Cabin ‘free-for-all’ at Sylvia Grinnell River ‘embarrassing’, says councillor

City councillors discuss pending new policy on building cabins in Iqaluit Tuesday

Cabins located at the mouth of Sylvia Grinnell River near the West 40 area of Iqaluit. A city councillor callled the number of cabins springing up near there “embarrassing.”(Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A “free-for-all” of cabin building at Sylvia Grinnell River has become a bit of an eyesore, says Iqaluit Coun. Simon Nattaq.

He spoke at a planning and development committee meeting Tuesday evening, where a few cabin owners came to watch councillors discuss the next steps of an impending policy on building cabins on city grounds.

“Where the fish gather shouldn’t be occupied,” Nattaq said in Inuktitut through an interpreter, adding there are about 35 cabins further up Sylvia Grinnell River.

Coun. Simon Nattaq speaks at an Iqaluit city council meeting in July 2021. (Photo by David Venn)

“It’s almost embarrassing to see all the materials and cabins that have been built.”

Planner Samantha Toffolo, who presented a memo to council on the matter, said the river wouldn’t be included in the city’s policy but that planners will need to consult residents and councillors on the potential need for a buffer between major waterways and where cabins can be built.

In the Sept. 20 memo, Toffolo outlines guidelines a new policy may have. It includes the city potentially having:

  • screening areas where cabins will be allowed to be built every year;
  • priority for “certain applicants” to be able to build cabins;
  • eligibility criteria for other applicants, including how long they’ve lived in Nunavut or Iqaluit and if they are Inuit or not;
  • a cabin committee to review applications;
  • more policies so the city can enforce the rules better.

Issues the city faces with cabin construction include noise, littering, impacts to areas intended for public use and municipal enforcement being unable to get to building sites.

Also, there are no leases for cabins, meaning the city doesn’t know who owns which cabin and has no way of contacting owners to address issues with cabins, she said.

One of the bigger challenges of adopting a new policy involves how to treat existing cabins, of which there are 50 to 60, Toffolo said.

“Some cabins located in unsuitable areas may need to be relocated or removed regardless of when they were constructed,” she wrote in the memo.

She added that until a policy is introduced, the city could request “more immediate removal” of structures that were built after councillors passed a moratorium on building cabins in July 2020.

She said there’s division among residents who participated in the city’s consultations over whether or not cabins should be allowed in Iqaluit.

There’s support for regulation because residents don’t want cabins to impact their use of the land.

During the meeting, Toffolo said the next step will be a consultation at the Nunavut Trade Show on Thursday, among other consultation days.

She said she expects a policy to be ready by February.

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(34) Comments:

  1. Posted by Jim on

    Good points, it is starting to look like a shantytown over there, not very nice.

    • Posted by FuriousJoeBlow on

      im furious over these,Pencil Ousher in office just want a perfect view of the river and see and are taking my inuit brothers *(from another mother) Rights Away ,By Stoping them To Have anything,Not allow to build shack on beach NO. not allow to Build Shack away from the beach NO. and i see Racist Too,only inuit are allow to build Shack,yeah riaght ,Now new law will pass Telling my inuit brothers they are not allow to have cabin nowhere,so call Embarassing they say. well,i dont think rights and freedoom is embarassing,a city rule like Nazi is embarassing,dennying rights and freedoom to your own people and racist toward non inuit is embarassing.thats just what i had to say,if we let the pencilpusher have it their way in their office they will soon charge us for the air we bread like the water we drink,u can be shure of that.

      • Posted by Embarrassing on

        It is embarrassing and for the shacks on the beach that area looks so much better now and we don’t get all the drunks and drinking behind those shacks anymore, much better for the elders living at the elders homes. I felt so bad for them when all those shacks were being used as a party place.
        This area by the river used to be nice, tents put up for the summer and taken down in late fall.
        I agree with Simon this is embarrassing.

  2. Posted by Confused on

    Inuit His age or older were always camped near the mouth of a river every summer, why can’t we experience it?

    • Posted by Camper on

      You can still experience it, pitch up a tent and camp like how he did it, don’t have to build shacks to experience it.

  3. Posted by Jerry on

    Lots of conversation and action plans about how to remove structures that people rely on … not so much about how to compassionately address the issue.

    • Posted by Stanky leg action plan on

      No way. When life confronts you with an obstacle, you don’t sit back and think about it! You don’t talk about a solution! You just take a few steps back, then take a hop forward, wind up and you pop that problem in the chin so hard that it stanky legs away from your periphery!! That’s how a leader does it!!!

  4. Posted by Urban Mom on

    Why did they wait so long to investigate. 50 or 60 cabins is a lot. Also on the possible eligibility rules, nothing about cabin owners being homeless individuals shouldn’t that be considered.

