110 Fun & Interesting Facts about Nunavut, Canada

Nunavut is Canada’s ultimate frontier. Canada’s youngest territory is vast, sparsely populated, and stretches almost all the way to the North Pole.

You’ll learn all about the “Land of the Midnight Sun” below with these fascinating and fun facts about Nunavut!

General Nunavut Facts

  • It is the largest, northernmost, least populated, and least density populated of the 13 provinces and territories of Canada.
  • Nunavut is also the youngest province or territory in Canada, having split from the Northwest Territories in 1999.
  • Nunavut is the northernmost region on the North America continent. It stretches from the 60th parallel to 83° 6’ 41″ N (the North Pole is at 90°).
  • Nunavut includes a mainland region and most of the islands of the Arctic Archipelago.
  • Nunavut includes 7 of the world’s 30 largest islands: Baffin Island (largest in Canada and 5th largest in the world), Ellesmere, Devon, Axel Heiberg, Prince of Wales, Victoria, and Melville (the last two are shared with the Northwest Territories).
Aerial view of snowy mountain tops on Baffin Island, Nunavut
Enormous Baffin Island viewed from an airplane
  • All the islands in Hudson, James, and Ungava Bays also belong to Nunavut. Several of these are just right off the coast of Quebec.
  • At 2,093,000 km2 (807,898 mi2), Nunavut takes up 21% of Canada’s territory.
  • It is 1.4 times larger than the 2nd largest province or territory in Canada (Quebec) and 370 times larger than the smallest one (Prince Edward Island). It is 1.2 times larger than Alaska, the largest US state.
  • It is the 5th largest country subdivision in the world, after Sakha Republic (Russia), Western Australia, Krasnoyarsk Krai (Russia), and Greenland (Denmark).  
  • If Nunavut were a country, it would be the 13th largest in the world, sitting between Saudi Arabia and Mexico in terms of size.
Some buildings in Iqaluit, Nunavut on a frozen bay
Iqaluit, capital of Nunavut
  • Nunavut has the lowest population of province or territory in Canada, at 39,600. This is 0.1% of Canada’s total population.
  • Iqaluit is the capital and only city in Nunavut. It has a population of 7429, about 19% of the territory’s total. It is on Baffin Island and was formerly called Frobisher Bay.
  • Besides Iqaluit, there are only 24 other municipalities in Nunavut, all of which have the status of Hamlet. Along with Iqaluit, they cover 0.2% of Nunavut’s land, but are home to 99.95% of its population. 9 of them are on the mainland and 15 are on the islands.
  • All the municipalities in Nunavut have high speed Internet access, although many residents still use dial-up.
  • 86% of people in Nunavut are indigenous, far higher than any other province or territory (the 2nd highest is the NWT, at 51%). 85% are Inuit, while another 1% are Métis or other First Nations.  
An inuit woman and her daughter sharing the furry hood of a coat, with snow in background
Inuit mother and daughter in Nunavut
  • The official languages of Nunavut are Inuit (which includes the dialects Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun, sometimes together called Inuktut), English, and French.
  • 86% of people in Nunavut are Christians.
  • Nunvaut (ᓄᓇᕗᑦ) means “our land”, while Iqaluit (ᐃᖃᓗᐃᑦ) means “place of many fish” in the Inuktitut language.
  • People from Nunavut are called Nunavutian or Nunavummiut (singular: Nunavummiuq) while residents of Iqaluit are called Iqalummiut (singular: Iqalummiuq).
  • The official motto of Nunavut is ᓄᓇᕗᑦ ᓴᙱᓂᕗᑦ (Nunavut Sannginivut), meaning “Our land, our strength”.
An Inukshuk beside the ocean.
Inukshuks are a symbol of Nunavut.
  • Nunavut’s tourism slogan is “The Spirit of the Arctic”. Nunavut has also been nicknamed the “Land of the Midnight Sun” (the Yukon and the Northwest territories have also used the latter).
  • When Nunavut first separated from the NWT, its vehicle license plates kept the polar bear shape of those in the NWT and said “Explore Canada’s Arctic” at the top. In 2012, a new rectangular license plate was released with a polar bear, Northern Lights, and inuksuk on it.
  • Inuksuit (singular inuksuk–spelling preferred by the Inuit–or inukshuk–more common elsewhere in Canada) are a symbol of Nunavut. These stone cairns, sometimes with arms, are built by Arctic peoples to mark traveling/hunting routes or important places.
  • The flag of Nunavut shows a red inuksuk on a yellow and white background, with a blue Niqirtsuituq (North Star) in the upper right corner, which represents the leadership of elders in the community.
  • The coat of arms of Nunavut also features an inuksuk, and there is a high school in Iqaluit named Inuksuk High school. (Fun facts: an inuksuk also appears on the flag of Nunatsiavut, an autonomous Inuit area in northern Labrador. Also, Canada once built an inuksuk on Hans Island to lay claim to it in a dispute with Denmark over the island).
The Nunavut flag, which features a red inukshuk
The territorial flag of Nunavut
  • Both the flag and coat of arms were designed by Andrew Qappik, an Inuit graphic artist from Pangnirtung, a hamlet with a thriving artistic scene.
  • The Canadian Inuit dog is the official dog of Nunavut. They are one of the world’s oldest pure breed dogs, having lived in the Arctic for 4000 years.

