17 Pros and Cons of Living in Nunavut, Canada

Located in the northeastern part of Canada, Nunavut is one of the nation’s lesser-known territories. Nunavut, which separated from Canada’s Northwest Territory in 1999, makes up a significant portion of Canada’s large landmass.

Nunavut may not be well-known, but it is no less distinct. So what makes Nunavut unique? Is it an attractive place to live?

To help you learn a little more about the territory, here are 17 pros and cons of living in Nunavut.

A drawn map showing the Nunavut area of Canada, along with the territory's flag

9 Pros of Living in Nunavut

Some of the pros about living in Nunavut are well-known, but there are a few unexpected perks to living in one of the most northern places in the Great White North.

1. Recreation Galore

If you love the great outdoors, there’s a lot to love about Nunavut. From exploring the landscape to organized sports, residents can have a lot of fun. Residents relish snowmobiling, fishing, kayaking, and hiking. If you want a sport that can be played both indoor and outdoor, try the favored hockey or curling.

Although winter sports do hold special attention, the people of Nunavut equally participate in summer activities like soccer, volleyball, table tennis, and badminton.

There are also unique regional activities, including traditional Inuit Games, gaining prominence through competitive sporting events, such as Arctic Sports at the Arctic Winter Games.

2. Hunting

Hunting has been a way of life for generations of Nunavut’s people, and it continues to be a significant industry. Traditionally, hunting was crucial for survival and feeding families. Nowadays, hunting is both a sport and a source of revenue.

If you’re interested in big game hunting, Nunavut features several exotic and highly prized animals. From walrus to polar bears, arctic hares to ptarmigan, hunters with dedicated survival skills can make for an unforgettable reward.

Of course, the Nunavut Wildlife officers rigorously enforce hunting seasons and protective quotas. As well, laws require hunters to use licensed outfitters.

3. Growing Economy

Mining, fishing, communication, and tourism are all significant industries in Nunavut. As a result, these industries influence much of the territory’s economic growth.

Hunting, as well as traditional arts and crafts, are also valuable revenue streams.

Exports are steadily growing, with predictions suggesting continued growth. As demand increases for Nunavut’s resources, especially metals and minerals, the territories will collectively grow 12.3% in 2021 and 3.1% in 2022.

4. Friendly Community

Nunavut owes its friendly reputation to community values passed on through cultural heritage. The promotion of community peace and acceptance was essential for survival then and now. The sparsely populated north deeply values community.

Organized social events, including festivals and group activities, are indispensable. Residents participate in a wide range of activities, but group events are incredibly vibrant.

In Nunavut, neighbors are family.

5. Cultural Diversity

A native person, dressed in traditional seal leather, is playing a drum. There is icy water in the background.

While Canada has two official federal languages, English and French, Nunavut includes two more for all signage and government documentation. The two additions are the common Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun, which are both Inuit languages.

With Canada’s largest population of Inuit, Metis, and First Nation Peoples, their traditional values color Nunavut’s culture. Nunavut is 84% Inuit.

You can find various annual celebrations if you enjoy festivals, including the Toonik Tyme and Alianait festival in Iqaluit or the Nattiq Frolics in Kugluktuk.

Nunavut’s traditional or “country food” can be intimidating, as community feasts might feature arctic char, caribou, seal, or whale. But if Anthony Bordain offered the northern dishes his praise, you know you shouldn’t miss out.

The territory is also known worldwide for traditional prints and carvings.

Additionally, the region regularly welcomes newcomers seeking job opportunities, most often from the Philippines, UK, and the US. The total population sits around 40,000, with the capital, Iqaluit, home to 8,000. However, the numbers can fluctuate. Some 1,000 newcomers can come and go, depending on whether their work opportunities draw them elsewhere.

6. Drumming and Dancing

Drumming, dance, and storytelling arts passed down through Inuit heritage have become vital to Nunavut communities.

Music, including various styles of throat-singing and drumming traditions, is used to celebrate throughout the year. Additionally, dance music and storytelling are intrinsically tied and shared at festive, live performances.

Square dancing has also gained attention. When Europeans brought their fiddles, jigs, and other music, it made a lasting impact. If you like group dancing, Nunavut might be the place to join a troupe.

7. Beautiful Views

A photo of the Northern Lights. Dark silhouettes of pine trees is in the foreground. A purple sky and stars is on the left of the photo and a yellow-green Norther Lights on the right

Nunavut is Canada’s largest territory, encompassing about 1/5th of the nation’s total landmass. Part of that largeness comes from the multiple Arctic islands, including Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island. If it were an independent country, its mass would rank 15th in the world.

The coastline is the broadest in Canada, with the Arctic Archipelago consisting of over thirty-six thousand islands. So if you love water, especially if you’re ready for a kayak adventure, there are expansive waterways and coast to explore.

Nunavut is north of north, home to the world’s most northerly permanent settlement, Alert. Residents can also visit Quttinirpaaq National Park, which is the second most northerly park on Earth. This Inuktitut name means “top of the world.”

In total, there are five national parks and ten territorial parks. Nunavut’s wildlife, panoramic views, and unique environments will enrapture nature lovers.

Of course, the first view that likely comes to mind when you think of Nunavut is the Northern Lights. The dancing rainbow ribbons of light, known as “aqsarniit” in the local Inuktitut language, are prevalent throughout autumn and winter.

Since there’s little light pollution that far north, the Aurora Borealis is vibrantly visible.