  5. Posted by 867 on

    First they kick out cabins near northmart beach now they want to kick out cabins at river? Push poor people further and further away while rich people are taking over Iqaluit. sad

    • Posted by 979 on

      That is the best thing they did, got rid of those old ugly shacks, so much noise and incidents, drinking and fighting, the poor elders did not enjoy all the crazy things that went on behind their homes.
      So much better now for the elders and the families in that area.

  6. Posted by Certain People on

    I caution the city considering preference to individuals based on race in this policy. Discrimination is prohibited unless you are ameliorating something, and I can’t imagine anyone is thinking that any particular group has been historically disadvantaged as compared to other races when it comes to building cabins.

    • Posted by Unfortunately….. on

      Unfortunately, we have legalized racism of the ‘for the greater good sort in Canada. It is practically a territorial pastime here in Nunavut.

    • Posted by INuk on

      Hate to break it to you. But this is Inuit land. No one else’s. It’s only natural Inuit be prioritized in our ancestral homelands. Whether it be for building cabins, or special hunting rights, or access to housing- Inuit should be prioritized. Especially when the majority of transient workers come here for high-paying jobs. This is discrimination on the basis of heritage, not only ethnicity or race.
      If you have an issue, there’s lots of other places to live.

      • Posted by hate to break it to you on

        Hate to break it to you, it is not all Inuit land. And I would like to see what happens if all southerners decide to leave. Dept of Health is having a hard enough time hiring nurses even though they are basically throwing money at them. People will move where the money is, this is true everywhere. It sucks that Nunavut is not really a place southerners/and perhaps some Inuit want to set roots. But that is the reality and with the blatant racism, its not helping either. Until Inuit finish school, and go to post secondary or trade school, Nunavut will be always be reliant on transient workers. Even Inuit who do go to post secondary/trade school, where are they? I assume living down south.

      • Posted by Certain People on

        Please become informed about the Nunavut Agreement and read article 14: Not all lands in Nunavut belong to Inuit. Lands in the municipal boundaries belong to the City or Hamlet.
        Your ignorance about the land claim is one thing but I’ll call out your casual and common racism because kabloona experience this often and too openly in Nunavut. Your assertion that it is somehow “okay” for Inuit to discriminate against others (whether it is “your land” or not), is contrary to human rights legislation. Welcome to Canada and the rule of law, which protects everyone, not just Inuit.

  7. Posted by Builder 1 on

    Attention Nunavut Housing Corporation.

    There are 60 to 70 cabins in Iqaluit. The article says so.
    That means there are 60 to 70 construction teams, willing and able to build in Iqaluit.
    We can build houses for rather less than the $1,000,000 you were quoted last year by those who bid on your contracts.
    Solve the housing crisis in Iqaluit by issuing real contracts for us to bid on.
    Or, make land available and offer to buy what we build.
    When a survey was done about 6 years ago there were at least 400 homeless Inuit in Iqaluit.
    They need homes.
    Let us build them.
    NHC and City of Iqaluit, stop being the problem.
    Become part of the solution.

    ps. PJ, you promised 1,000 new homes during your 4 years as Premier. Year 1 is almost over. How many homes have been built so far?

  8. Posted by MAdDingADong on

    This is a Flagrant Case of,Not in My BackYard,its Ugly and i dont like it im better then that kinda thing,when seeing cabin some gooddy two shoes might think about third world country with gettho cabin,but to a Real Hunter he would see it for what those cabin are really about,a place to connect with mother nature and relax,pay respect to their ancestry who were also there as well Time before,freedoom and peace of mind away from the city,noise and Qabloonark ways. yes i know this is really what the cabin are about,Peace-freedoom-tranquility and to connect with nature and pay respect to ancester. Now,Listen,The buldozer from the city,municipality and now the Nunavut MLA are taking your freedoom rights and tranquility away,why? to stay in the city pay tax and eat white people food ? i wonder? why denny people freedoom? why? cause theres no tax on those cabin i bet,no revenue,and the green ecologist also thinks these shack are OH so ugly eeew and must also put pressure on the goverment and city to hide the uglynest away,or is it only one mla that whent out of his office and did nt like the cabin cause they were not paint the proper colour he like? maybe that MLA should stay and remain in his office then,cause the Lord know what he will see and DisLike Next time he step outside his office and Ban it by making it ilegal.scary thought.

    • Posted by BigBossMLA on

      Now Hear This, Today I Went Out My Office and I Now Declare That Fun is ilegal and only a small ammount of Joy are Allow to be had by people, But not too much

    • Posted by its all about us on

      No. It’s a flagrant case of “Me and my friends have our cabins there, so now it’s time to say that no more cabins can be built.”

