2018 was a year of upheaval in Iqaluit

Nunavut’s capital rocked by major fires, a big wind storm and a jail riot

A fire that destroyed Northmart’s warehouse in November was one of the surprises in store for Iqaluit in 2018. (PHOTO BY FRANK REARDON)

By Beth Brown and Courtney Edgar

Iqaluit saw its share of drama in 2018. That includes a big fire that nearly burned down the Nunavut capital’s largest grocery store, a wind storm that ripped the roofs off buildings, and a jail riot that led to an evacuation of many inmates to southern facilities.

Here are some of Iqaluit’s top stories from the last 12 months.


• The New Year opened in Iqaluit with a house fire, on Jan. 1, that saw a five-unit housing complex gutted after a heater was left unattended to thaw frozen pipes.

• A few days later, during a Jan. 6 snowstorm in Iqaluit, a car struck a woman, who died.

• Iqaluit city councillors debated public safety versus Inuit hunting rights, after a dog was injured in a fox trap near Iqaluit’s Upper Base community.

• Later in the month, aquatic centre users were feeling angry about thefts in the locker rooms.

• Statistics Canada reported that Iqaluit had Canada’s second highest number, on average, of police-reported acts of violence against women between 2008 and 2015.

Eelayou Arnaquq races to skin and butcher a full seal in Iqaluit on April 22 during the 2018 Toonik Tyme spring festival. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)


• Furry Iqaluit residents got free vet services from southern animal doctors flown in by the Iqaluit Humane Society.

• On Feb. 6, police arrested and charged an intoxicated Iqaluit man for running around town while wielding an axe in the 300s area.

• An Iqaluit fisheries school got Transport Canada funding for a new lifeboat simulator and fast rescue craft that will be used by Nunavummiut training for marine careers.

• The City of Iqaluit chose not to renew the contract of chief administrative officer Muhamud Hassan and appointed recreation director Amy Elgersma into the acting role instead.

• Iqaluit RCMP made five arrests in relation to a drug investigation into possession and trafficking outside community grocery stores.

• There was hope at the Iqaluit men’s shelter about an expansion that still has yet to happen.


• Iqaluit public servants flagged ongoing frustrations with the federal government’s botched Phoenix payroll system.

• A Facebook user tried to bootleg drugs and alcohol on an Iqaluit sell/swap community page.

• Iqaluit’s Aqsarniit Middle School survived an arson attempt after three people were seen trying to set the school ablaze on March 19. “A witness was able to extinguish the fire, which limited the damage. The Iqaluit fire department was not required,” the RCMP said.

• The City of Iqaluit was fined $69,000 for a public safety breach that saw one man run over by a garbage truck. Three city employees who were involved in the incident were also fined.

Staff at Iqaluit’s hip new coffee shop were thrilled to open the Black Heart Café for business in April. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)


• Financial statements left the City of Iqaluit hopeful that it could be deficit-free, but not debt-free, by the end of 2018.

• A hip new coffee shop opened in Iqaluit, the Black Heart Café. The bright yellow shop was hailed as filling a much-needed niche in town and creating a valuable public gathering space.

• A coroner’s jury said the Government of Nunavut needs more Inuktut-speaking social workers, in a verdict delivered April 29, following an inquest into the 2015 death of an Iqaluit baby in the care of family services.

• A proposed expansion for Big Racks Bar and Grill was stalled after a needed bylaw amendment fell through the cracks in the city’s planning department and had to be looked at a second time.


• The Qikiqtaaluk Corp. prepared to build a hotel and conference centre on Federal Road. The hotel is planned to have 94 rooms and a 600-person conference centre along with a bar and lounge.

• Iqaluit RCMP investigated the May 6 death of a woman, aged 22, at the Tammaativvik boarding home. Police later confirmed that the Clyde River woman’s death was part of a murder-suicide, when her domestic partner was also found dead and no suspects were being looked for.

• A summer skate park at the Iqaluit curling rink shut down to make room for other recreational activities. Families created a petition to keep the skate park open and the city reached a compromise with residents.

• Tower Arctic Ltd. got an $89-million contract from the Government of Nunavut to start building a small-craft harbour and deep-water port in Iqaluit. That construction started this past summer.

Inmates from Iqaluit’s Baffin Correctional Centre board a chartered flight on June 22 after a jail riot that left a large medium-security unit of the jail ruined. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)


• Iqaluit–Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone spoke out in Nunavut’s legislature against domestic violence, on the anniversary of his sister’s tragic death.

• A good-hearted visitor brought four hockey bags full of menstrual products to donate to Iqaluit schools.

