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Bowhead Whale

The bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) is a large baleen whale living in Arctic waters. Two populations are found in Canada: the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Sea population and the Eastern Canada-West Greenland population. During the summer, the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Sea population is found in the waters of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, while the Eastern Canada-West Greenland population is found in Davis Strait, Baffin Bay, Lancaster Sound, Hudson Strait, Foxe Basin, northwest Hudson Bay and the channels and fjords of the Arctic Archipelago. Commercial whaling began in the 1500s and ended around 1915. Both populations of bowhead whale were severely reduced by this industry. While their numbers have increased, other challenges, such as climate change and oil and gas development, pose threats to bowhead whales.

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Henry Hudson

Henry Hudson, mariner, explorer (born c. 1570 in England; disappeared 1611). Hudson was among a long list of explorers who searched in vain for a northern passage through Arctic waters from Europe to East Asia. He made four voyages historians are aware of, in 1607, 1608, 1609 and 1610–11. While he never found a route, in Canada, Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait are named for him, as well as the Hudson River in New York state. He disappeared, along with his son and seven companions, after being set adrift in a ship’s boat during a mutiny on James Bay in June 1611. (See also Northwest Passage; Arctic Exploration.)

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NWT Premiere Calls for Investment in Arctic Ports

Speaking at the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region summit in Saskatoon, Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod called for the development of three ports in the territory and more icebreakers to support increased shipping traffic in the rapidly warming Arctic. “It’s getting harder to resupply our communities,” he said. “We rely a lot on ice roads. Their life span is getting shorter and shorter… It’s very timely now to do some strategic investing and planning.” McLeod also called for a stronger military presence in the Arctic, an increase in immigrants to the region and more investment in research facilities. (See also: Canadian Arctic Sovereignty.)

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Scientists Say Canada’s Warming Is Twice the Global Rate and Is “Effectively Irreversible”

A report issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada that was based on the work of more than 40 scientists concluded that Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. Canada’s average temperature is 1.7°C higher than it was 70 years ago, while average temperature during winter is 3.3°C higher, and average temperature in the Arctic is 2.3°C higher. The report stated that the effects of climate change are “effectively irreversible” and will last for “centuries.”

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Canadian Inuit Dog

The Canadian Inuit dog (Canis familiaris borealis) is one of five Canadian dog breeds recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club. While the Club refers to this breed as the “Canadian Eskimo dog,” the Government of Nunavut calls it the Canadian Inuit dog and made it the territory’s official animal. In the Eastern Baffin dialect of Inuktitut the dog is called qimmiq (spelled Kimmik in other dialects). For hundreds of years, these dogs were used by the Inuit and their ancestors to pull sleds as a means of transportation. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other government officials killed thousands of sled dogs, rendering the breed extinct. Since then a revitalization program has helped reestablish the Canadian Inuit dog. As of 2018, there are approximately 300 Canadian Inuit dogs registered with the Canadian Kennel Club.

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Tuktoyaktuk

Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, incorporated as a hamlet in 1970, population 898 (2016 census), 854 (2011 census). The Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk is located on the coast of the Beaufort Sea, east of the Mackenzie River delta, and 1,135 km northwest of Yellowknife by air. Tuktoyaktuk, commonly referred to as Tuk, is a transportation and government centre, as well as a base for oil and natural gas exploration.

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Arctic Ocean Will Be Ice-Free in 50 Years, Study Warns

In a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers at the University of California concluded that if global carbon emissions maintain their current pace, the Arctic Ocean will be almost entirely ice-free at least part of every year by sometime between 2044 and 2067. Currently, Arctic ice covers about 4.5 million km2 at its lowest amount each September — a sharp reduction from the historic level of around 6 million km2. The study predicts that 50 years from now, ice will only cover about 1 million km2 of the Arctic Ocean, mostly close to land, leaving the open ocean virtually ice-free. (See also: Climate Change; Endangered Arctic Animals.)

Editorial

Endangered Arctic Animals

The list of endangered animals in Canada is long:

456 as of 2013, over 40 per cent of which face imminent extinction.

While these animals make their home in every province and territory, some of the reasons for their decline — including climate change and habitat destruction — are easiest to observe in the Arctic. For example, scientists note that temperatures near the North Pole are rising twice as fast as the rest of the world, meaning sea ice — a crucial competent to Arctic ecosystems — is rapidly disappearing. Meanwhile, the Inuit are observing changes in animal migration patterns and population numbers, both of which affect their traditional hunting practices.