Another curious phenomenon is the Midnight Sun. The summer solstice in Nunavut experiences 21 hours of continuous sunlight. Imagine everything you could get done in a day with no night. But, if you do enjoy your beauty sleep, rest assured Nunavut equally experiences darkness.

8. Unique Wildlife

If you love marine life, then consider regular visits to Nunavut’s island estuaries and shallow bays. Approximately 75% of the world’s narwhal population migrate into the area, especially Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay.

Probably the most famous northern animal is the polar bear. The Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB) carefully manages polar bear populations. Their decreasing numbers now mark them as a vulnerable species.

Hunters can legally harvest the animal, but with restrictions. If the majestic Coca-Cola mascot is one of your favorites, besides a trip to the zoo, living in Nunavut is the closest you can get.

It’s also no small thing that dog sleds are still essential to everyday transportation. If you love dog training, Nunavut will provide ample opportunities.

9. Tim Hortons

As isolated and quiet as the north might be, in 2010, Nunavut became the last region in Canada to welcome Tim Hortons. The arrival of the Canadian staple is proof that although Nunavut doesn’t have everything available in dense metropolises, there’s room to grow.

As the economy continues to trend upward, who knows what other popular retailers or amenities might settle in the north?

Related: Benefits of Living in Canada

8 Cons of Living in Nunavut

Nunavut’s pros and cons are usually two sides of the same coin. Although the marvelous tundra provides for some, it might not be the right fit for everyone.

Here are the reasons Nunavut might give some newcomers pause.

10. High Cost of Living

The cost of living in Nunavut is high, even when compared to other places in Canada. The primary cause is Nunavut’s location and infrastructure.

Various conditions impact housing, food, fuel, and utility costs. Food and fuel need to be shipped in from farther away. The climate can make transporting goods more difficult. As a result, the demand is higher than what the supply can provide, raising prices.

For example, many smaller communities have water delivered by truck to individual homes rather than pipes.

11. High Unemployment Rate

While recent years have already dramatically impacted unemployment rates, Nunavut has historically had higher unemployment rates than other provinces and territories. For example, in 2020, Nunavut had a 14% unemployment rate.

The rates can be concerning when compared with the population’s density. Most of the more densely populated regions had rates lower by 4-5%.

Part of the problem is the nature of Nunavut’s economy. While there are available jobs in government, especially health, education, and administration, the residents don’t necessarily have the skill set.

Although many northerners have access to enough education to be semi-skilled, there isn’t a university in Nunavut and only one college. As a result, job opportunities that require higher education mainly attract immigrants rather than northerners.

12. Short-Term Residents

Nunavut has a higher turnover rate for residents, mainly because people come for a job but leave once they’ve put in their hours.

People born and raised in Nunavut tend to stay. Most migration out of the territory consists of people moving in and out from the south or other countries.

However, recent years have experienced a change, as the skyrocketing fertility rate is helping Nunavut grow faster than any other province or territory. For now, that means more of the population is underaged and cannot join the workforce.

But, if you want cities the size of Toronto, Nunavut is unlikely to reach those numbers this century.

13. Mining Resources

Nunavut is rich in resources, which leads to mining as a prevalent way of life. However, while mining does indicate that jobs are available, there are a few drawbacks.

The first drawback is that mining is risky work. Even with the best of intentions and specific regulations, it can be unpredictable.

The second con of mining is the environmental damage. It can be disruptive and have unavoidable side effects.

14. Cold Climate

A photo of an ice-breaker ship, traveling in the waters, surrounded by ice

The people of the territories are called northerners for a reason. While there aren’t any White Walkers or giant ice walls, the expansive tundra is cold. The 9-month winters can be harsh, regularly dipping below -30°C (-22°F), although there is some variation depending on location.

Notably, Nunavut does thaw out for summer. Typically summer temperatures are mild, hovering around 10°C (50°F). However, temperatures can climb to 25°C (77°F) in July. When living in Nunavut, cold is the default. But it’s best to be prepared for all types of weather.

15. Limited Transportation

If you’re used to city driving, Nunavut might cause some culture shock. That isn’t to say there are no roads, but rather the infrastructure isn’t a priority. The entire territory has under 32 km of paved road.

An unsurprising correlation to the limited roadways is missing public transportation. You’ll need to secure your own means of travel. Aircraft, boats, snowmobiles, and school buses experience the most use.

16. Isolation

Unlike the hustle and bustle of most cities, Nunavut is more petite and relatively spread out. The size and location also make it challenging to find city amenities. Residents can find shopping and entertainment, but it can take hours to get there.

The isolated territory also lowers accessibility to critical services, like medical care. There are fewer doctors available. While the lack of crowding can be idyllic on an average day, it can be a risk when an emergency arises.

It also lacks infrastructure like sidewalks, ramps, and elevators, which can be challenging for residents with mobility or other differently-abled persons.

17. Expensive Flights

When you’re ready to flee the coup, whether it’s visiting family elsewhere or heading for a destination vacation, you’ll have to invest in a pricey airfare.

Many Nunavut residents wait until after high-traffic times, like post-Christmas, to travel, which helps lower the fees. However, it also takes more time to travel, which leads to more costs because of Nunavut’s isolation and infrastructure gaps.

Related: Pros and Cons of Living in Quebec, Canada

Conclusion

Nunavut has a lot to offer anyone seeking a quieter lifestyle connected to nature and unique culture. If you need city living, Nunavut isn’t the right fit. But if you’re weighing the pros and cons of a change of pace or a job opportunity, there’s plenty of reasons you might call it home.

Did the pros convince you to put Nunavut on your bucket list? Did the cons drive you towards other cities?

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