• An overnight jail riot by 26 inmates left a large unit in Baffin Correctional Centre uninhabitable. Corrections sent 40 inmates to southern jails for the summer while repairs were done.

Lake Geraldine is pictured here in early July. Lower precipitation levels and increased demand had depleted water levels at Iqaluit’s watershed and reservoir, raising concerns that the city would not have sufficient drinking water to supply the community throughout the winter. (FILE PHOTO)


• After a series of homicides in June, Iqaluit RCMP launched a summer foot patrol the week of July 16, with the goal of improving relations between officers and Iqalungmiut to try to make residents feel more comfortable calling emergency services.

• When an Iqaluit city councillor said the city was not doing enough to prevent a looming water shortage in the city, council struck a task force to tackle the issue.

• The City of Iqaluit received $26.2 million from the federal government to build a new solid waste management facility to replace the current landfill, which is overloaded and periodically catches fire.

• SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying Telesat’s new satellite, which promised to deliver higher speed internet to communities all across Nunavut by the end of 2019.


• Iqaluit city council agreed to boost water delivery services for a few businesses in the city, which in turn allowed Nunavut Brewing Company Ltd. to open its doors on Aug. 24.

• At the end of August, half of Iqaluit faced water disruption and a boil advisory for a week, due to the city’s repairs of aging, leaky water pipes and construction at Joamie Court.

• Iqaluit city council voted on Aug. 28 to acquire a reverse osmosis machine that had been previously owned by the Government of Nunavut and used once in Arviat during a water supply shortage. This was decided on as a back-up plan, in case Lake Geraldine runs out of drinkable water—the shipping and repairs had a price tag of $846,000.

This family of four pitched a tent outside the legislative assembly in Iqaluit on the evening of Monday, Sept. 24. They said they were running out of couch-surfing options this winter, and they intended to keep sleeping in their tent until they were offered public housing. (PHOTO BY COURTNEY EDGAR)


• A British Airways jet made a surprise visit to Iqaluit, after technical problems on board prompted an emergency landing. Roughly 200 passengers and crew spent the night in the city.

• From Sept. 10 until Sept. 13, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held panels at the Frobisher Inn on the impacts of colonial violence. Topics ranged from housing, policing, language, culture, mining, mental health and social work.

• Lake Geraldine reached capacity on Sept. 16, after weeks of supplementary pumping from the Apex River. The pumping was spurred by the city’s water task force, set up in July to save the city from running out of drinkable water.

• On Sept. 26, Brian Tagalik and his family pitched a tent outside the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut to protest against hidden homelessness. The family hoped that by living in the tent, they would move up the wait list for public housing, which they had been on for four years.

In November, Tagalik announced that his girlfriend was offered a job with the federal government that provides housing.

• First Air and Canadian North announced a merger agreement Sept. 28, which Nunavik’s Makivik Corp called the creation of one “premier northern airline.”

Metal roofing from two Iqaluit apartments buildings sits in a heap in the city’s downtown following an October wind storm. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)


• Iqaluit was hit by what meteorologists called a “weather bomb,” as extreme winds knocked out power and ripped metal roofs from buildings.

• Iqaluit city council braced for the legalization of cannabis across Canada, with fast-tracked bylaw amendments about smoking and driving in the weeks leading up to legalization.

Iqaluit firefighters battle a fire inside the Northmart building on the morning of Thursday, Nov. 8. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)


• In the early hours of Thursday, Nov. 8, five fires were set across the city of Iqaluit by an alleged arsonist. One of these fires threatened the city’s biggest grocery store, Northmart, and ended up destroying the store’s warehouse and causing damage that left Northmart closed for one week. One teen suspect has been charged with arson and is in custody, while the RCMP continues its investigation.

• Iqaluit customers are buying more of their alcohol through the local beer and wine store, the Nunavut Liquor Commission’s 2017–18 report found in early November. The per-litre quantity of alcohol products sold by the commission grew from about 570,000 litres in 2016-17 to more than 1 million litres in 2017-18, due in large part to the opening of Iqaluit’s beer and wine store in September 2017.

• Iqaluit city council approved its 2019 operating budget and capital spending plan on Nov. 27, giving priority to sanitation and reserve fund contributions. Ratepayers will see a five per cent increase in their property taxes, one of the largest sources of revenue for the city’s general fund.


• Construction started on the successor to the bar in the Navigator Inn. The new bar, beside the beer and wine store, will continue to be called the Chartroom and will be twice as large as the old space, with 77 seats, five television sets and Nu Brew beer on draft.

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(1) Comment:

  1. Posted by Mequsaq on

    Looks like a huge s*** show to me

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