Amazing and un-amazing Iqaluit

I’ve been thinking in lists as I walk around Nunavut’s capital, Iqaluit, so here’s my top five list of amazing things in this city of roughly 8,000.

But for each of these five amazing things there’s a shadow list of things, which make the Iqaluit of today an un-amazing place and on its way to becoming a mini-Yellowknife, with its clash of prosperity, commercialism and poverty.

1) Iqaluit Aquatic centre

A $40-million facility with a huge draw. And that’s no surprise: Kids frolic around in the children’s pool. Teens slide down the big yellow slide, and when you do laps, you can watch the snow whipping around outside. If that’s not enough there’s a full fitness centre.

2) Avocados

Before you could only reliably find onions and carrots in Iqaluit stores. Now you can find a variety of produce, including piles of avocados.

3) the Plateau

This neighbourhood seems to go on forever on a ridge overlooking the city, and a lot of people can’t remember what Iqaluit, whose population is now about three times more than when I first came here, looked like without it.

4) Cell phones

You can text, post to social media and check the weather on your phone. And talk.

5) Diversity

There’s a shawarma restaurant in town, a mosque, international foods on the store shelves and your neighbour could originally come from the Ivory Coast or the Philippines.

So here’s what you will find on my list of five un-amazing things about Iqaluit:

1) Bad infrastructure

When the snow melts, roads fall apart. Nearly every road in Iqaluit is unsafe to drive for weeks. Does this look like a capital city in Canada to you?

2) Expensive food

if you don’t know how to cook and you buy food at the grocery store, a full cart will probably cost you $1,000 and you will eat badly, and you won’t buy the government-subsidized avocados which often end up rotting in the stores. And if you don’t have any money, a lot of the time you’ll go hungry.

3) Poor, overcrowded public housing and expensive private housing

You might be able to rent a room for about $1,000 a month, but a buying a house will set you back by $500,000. There isn’t enough public housing and visible homelessness, and all the social problems, including violence, addictions, crime that come with these are part of life in Iqaluit.

4) Dreadful internet

It can be so slow you’ll want to tear out your hair trying to load a page. Everyone suffers from not being able to get to knowledge online or to tap into the commercial possibilities. or, as Mayor Madeline Redfern says, be able to “govern, manage, admin, deliver.”

5) Marginalization of Inuit culture and language

Inuit are the first residents of this place, but they are now in the minority in Iqaluit, and, if they don’t speak English,  are likely to feel like a strangers in their own land.


My top 10 photos from 2016

365 days and thousands of photos later— these are 10 photos which I took that I liked the most.

1. I woke up to this sky this past October in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. I didn’t want to go outside to photograph it, but the colour just got too bright and red. A friend calls it my Martian sky.1

2. In August, also in Cambridge Bay, when the sun had set, the sky was lit up on top with a pink colour, then became deeper blue below.  I also realized in this photo there’s a lot happening besides the sky: There’s a tanker and a friend walking home.2

3. I went driving around to try and catch the super-moon as it rose in September in Cambridge Bay: Here you can see it rising over the airport.3

4. A peregrine falcon warmed itself on this September day. That day by Mt. Pelly outside Cambridge Bay we saw many hawks and peregrines all enjoying the mid-20 C temps.5

5.But it was not always sunny. On this morning the sunrise looked a bit apocalyptic though the window, with Cambridge Bay’s fuel tank farm in the distance.4

6. I took a walk up to the dump in Cambridge Bay and found a few dozen sand hill cranes feasting on the trash. dsc05314

7. Ice grows in bubbles beside a pond in Cambridge Bay, not sure exactly how.7

8. I never get tired of watching snow buntings which hung around this year well into October in Cambridge Bay.8

9. Wow! On a visit back to Finland, the bright , bold colours of Marimekko designs impress me many years after I worked as a salesclerk in the company’s stores.DSC04023

10. And here I am with my Finnish sister Kirsti this past summer in Finland, just the best place to be.10

Let’s all have a great 2017 to come! Onnellista uuttaa vuotaa!