Iqaluit’s top stories of 2019

Nunavut’s capital weathered a water shortage, welcomed a new city council, and a whole lot more

On Sept. 27 Iqaluit youth once again took to the four-corners area to take part in a global climate strike. By the end of the year similar scenes had unfolded in Nunavut’s capital three times. (Photo by Dustin Patar)

By Dustin Patar and Emma Tranter

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.

JANUARY—The Department of Family Services opens part of building 534 on the Apex Road in Iqaluit for use as a “damp” shelter for those who can’t gain entry to other emergency shelters. (Photo by Beth Brown)


FEBRUARY—Iqaluit sees two house fires in one week. (Photo by Beth Brown)


MARCH—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Lizzie Epoo-York of Kuujjuaq and Alacie Joamie of Apex after delivering his government’s apology in Iqaluit for the mismanagement of the tuberculosis epidemic among Inuit between the 1940s and 1960s. Epoo-York told how she was taken south in her mother’s amautik when she was a baby for TB treatment, while Joamie recounted her husband’s departure to a TB sanatorium in 1967. He never returned, leaving her and her children to a life of hardship. (Photo by Beth Brown)


APRIL—Electro-pop throat-singer Riit (left), accompanied by Alexia Galloway-Alainga (middle), performs at a free concert on the sea ice on Sunday, April 28, in Iqaluit. A crowd of 30 to 40 people came out for an afternoon of entertainment as part of the second Nunavut Music Week. (Photo by Emma Tranter)


MAY—A British Airways Boeing 777 lands in Iqaluit at about 4 p.m. on May 9. BA Flight 273 was en route from London to San Diego when it diverted to Iqaluit for a reported medical emergency. At least one passenger was offloaded and taken by ambulance to Qikiqtani General Hospital. The aircraft remained on the tarmac and other passengers did not disembark. The flight continued on at about 6:30 p.m. A British Airways spokesperson said later that a passenger had been “unwell.” (Photo by Sarah Rogers)


JUNE—Jennifer Ellsworth, a Grade 10 student at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit, walks out of school with about 100 students on the morning of June 5 to march to the legislature to call on Nunavut’s leaders to take action on climate change as part of a protest on World Environment Day. (Photo by Emma Tranter)


JULY—Iqaluit’s fire department responded to the fourth fire in two days in the city, this time in the 700s area. (Photo by Emma Tranter)


AUGUST—A crane lowers part of Iqaluit’s newest hotel into position on the evening of Aug. 5. The building, owned by Qikiqtaaluk Corp., will sport 94 rooms and 12 suites, which were pre-constructed and assembled in Shanghai, with everything from televisions and microwaves already set up and strapped down inside. (Photo by Catherine Whittaker)


SEPTEMBER—On a foggy Friday afternoon about 50 Iqalungmiut march to the legislature and city hall as part of the climate strike protests held throughout the world. (Photo by Dustin Patar)


OCTOBER—Liberal leader Justin Trudeau addresses reporters in Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park in Iqaluit on Oct. 8. (Photo by Dustin Patar)


  • 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.

NOVEMBER—Iqaluit firefighters quickly put out a fire that broke out started inside Big Racks Barbecue on the morning of Nov. 5. (Photo courtesy of Sherrie Leyden)


DECEMBER—NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq wrap up their weekend in Iqaluit with a stop at the Qajuqturvik Food Centre where, in addition to serving food, they called on the Liberal government to take concrete steps to confront the climate emergency. Singh also announced the NDP’s plans to introduce legislation to put science-based emissions reduction targets into law. (Photo by Dustin Patar)


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(2) Comments:

  1. Posted by Judith Burch on

    I am committed to Nunavut! I served for 2 terms on the NACA board I am a research collaborator at the Arctic Studies Center of the Smithsonian. For the last 20+ years, I have lectured with Nunavut’s Baker Lake Wall Hanging exhibitions – ALL around the world. Wherever I am lectur9ing< I also work with 8-10 year olds to have them created their own culture on cloth or paper.Nunavut is my passion! Amazing from volcanoes in Costa Rica to the Kremlin in Moscow to gers in Mongolia +++.Wish you could see the photos – Beijing – Tiananmen Square. A book needs to be created and shared….not about me, but about love and sharing cultures around the world – with each other. I have interns here at the Univ. of Virginia, possibly they can help create this.

  2. Posted by Freydis Nikootai Wemigwans on

    Was adopted from there, my mother’s name was Olucy…. do I still have FAMILY there, think her last name was Jonnyboo???

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