Random Interesting Facts about Nunavut

  • Nunavut is the only region that is not connected to the rest of North America. A common saying goes “There are no roads to Nunavut.”
  • Canada’s geographic centre is in Nunavut, about 31 km (19 mi) northeast of Baker Lake on the mainland of Nunavut.
A glacier spilling down to a blue sea on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut
A glacier on Ellesmere Island, the northernmost major island in Canada
  • The Magnetic North Pole (a moving point that reflects the actual magnetic north, as opposed to the geographic North Pole, which is fixed) used to be in the Canadian Arctic but is now slowly moving toward Russia.
  • The Geomagnetic North Pole (based on a different way of measuring it) is currently in Nunavut on Ellesmere Island.
  • Cape Columbia on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island in Nunavut is the northernmost point in Canada. It is 769 km (478 mi) from the North Pole. Cape Morrs Jesup in Greenland is the only other land in the world that is closer to the North Pole.
  • Alert, at the northern end of Ellesmere Island, is the northernmost continuously inhabited settlement in the world, at 82° 30′ 05″ N. It is mainly inhabited by temporary residents who are weather scientists or armed forces.
  • In winter, Alert experiences constant darkness for November 19 to January 22, and “midnight sun” (or “polar sun”) from April 7 to September 4.
Some houses by the sea in Grise Fiord, Nunavut in summer
Grise Fiord, the world’s northernmost civilian community
  • Grise Fiord at the southern end of Ellesmere Island is the northernmost civilian settlement in Canada, at 76° 25’ 03″ N. It is also the smallest of Nunavut’s hamlets, with a population of 144.
  • The inhabitants of Grise Fiord were tricked to move there by the Canadian government in 1953 so that Canada could assert sovereignty over the Arctic islands during the Cold War. The 8 Inuit families from Inukjuak, Quebec were promised homes and a trip back home a year later, both which never happened.
  • The same is true of Resolute on Cornwallis Island. The government of Canada didn’t formally apologize to the descendants of these families in 2008, when it also paid them $10 million CAD.   
An inuksuk looking down on the hamlet of Resolute Bay, Nunavut
Resolute, Nunavut
  • Quttinirpaaq National Park, which protects a polar desert on Ellesmere Island is the northernmost national park in Canada and the country’s second largest (35,775 km2 / 13,813 mi2), after Wood Buffalo in Alberta and NWT. It is larger Belgium or the US state of Maine.
  • Quttinirpaaq also contains the highest mountain in eastern North America, Barbeau Peak, at 2616 m (8583 ft).
  • Mt. Thor in Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island has the world’s tallest sheer cliff, at 1250 m (4 101 ft).
A tent with mountains in the background in Auyuittuq National Park
Camping in Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island
  • Bylot Island in Sirmilik National Park has the largest colony of snow geese in the world.
  • Qausuittuq National Park is Canada’s youngest national park, established in 2015.
  • Nunavut is also home to 10 territorial parks and 3 sites that are applying for UNESCO World Heritage Site status: Quttinirpaaq, Qajartalik, and Sirmilik.
  • Nunavut is the coldest territory in Canada in winter, with average temperatures across the territory ranging from -27°C (-17°F) to -34°C (-29°F).