  9. Posted by RavenMan on

    it is crucial that individual rights are not taken away and rules and Laws not Base on Genders Race and racist in iqaluit nunavut Canada,remember,colour people only allow in the back of the bus ? sound a lot like only inuit are allow to build shack,denying freedoom to people base on race and even to inuit hunters too (YOUR OWN PEOPLE) its such a shame and sound pretty ilegal to the point of bringing that case to court with a Lawyer about Human Rights issues to Court

    • Posted by Brian Willoughby on

      I always considered myself to be a guest in Nunavut, as I was not born into the predominant culture, and my allien culture, had obviously inflicted enough pain. Later we built a qammaq on the site of her mother’s qammaq. At the time there were few near Iqaluit or on the land, other than camps. I built it, out of waste, and small enough to not require a permit. I noticed a calmness in Inuit, and they readily shared the change with me. To us it is a break, to Inuit of my wife’s age it is a return to the land, of her infancy. Do no harm and respect where you are. I plan to retire in Nunavut, but still I come from somewhere else.
      Any shacks that required a building permit when built, or have been expanded, should be torn down.
      Existing shacks should not be allowed to be sold, just passed down through inheritance, to Nunavut citizens. Ban alcohol from that area and the park, we need a place to be at peace, relax, and be free of the craziness.

  10. Posted by Nunavummiutaq on

    Creation of Nunavut was supposed to empower Inuit in the Territory, we never see that, it only empowers the rich and powerful individuals.

    • Posted by Almost Got It on

      You are partially correct. It empowers individuals – the rich and powerful Inuit and no one else.

      • Posted by So close on

        You were so close to the facts and truth. The predominately non-Inuit are the haves. If you don’t see that, that is because you have your blinders on hard. That’s too bad because you and others like you likely have alot of influence and authority up here and choose to see what you want to see, and decide things that benefit you.

      • Posted by Uhh on

        NTI has well over $2bil at this point. There is clearly an upper class of Inuit who do very well to ensure benefits are for them and no one else. NTI could build houses for every Inuk on the interest of its portfolio alone but says “that’s for government” to do. How about cash to members? Other areas with Inuit do this but not NTI. Aluki is paid north of $350,000 per year. Ask NTI to disclose pay rates for board members and their executives in Ottawa and you’ll be shocked. These are the haves. Not middle class Qabloona in Nunavut.

        Do make $150k doing professional work in Nunavut as a non Inuk? Yes. But it’s no on the backs of Inuit, like the benefits the Inuit orgs are not sharing with their members who are too unsophisticated to vote (17% turnout).

    • Posted by confused on

      Just like the Chief and council, now that’s embarrassing.

  11. Posted by Will Turner on


  12. Posted by qikiqtaalumiu on

    this been going on for ages.being born and raised here controlled by visitors and this what happens.I know I know no racist allowed and i am not being one either.There is something writing in the city by laws as it was taken care of before=No cabins will be allowed to be build due to sanitation/noise/ and more importantly resecting our huntting grounds all the river bed and up river for 5 miles. Aas well the HTO submited before no more netting pass the dotted line as we had one painted across the river to respect no nets.I agree sylvia grinell river is a national park no canons up river and down river, the cabins increased du eto homelessness and Profit.Some of the area is in inuit land?i am sure one day we will come togethr and have a meal over theere as they did before us for some important events.

  13. Posted by Way to go Simon. on

    I was a third born in Iqaluit. My mother remembered when her great grand father wouldn’t even let anyone pee near the river because there so many fish around. My mother was born in 1923. They wouldn’t even think of living by the river. Please people have respect to the beautiful river and stop abusing our land. If people were not born in Iqaluit. I understand the respect for the land is less. Please have respect for Simon and his co-workers. If I was in Iqaluit, I would make sure Iqaluit river is not to be abuse by the Law. Simon, do not give up on the river. We born in Iqaluit would really appreciate what you are doing. Keep up the good work. Mialiujuga.

  14. Posted by Northern Guy on

    The West 40 has become a nightmare of shoddy ramshackle structures, endless streams of garbage and even human waste. It’s disgusting and needs to regulated.

  15. Posted by Jackie netser on

    The word cabin is used very loosely.. a cabin should look nice … These so called cabins are more like shacks than anything

  16. Posted by Question everything on

    Does Councillor Nattaq have a cabin there? Honest question

  17. Posted by alex on

    The city could barely get clean water to their residents. This city has a high amount of homelessness, people starving. People are likely alive today because they had to get their own shelter built……but this councillor is choosing to complain about this? Definitely an extremely privileged councillor. WAKE UP MAN

  18. Posted by Iqaluitmuit on

    The majority of these cabins in question have been built since the city first tried putting a stop to the cabin building within city limits. Ive seen new cabins go up in every direction withtin towns 7.5km boundaries every time I’ve gone hunting in the last 2 years. Makes it annoying when you want to enjoy the land without having to travel extra far

    All these new builders should be face the consequences and be made to tear down and/or relocate, our Hunters can point out which ones have been built since 2020


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