This exhibit highlights six of the animals struggling to adapt to changes in the Arctic: the polar bear, caribou, narwhal, bowhead whale, beluga and walrus. Images by internationally-renowned photographer Paul Nicklen introduce each of the animals, while excerpts from The Canadian Encyclopedia provide information on each species’ specific challenges. To complete the series, Yellowknife-based journalist Ashleigh Gaul pays tribute to the walrus hunt, making the connection between the loss of animal habitat and the loss of Inuit culture.

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Canada Files Claim for North Pole

After years of research costing more than $100 million, Canada submitted its bid for control of a large part of the Arctic seabed to the UN Commission on Limits of the Continental Shelf. Russia and Denmark had already filed their claims, and the United States and Norway were expected to follow suit. The process of determining who has sovereignty over the Arctic, and control over resources there, is expected to take years.

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Ottawa Releases Long-Awaited Arctic Development Policy

After extensive consultations with First Nations and territorial governments, the federal government released its policy on developing the Canadian Arctic. It had been in the works since 2017. Eight priorities were identified, with health, infrastructure and economic development leading the way. However, many criticized the policy for not including specifics on how it would be implemented. International law professor and Arctic expert Michael Byers said, “In terms of an actual plan, there’s very little here.”  

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Arctic Winter Games

The Arctic Winter Games (AWG) are biennial games initiated in 1970 to provide northern athletes with opportunities for training and competition, and to promote cultural and social interchange among northern peoples. Although the Games originated in North America, they have grown to include athletes from other parts of the world, including Greenland and parts of Russia, including Magadan, Sápmi and Yamal.

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Inuit Group Releases Climate Change Adaptation Plan

The organization Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami released a 48-page plan for adapting to a changing climate in the Arctic, which is warming twice as quickly as the rest of the planet. “Inuit have decided we are going to seek a partnership with the Government of Canada and start to adapt any way we can through coordinated action,” said Natan Obed, the head of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. The plan calls for improvements to infrastructure threatened by thawing permafrost, increased spending on transportation, improvements to telecommunications and the incorporation of traditional Inuit knowledge in building codes and practices.

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Naujaat

Naujaat, Nunavut, incorporated as a hamlet in 1978, population 1,082 (2016 census), 945 (2011 census). The hamlet of Naujaat is located on the north shore of Repulse Bay, which is on the south shore of the Rae Isthmus. For a period of time, Naujaat was known as Repulse Bay.

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Igloo

Igloo (iglu in Inuktitut, meaning “house”), is a winter dwelling made of snow. Historically, Inuit across the Arctic lived in igloos before the introduction of modern, European-style homes. While igloos are no longer the common type of housing used by the Inuit, they remain culturally significant in Arctic communities. Igloos also retain practical value: some hunters and those seeking emergency shelter still use them. (See also Architectural History of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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Nunavut

Nunavut, or “Our Land” in Inuktitut, encompasses over 2 million km2 and has a population of 35,944 residents (2016 census), approximately 85 per cent of whom are Inuit. Covering roughly the part of the Canadian mainland and Arctic Archipelago that lies to the north and northeast of the treeline, Nunavut is the largest and northernmost territory of Canada and the fifth largest administrative division in the world. Nunavummiut live in 25 communities spread across this vast territory, with the largest number, 7,740 (2016 census), in the capital, Iqaluit. The creation of Nunavut in 1999 (the region was previously part of the Northwest Territories) represented the first major change to the political map of Canada since the incorporation of Newfoundland into Confederation in 1949. Beyond changing the internal political boundaries of Canada, Nunavut’s formation represented a moment of great political significance; through political activism and long-term negotiations, a small, marginalized Indigenous group overcame many obstacles to peacefully establish a government that they controlled within the Canadian state, thereby gaining control of their land, their resources and their future. As such, the creation of Nunavut represents a landmark moment in the evolution of Canada and a significant development in the history of the world’s Indigenous peoples.

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Transportation in the North

Inuit and subarctic Indigenous peoples have traversed the North since time immemorial. Indigenous knowledge and modes of transportation helped early European explorers and traders travel and survive on these expanses. Later settlement depended to an extraordinary degree on the development of transportation systems. Today, the transportation connections of northern communities vary from place to place. While the most remote settlements are often only accessible by air, some have road, rail and marine connections. These are often tied to industrial projects such as mines.