluk Corp. Restaurant owners Kim and Donna Waters had appealed a court decision that said their lease to operate until 2023 was no longer valid, but subsequently lost. The building is now a residence for Nunavut Arctic College.

September

• A beer and wine store opens in Iqaluit, Sept. 6, making it the only community in the territory with a retail alcohol store. The store opening follows a public plebiscite, and a report from Nunavut’s liquor task force that said access to low-content alcohol could help curtail bootlegging and binge drinking. “We believe this is the right way to go in the evolution of our territory,” then-Finance Minister Keith Peterson told the public at the official opening.

Jacopie Akpalialuk, 70, dies in a fire that destroyed his boat dwelling near the beach in Iqaluit. “Everybody who came in here knew Jacopie,” said Brian Twerdin, manager at the Grind and Brew Café. “He could be quite the character.” Akpalialuk was homeless and originally from Pangnirtung. His photo remains on the wall at the coffee shop across from where the fire took his life.

• Iqaluit’s new airport opens officially Sept. 13. The 9,000-square-foot terminal, which rings in at about $300 million, replaces the old yellow terminal built in 1986.

• City officials and the restaurant Big Racks Barbeque go back to the drawing board on land zoning in Lower Base after a public hearing shows opposition among residents toward having a larger bar and grill built in their neighbourhood.

• South Baffin MLA David Joanasie questions the conditions at Iqaluit’s Tammaativvik patient boarding home in the Nunavut legislature, Sept. 14. George Hickes, then Nunavut’s health minister, responds by saying conditions at the boarding home are “an unfortunate reality,” and that on average, the city’s medical lodging is 30 per cent over capacity at all times.

• Four inmates damage and destroy 85 per cent of the medium security sleeping area and a third of the maximum security bed space at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit, in a Sept. 25 riot, reports the GN’s deputy minister of justice. The riot comes as the GN is designing a new 112-bed correctional facility and healing centre, set to open by 2020.

October

• Students at the Nunavut Arctic College law program question nine of 18 Iqaluit MLA candidates during an election debate on campus Oct. 19. “Once we receive our law degrees, it’ll be four years from now,” said Nastania Mullin, president of the Nunavut Student Association. “We’re going to be able to evaluate, as lawyers, to say, ‘Remember what you said to us on our first month of law school?’”

• Tower Arctic Ltd. sells the Discovery Hotel to the Nova Group of Companies. The hotel will remain as is and also be used as overflow space for the Tammaativvik boarding home. Nova says it will build a new hotel across from the boarding home on a lot where Iqaluit’s Tukisigiarvik Society currently operates a cultural outreach and drop in centre.

• As the nomination period for the Nunavut territorial election closes, political newcomer Mila Adjukak, 30, is acclaimed MLA for Kugluktuk. “I am humbly overwhelmed with the support I’ve received from the people of Kugluktuk and the trust they have in me to represent our community,” Kamingoak says.

• Seventy-two candidates face-off in the Oct. 30 territorial election that, in Iqaluit, sees Elisapie Sheutiapik unseat former premier Paul Okalik for Iqaluit-Sinaa and newcomer Adam Arreak Lightstone defeat cabinet minister and deputy premier Monica Ell-Kanayuk for Iqaluit-Manirajak. Incumbents George Hickes and Pat Angnakak hold their seats for Iqaluit-Tasiluk and Iqaluit- Niaqunnguu respectively.

Halloween is postponed until Nov. 1 due to strong, northeasterly winds blowing through Iqaluit, Oct. 31, in gusts as high as 90 km/h. The storm comes as one of many extreme weather events that caused city-wide closures over the fall season, starting in late September.

November

• Iqaluit sees a set of violent attacks around the Remembrance Day long weekend. One man is beaten and left for dead inside a dumpster Nov. 12, while another required medevac after receiving multiple stab wounds at a private residence Nov. 14.

New MLAS from across Nunavut meet in Iqaluit Nov. 17 for a leadership forum and week of caucus meetings to choose a premier, Speaker and cabinet members. The week also sees training and orientation for new MLAs.

• A five-year-old Iqaluit child is injured after a hit-and-run on the evening of Nov. 18. The boy was playing hockey and was hit by a pick-up truck. “Drivers should make themselves aware of children playing in these areas and to proceed safely,” RCMP say in a news release.

• A puppy is rescued by Iqaluit firefighters after a boat being used as a dwelling catches fire and is destroyed, Nov. 27.

• Iqaluit Coun. Kyle Sheppard questions the city’s snow removal capacity and protocol at a council meeting Nov. 28. “It’s absolutely ridiculous as a northern capital that our kids couldn’t go to school this afternoon because our roads weren’t cleared,” Sheppard says, after yet another storm leaves the city shut down Nov. 27 and part of Nov. 28.

• Former politician Jack Anawak, who ran as a candidate in the 2017 territorial election, pleads guilty Nov. 9 to driving under the influence of alcohol. “Whatever trauma we have suffered in the past should not get in the way of knowing the difference between right and wrong—I was wrong,” Anawak tells the court. “Over the years I have witnessed some people in leadership getting away with far too much and I don’t want to be one of those.”

• The Department of Justice shares design plans for the new $76-million Qikiqtani Correctional Healing Centre. The department hopes the territorial jail will mark a new era of restorative justice in Iqaluit, the public heard in a Nov. 28 presentation at the community soup kitchen.

December

• Safety Act charges filed against the City of Iqaluit and three city employees are stalled yet again when a Nunavut judge insists that all accused parties be present in the court room for a decision to accept joint sentencing submissions negotiated by lawyers in exchange for guilty pleas from the accused. The charges come after an April 2016 incident in which city worker James Dorrington was run over by a garbage truck.

• The City of Iqaluit’s unionized workers ratify a new wage-benefit deal with their employer after nearly two years of negotiations. Workers will receive a 1.5 per cent wage increase as of Jan. 1, 2018 and an 2.5 per cent increase as of Jan. 1, 2019, but no retrocative wage increases for the two-year period in 2016 and 2017 that followed the expiry of the last collective agreement on Dec. 31, 2015. New employees will get only one vacation travel allowance per year after five years of service, but existing employees will continue to receive two VTAs per year.

 

Swiss International flight 40, a Boeing 777-300, with 216 passengers and 17 crew members on board, sits on the tarmac at the Iqaluit airport after an emergency landing Feb. 1. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
Swiss International flight 40, a Boeing 777-300, with 216 passengers and 17 crew members on board, sits on the tarmac at the Iqaluit airport after an emergency landing Feb. 1. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
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