Iqaluit’s top stories of 2019
Nunavut’s capital weathered a water shortage, welcomed a new city council, and a whole lot more
For Nunavut’s capital, 2019 was a year of change. Municipal and federal elections ushered in new political representatives, the city struggled with water shortages and house fires, and youth protested to raise concerns about the rapidly changing climate.
The city began the year with a looming water crisis, prompting continued pumping from the Apex River to fill the dwindling Lake Geraldine reservoir. But Lake Geraldine became the least of the city’s worries when clogged pipes caused 950,000 litres of raw sewage to spill into Frobisher Bay.
And as the effects of a changing climate continue to be felt across the Arctic, Iqaluit made sure its voice was heard, holding three climate marches in the city in 2019. The same topic also caused three federal leaders to visit the city during the year to push their parties’ climate policies against the backdrop of Iqaluit’s rolling tundra and rushing rivers.
In October, Iqaluit’s Uquutaq Society launched Nunavut’s first transitional housing project. That announcement came not long after the city’s damp shelter pilot project closed its doors.
Iqaluit residents also headed to the polls not once, but twice, when they elected a new mayor and council and a new member of Parliament.
Not only is it the end of the year for Iqaluit, but it’s also the end of a decade. Some of the top Iqaluit stories from 10 years ago, including a long-gone Iqaluit-Ottawa Air Canada route, can be found here.
Here’s to the decade ahead.
- After years of being a well-known back-up for those in Iqaluit who are too intoxicated to enter shelters, or who have fled home, Iqaluit’s Qikiqtani General Hospital put out a memo Jan. 8 that said homeless people are no longer allowed to spend the night in the warmth of its emergency room waiting area.
- The Nova Group lost its contract with the Pairijait Tigumivik elders society Jan. 10 to manage the Tammaativvik medical boarding home in Iqaluit, causing 50 to 55 people employees of the society to lose their jobs.
- Iqaluit’s Qajuqturvik Food Centre offered temporary shelter for a week in January after the Qikiqtani General Hospital’s decision to forbid homeless people from spending the night in the emergency room waiting area.
- A week after Qajuqturvik opened its temporary damp shelter, Nunavut’s Department of Family Services moved the new shelter to a more permanent location: building 534 on the Apex Road in Iqaluit.
- Iqaluit’s eight-storey building was plagued by water problems Feb. 17, which caused the City of Iqaluit to provide its residents with water jugs and free gym passes so they could shower.
- The City of Iqaluit announced it wanted to continue to pump water from the Apex river to Lake Geraldine each summer until 2026, pending approval from the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
- The causes of a fire that flattened a home on Tundra Ridge on Feb. 22 and another that burned a multi-unit home on the Road to Apex are unknown, Iqaluit’s acting fire chief said.
- After a day of weather delays, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Iqaluit on March 8 to apologize for the federal government’s mismanagement of the tuberculosis epidemic among Inuit between the 1940s and 1960s.
- Iqaluit RCMP launched a search for 18-year-old Ambar Roy, who went missing in the city on March 14. A public search coordinated by Nunavut Emergency Management began on March 20. After unsuccessful attempts, police called off the search March 27.
- Iqaluit residents gathered together in support of tolerance at the city’s mosque on March 19 after 51 worshippers were killed on March 15 in the New Zealand mosque shootings.
- In an April 17 decision, the Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended to approve the City of Iqaluit’s Apex River pumping project to reroute water from the Apex River to the Lake Geraldine water supply during the summer as needed until June 2026.
- The City of Iqaluit announced it will be deficit-free in 2019, Mayor Madeleine Redfern announced at an April 23 meeting to approve the city’s audited financial statements.
- The second annual Nunavut Music Week kicked off in Iqaluit on April 25 with artists flying in from all over the territory to perform all weekend long. The event kicked off with a special taping at Inuksuk High School of CBC radio’s q with Tom Power.
- After being shut down on March 28, Iqaluit’s sewage lift station came back online on April 29 after clogged pipes caused sewage to spill into Koojesse Inlet for the past month. City workers used a special vacuum to suck out debris that had plugged a six-metre length of pipe.
- A British Airways flight en route from London to San Diego diverted to Iqaluit on May 9 for a reported medical emergency. At least one passenger was offloaded and taken by ambulance to Qikiqtani General Hospital.
- The Iqaluit District Education Authority voted on May 27 to make Inuktitut a mandatory course for Grade 10 students at the city’s Inuksuk High School. The move reversed an earlier decision made during the DEA’s last meeting on May 13 to not implement mandatory Inuktitut courses in Grade 10.
- A fire that destroyed a tent, or tupiq, used for outdoor education by Apex’s school was deemed arson by Iqaluit RCMP. An early morning fire on May 24 burned the tupiq to the ground.
- Students in Iqaluit walked out of high school and to the legislative assembly on June 5, World Environment Day, to demand government action on climate change.
- Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. fended off criticism from intervenors at the Nunavut Impact Review Board’s three-day technical meeting on the expansion of the Mary River mine site June 17 to June 19 in Iqaluit.
