Town (pop., 2001: 5,236), capital of Nunavut territory, Canada. Situated on southeastern Baffin Island, it is the largest community in the eastern Canadian Arctic. It was established as a trading post in 1914 and became an air base during World War II. It later was the site of construction camps for the DEW (Distant Early Warning) line of radar stations. It is the site of a meteorological station and a hospital. It became Nunavut's capital in 1999.
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Iqaluit (iqaluit, ᐃᖃᓗᐃᑦ in Inuktitut syllabics; often pronounced in English) is the territorial capital and the largest community of the Canadian territory of Nunavut. Iqaluit is located on the south coast of Baffin Island at the head of Frobisher Bay. As of the 2006 census the population was 6,184, an increase of 18.1 per cent from the 2001 census; it has the lowest population of any capital city in Canada. Inhabitants of Iqaluit are called Iqalummiut (singular: Iqalummiuq). Prior to 1987 the community was named Frobisher Bay.
Founded in 1942 as an American airbase, Iqaluit's first permanent inhabitant was Nakasuk, an Inuk guide who helped American planners to choose the site. One of Iqaluit's elementary schools is named after Nakasuk. Long regarded as a campsite and fishing spot by the Inuit, the place chosen had traditionally been named Iqaluit - "many fish" in Inuktitut - but Canadian and American authorities named it Frobisher Bay, after the official name of the body of water it abuts.
The Hudson's Bay Company moved its south Baffin operations to the neighbouring valley of Niaqunngut, officially called Apex, in 1949 to take advantage of the airfield. The population of Frobisher Bay increased rapidly during the construction of the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW line, a system of radar stations, see NORAD) in the mid-1950s. Hundreds of construction workers, military personnel, and administrative staff moved into the community, and several hundred Inuit followed to take advantage of the access to medical care and jobs the base provided. In 1957, 489 of the town's 1,200 residents were reported to be Inuit. After 1959, the Canadian government established permanent services at Frobisher Bay, including full-time doctors, a school and social services. The Inuit population grew rapidly in response, as the government encouraged Inuit to settle permanently in communities with government services.
The American military left Iqaluit in 1963, as ICBMs diminished the strategic value of the DEW line and Arctic airbases, but Frobisher Bay remained the government's administrative and logistical centre for much of the eastern Arctic. In 1964, the first elections were held for a community council, and in 1979 for the first mayor. The founding of the Gordon Robertson Educational Centre (now Inukshuk high school) in the early-1970s at Iqaluit confirmed the government's commitment to the community as an administrative centre. At the time of its founding, it was the sole high school operating in more than a seventh of Canadian territory.
On January 1, 1987, the name of this municipality was officially changed from "Frobisher Bay" to "Iqaluit" - aligning official usage with the name that the Inuit population had always used. In December 1995, Iqaluit was selected to serve as Nunavut's future capital in a territory-wide referendum, in which it was chosen over Rankin Inlet. On April 19, 2001 it was officially redesignated as a city.
The 2001 Census reported that in Iqaluit 85.6% of the aboriginal population understood aboriginal languages whilst 91.9% had a knowledge of it.
Iqaluit has the distinction of being the smallest Canadian capital in terms of population and the only capital that cannot be accessed from the rest of Canada via a highway. Located on an island remote from the Canadian highway system, Iqaluit is generally only accessible by aircraft and, subject to ice conditions, by boat. Iqaluit Airport is a fully modern facility whose originally World War II-era runway is more than long enough for most classes of modern jet. Although there is a persistent rumour that Iqaluit is an emergency landing site for the Space Shuttle, this is false. Iqaluit Airport is a centre for cold-weather testing of new aircraft, such as the Airbus A380 in February 2006.
In the middle of summer, a few ships — generally no larger than a Liberty class vessel — transport bulk and heavy goods to the city. Cargo is off-loaded onto barges as the harbour is not deep enough. The city is currently planning a deepwater port. Experienced locals also cross the Hudson Strait from the Canadian mainland when it freezes over, either on foot or by dog sled or snowmobile, a distance of over 100km.
Iqaluit has a local road system only stretching from the nearby community of Apex to the Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park Reserve, 1km west of town. Iqaluit currently has no public transportation, although there is city-wide taxi service. (There was bus service in the city before, but lack of riders forced the closure of the service.) Motor cars are increasing in number, even to the extent of causing occasional traffic problems, but the cost of shipping them and the wear-and-tear of the harsh Arctic climate and notoriously rough roadways mean that snowmobiles are the preferred form of personal transportation. All-terrain vehicles are also an increasingly common form of transportation in most of the Canadian Arctic. Snowmobiles are extensively used to travel both within the city and in the surrounding area. In winter, dog sleds are still used, however this is primarily recreational. In winter, the nearby Qaummaarviit Territorial Historic Park and the more remote Katannilik Territorial Park are only accessible by snowmobile, dog sled or foot. In the summer, both are accessible by boat.
Both residents and businesses identify their locations mostly by building number, and occasionally by the name of a prominent structure. Residents know where in the city certain building numbers are located; numbers tend to be aggregated in blocks, so someone might say that they live "in the 2600s" (twenty-six hundreds). Around 2003, street names were adopted, although there were delays in finalising them and then posting the signs. Street numbers have not been assigned, and building numbers continue to be used.
The principal exception is the Nunavut Legislative Assembly Building, which is remarkable for its colourful interior, adorned with some of the very best in Inuit art.
Another distinctive building was St. Jude's Anglican Cathedral which was a white building shaped like an igloo. Originally built by the parishioners, the altar was shaped like a traditional Inuit sled, and the cross composed of two crossed narwhal tusks. An incident of arson severely affected the Cathedral structure and interior on November 5, 2005, and it was finally demolished on June 1, 2006. Fundraising is under way to rebuild the cathedral. On a ridge overlooking the city is the distinctive blue and white Inuksuk High School. The school is made up of four square sections joined together that give a clover leaf shape when viewed from the air.
The city is also the location of the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, which houses a large collection of Inuit and Arctic objects.
Just west of Iqaluit is the Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park Reserve. This park is characterised by the valley of the Sylvia Grinnell River. A small visitor's centre with viewing platform is located on top of a hill overlooking scenic waterfalls.
Nearby on an island near the Peterhead inlet, is the Qaummaarviit Territorial Historic Park. It is a site with a long Inuit history and numerous artifacts have been recovered, including the remains of 11 semi-buried sod houses.
A little farther, across Frobisher Bay, are the Katannilik Territorial Park and the Soper Heritage River Park.
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