Following decades of hard work and advocacy by Inuit leaders, the territory of Nunavut was created in 1999. Nunavut, which means “our Land” in Inuktitut, is a land of remarkable beauty, where the youngest population in Canada lives alongside a generation of elders born on the land before Nunavut’s towns were permanently settled. The vibrant Inuit culture still flourishes here through drum dancing, throat singing, carving, music and other unique arts. You will see people wearing seal skin kamiks, women carrying children in their amauti and Inuktut/Innuinaqtun being spoken widely. Nunavut provides the opportunity to learn more about one of Canada’s First Peoples as they adapt to the ever-changing modern world.
There are no roads connecting Nunavut communities and because most of its small towns don’t have physicians, medevacs and medical travel are necessary to deliver quality healthcare. Most communities in Nunavut have scheduled daily flight service to the regional hubs of Iqaluit, Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet.
It’s true, the price of milk and veggies and just about everything is higher in Nunavut—and that only increases as you get further away from the regional centres. But you will be remunerated accordingly. Though you will not have all of the 24/7 amenities and conveniences you may be accustomed to, you will do important work and connect with fascinating people you would never have the opportunity to meet down south.
You will encounter challenges in Nunavut. For example, you can expect to be delayed a few hours (or days) in a community due to a sudden blizzard that blows through. But therein lies the serendipity and beauty of life in Nunavut—if you can roll with the punches, you will thrive. You will forge friendships and build connections in the community that will better inform your practice. These experiences will help you to improve the provision of quality healthcare in the North and remind you why you became a physician in the first place.
Qikiqtaaluk Region, based out of Iqaluit
Iqaluit, Nunavut’s capital, is a growing city of nearly 8,000. New buildings seem to sprout up by the month, including a spacious airport and first-rate pool, and the city’s restaurant scene continues to develop. But Iqaluit still retains a small-town feel—walking down a street or along the shoreline, you’re likely to meet a carver at work outside their home or pass hunters heading out on Frobisher Bay for seal.
Iqalungmiut celebrate the arrival of spring with the annual Toonik Tyme festival each April. The event features community feasts, drum dances and traditional Inuit games. In June, the world-class Alianait Festival showcases musical acts from across the territory and around the globe under a big-top tent.
Iqaluit is the hub of Nunavut’s largest and most diverse administrative region. The Qikiqtaaluk region stretches from the Belcher Islands in southern Hudson Bay up to the northern tip of Ellesmere Island—where the sun rises on April 7 and doesn’t set again until September 4. This region encompasses 13 communities—Arctic Bay, Cape Dorset, Clyde River, Grise Fiord, Hall Beach, Iglulik, Iqaluit, Kimmirut, Pangnirtung, Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaq, Resolute and Sanikiluaq—and some of the most dramatic landscapes in all of Canada. Most hiking enthusiasts will already have Auyuittuq National Park on their bucket-list, but heading out on the land around any Qikiqtaaluk community is guaranteed to provide some breathtaking scenery and an array of stunning wildlife-viewing opportunities.
Kitikmeot Region, based out of Cambridge Bay
Cambridge Bay is the largest town in the Kitikmeot region and home to the region’s largest health facility. The area has long been frequented by Inuit for its abundance of wildlife, and Arctic char in particular. Today, it’s not uncommon to see muskoxen wandering around the outskirts of town. The opening of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station promises to bring increased attention to Cambridge Bay, which has experienced a boom from the station’s construction and from the opening of a gold mine nearby.
In May, Cambridge Baymiut rejoice at the Omingmak Frolics, a week of events that includes snowmobile races, community feasts, and performances for children by local and southern artists. Ovayuk Territorial Park is named after the large esker formation roughly 15 kilometres from town, which includes a network of walking trails and provides sweeping views of the Cambridge Bay area.
The westernmost region of Nunavut, the Kitikmeot is home to five communities: Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Kugaaruk, Kugluktuk and Taloyoak. The region is known for its outstanding Arctic char fishing. The discoveries of Sir John Franklin’s ships Erebus and Terror (in 2014 and 2016, respectively) near Gjoa Haven made international headlines and spurred the creation of the Umiyaqtutt Festival in late August to commemorate the finds and celebrate Gjoa Haven’s local history and culture.
Kivalliq Region, based out of Rankin Inlet
Rankin Inlet is the largest community in the Kivalliq region and home to its regional health centre. The town is in the midst of a growth spurt due to the recent opening of a nearby gold mine. The development of a nickel mine in the 1950s is responsible for the permanent settling of Rankin Inlet, but Inuit had been hunting and fishing in the region long before that. Today, Rankin Inlet is home to Kivalliq Foods, a food processing plant that sells Arctic char and caribou. In April, residents celebrate spring with Pakallak Tyme, a festival that includes snowmobile and dog-sledding races, and many other outdoor events.
The Kivalliq region stretches up the western shore of Hudson Bay and west to the NWT border. It encompasses the coastal communities of Arviat, Chesterfield Inlet, Coral Harbour, Naujaat, Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove and the in-land community of Baker Lake. The Kivalliq is primarily flat, treeless land and residents love to get out of town to spend time at their cabins. In spring, most communities host fishing derbies. The Kivalliq is also notoriously hockey crazed and towns send teams to a series of tournaments held in different communities, starting in January and ending in March. You will witness the true love for the game in the Kivalliq region.