- Canada’s Conservative leader Andrew Scheer visited Iqaluit for the first time with former Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq on June 20. Scheer met with local media, toured the Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium and the deep sea port, and met with community leaders to commemorate National Indigenous Peoples Day.
- Iqaluit RCMP arrested a man following an armed standoff in the 300s area of lower Iqaluit that erupted the morning of June 30. Police, some armed with carbines and dressed in helmets, body armour and camouflage gear, responded by cordoning off the area and evacuating residents.
- Over the Canada Day weekend, Iqaluit is rocked by four fires, including one fire that destroyed four housing units. Madeleine Redfern, Iqaluit’s mayor, urged residents to stay safe and minimize the risk of fire.
- The 15th annual Alianait Arts Festival brought Iqaluit residents together after a weekend of fires and an armed standoff. On Sunday, June 30, it was standing room only in the Nakasuk school gym with a line outside. The night’s host, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, told the audience, “It’s been a difficult day in Iqaluit. I’m so glad we could come together tonight.”
- Continuous strong south winds pushed ice pieces into Frobisher Bay, causing a delay in the unloading of sealift supplies.
- After low rainfall and snowfall in 2019, Lake Geraldine fell to record low levels, prompting the City of Iqaluit to file for an emergency water licence amendment in order to begin pumping water from Apex River and Unnamed Lake to supplement the city’s water reservoir. On Aug. 12, Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s minister of Crown-Indigenous relations and northern affairs, approved the amendment.
- Madeleine Redfern, Iqaluit’s mayor and former executive director of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission, announced that she would not be running for re-election during a city council meeting on Aug. 27.
- Rodney Howard-Browne, a fundamentalist Christian evangelist known for conspiracy theories, climate change denial and marketing schemes, brought his crusade to rid the world of the Antichrist to an Iqaluit church on Aug. 27.
- On Tuesday, Sept. 24. city councillors voted in favour of a $1 increase to Iqaluit’s taxi fares. After the vote, Ronnie McGregor, a Caribou Cabs employee, expressed his gratitude: “It will definitely make a difference to all drivers.”
- In response to the continued low water levels in Lake Geraldine, Iqaluit city council announced that the city’s car wash ban, which was put in place during the summer of 2018, would be upheld until June of 2020. “I don’t think that there’s any point where we’re going to support someone putting the water source of the city in jeopardy,” said deputy mayor Romeyn Stevenson.
- Nunavut’s first transitional housing project was announced in October. The Uquutaq Society’s application for the $6.5-million project was approved by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation under the National Housing Strategy’s Co-Investment Fund. The new buildings, set to open in March of 2020, will replace the current overcrowded facility that only houses about 20 men.
- On Oct. 1, after 37 days of emergency pumping, Iqaluit’s Lake Geraldine reservoir was filled. At the same city council meeting that the announcement was made, Coun. Romeyn Stevenson noted that although the water shortage problem may be solved this year, the city isn’t in the clear yet, “We’re still at that level where a major water leak or some kind of water incident, or drought—like we had this year—could cause water issues.”
- Following Iqaluit’s municipal elections, the previous term’s city council met for the last time on Oct. 22 where they took the opportunity to say goodbye, give thanks and look forward. During the meeting, Mayor Madeleine Redfern took the opportunity to bestow some special recognition on certain businesses and community groups for the work that they have done in the community.
- The Iqaluit post office is flooded by a deluge of packages after an Amazon system error temporarily prevented some Iqaluit residents from placing orders on the online retail giant’s website.
- One of the final acts of the outgoing city council was the hiring and appointing of Gordon Howard, the city’s new fire chief and director of emergency services.
- In the morning hours of Nov. 5, the Iqaluit fire department responded to a fire that broke out inside the Big Racks Barbecue restaurant. Luckily nobody was inside at the time and there were no injuries.
- According to the 2018-19 Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission annual report tabled in the legislature in November, the Iqaluit beer and wine store’s sales accounted for 67 per cent of the commission’s $16.1 million in revenue.
- The Piviniit Thrift Store celebrated its tenth anniversary on Thursday, Nov. 14 . In recognition of the occasion, Piviniit held a stuff-a-bag sale the following weekend. Over the years Piviniit has been recognized for its continued contributions to the community, including most recently by the outgoing mayor, Madeleine Redfern, who presented the society store with a certificate of appreciation at the last meeting of the previous city council.
- According to a public health advisory from Nunavut’s Department of Health, whooping cough, also known as pertussis, was confirmed in Iqaluit.
- City councillors who sit on the planning and development committee deny a variance brought forward by the Nunavut Housing Corp. to make some parking spaces at two proposed developments smaller than what the city’s bylaws require. While the discussions were about parking, the underlying theme was about the future of the city. “It seems like every problem this community faces right now is because somebody five, 10 or 20 years ago, didn’t think five, 10 or 20 years ahead,” said Coun. Kyle Sheppard.
- For many decades, Iqaluit municipal council meetings, like public meetings everywhere in Nunavut, opened with a prayer. On Dec. 10 that ended, after Iqaluit city council voted four to three in favour of replacing the opening prayer with a moment of silence—a first for Nunavut.