City of Iqaluit
The mission of Iqaluit is to work together with its citizens to create a sustainable and environmentally responsible Arctic capital. For Iqaluit, history and culture are key and the city believes that “by respecting our rich historical and cultural heritage we will succeed in forging a community government that empowers our citizens to participate in positive community development.” We spoke with the outgoing Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik about the city where she was born and raised.
The city means “place of many fish” in Inuktitut, a fitting moniker for a city so prevalent in fishing. Iqaluit is located near the mouth of the Sylvia Grinnell River which opens up to the Frobisher Bay. The city was known as Frobisher Bay from 1955 to 1987 and has a population of about 30,000, with about 85 per cent being of Inuit descent.
The company states, “even though it’s located on the remote Arctic tundra, Iqaluit aims to be every inch a capital city, with the amenities and quality of life to rival any in Canada. Iqaluit’s economy—based mainly on a government that has expanded rapidly since the city became the capital of Nunavut in 1999—is growing by leaps and bounds.” The city is also currently focusing on infrastructure and trying to grow the population.
With the recent opening of a Canadian institution, Tim Hortons, the city has seen a growth in business opportunities. Sheutiapik says, “We are certainly excited about business opportunities and interested in businesses coming and investing in infrastructure and increasing employment.”
The last 10 years for Iqaluit have been prosperous and the city has seen new jobs with the formation of a new government legislature. “Being the capital, there are more federal department issues here. A lot of people have moved here with the new legislature and that has created small businesses,” says Sheutiapik.
To date, Iqaluit is looking to expand on infrastructure by creating a bigger space for its fire equipment as the city grows, as well as working on multi recreational facilities for the community’s use. “They are working towards creating more multi-recreational facilities for the various populations. More than 50 per cent of the population is 26 years old and under. I’m a strong believer that we need to have more recreation available. Hockey, speed skating and figure skating are already popular here,” says Sheutiapik.
Sheutiapik notes the importance of not cutting corners when improving infrastructure, noting the importance of not only thinking about the present but how the city will grow in the future. “It’s important to make sure it doesn’t just meet today’s needs and that the infrastructure is going to last. Building responsibly is very important,” she says.
The city is also looking into the creation of a deep sea port for ship cargo. Sheutiapik says, “Because they have to upload to a barge, they have to work with the tide. With a deep sea port it may take two days to upload as opposed to five.”
Tourism and wildlife
The city is always trying to boost tourism which adds a great deal to the economy for members of Iqaluit’s thriving arts community. “Arts and crafts members are benefiting from tourism and the world wide web has helped some of the artists out greatly,” says Sheutiapik. “There are a lot of hands-on visual people here.”
When it comes to wildlife, Sheutiapik explains how seals have been a resource used by the community for generations, despite the controversy it may bring up today. “The issue of using seal skin is prevalent but I have to remind people that if the trade didn’t exist I wouldn’t be here today,” she says. “My grandparents were settlers here. We ate the meat but we also used the fur for outerwear. In modern day they are doing amazing stuff like knapsacks and seal skin portfolios.”
Strong community values
The community is tight-knit and small and puts a large amount of value into community pride. “Having grown up here everybody was on a first name basis and nobody had to lock the door. As a mother my hope is to keep the community spirit and pride of where we come from alive,” says Sheutiapik. “I’m a true believer that if you are involved in community activities it will bring pride. It shouldn’t matter how big your community is.”
This small yet bustling city has proven itself to be a destination in Canada that is continuously striving for improvement. Iqaluit’s focus on maintaining a close-knit community full of pride in the face of growth is a commendable value that it has maintained throughout the years. For Iqaluit, everything the city strives for can be seen through the generations of spirited people like Sheutiapik who continue to instil a sense of strong community.