  • Nunavut has the lowest high temperature record of any province or territory in Canada: 34.9°C (95°F), set on July 15, 1989 in Kugluktuk.
A snowy covered landscape in Nunavut
Frozen Coppermine River on mainland Nunavut
  • Surprisingly, 5 other provinces or territories have lower coldest temperature records than Nunavut (they are Yukon, Alberta, NWT, BC, and Ontario). In part, this is because Nunavut weather stations haven’t been there for as long.
  • The weather station at Eureka, Nunavut has the lowest average temperature (−18.8°C / −1.8°F) and least precipitation of any weather station in Canada. It is considered a polar desert.
  • In February 1979, the average temperature at Eureka was -47.9 °C (-54°F).
  • Warming caused by climate change is affecting Nunavut about twice as fast as the global average.
A polar bear standing on some rocks
A polar bear in Nunavut
  • Around 16,000 polar bears live in Nunavut (often travelling between the territory and parts of neighbouring NWT, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Greenland).
  • There are 25 times more caribou (called reindeer in Europe) than humans in Nunavut. These include Peary caribou in the far north.
  • Nunavut also has around 60,000 muskoxen. Their name comes from the strong odour given off by males during the seasonal rut. They are called umingmak or “bearded ones” on the Inuktitut language.
  • Marine mammals in Nunavut include seals, walruses, orcas, and whales (including belugas, narwhals, bowhead whales, blue whales, and sperm whales).
A beluga whale poking its head out of the water
Beluga whale in Nunavut
  • There are hundreds of thousands of lakes in Nunavut, including 26 lakes over 400 km2 (150 mi2) in size. Fresh water covers 160,930 km2 (62,137 mi2) of Nunavut, an area that is larger than the US state of Georgia.
  • The largest lake in Nunavut, Netilling Lake on Baffin, is the world’s largest lake on an island, at 5542 km2 (2140 mi2). It is similar in size to the island of Bali, Indonesia.
  • Iqaluit has some of the highest tides in Canada and the world. The record tide is 11.85 m (Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is known for having the highest ones).
  • Almost all of Nunavut is above the tree line (trees don’t grow there). Its landscape is Arctic tundra, and its soil has permafrost ranging from a few meters to 1500 m (4921 ft) below the surface.
  • Most of mainland Nunavut, Baffin Island, and a few other islands in Nunavut are also a part of the Canadian Shield, which is characterized by a thin layer of shield atop an ancient bedrock.
Big chunks of ice on a coastal tundra landscape
Tundra landscape in Nunavut
  • There are 150,000 km2 (57,900 mi2) of glaciers in Nunavut, more than the entire area of Greece.  
  • There are 850 km (530 mi) of roads in Nunavut. There are no numbered highways and no sidewalks in the entire territory. Driving a vehicle in the territory is very expensive.
  • Taxis in Iqaluit charge a flat rate of $8 to go anywhere.
  • Travel by aircraft, ATV, and snowmobile is the most common. Traveling by sled dog has mostly disappeared, except for recreational/tourism purposes.
  • While igloos are no longer used as housing, there are still sometimes made by hunters or in emergency situations. They remain a symbol of Arctic culture.
A church that is shaped like an igloo in Iqaluit, Nunavut
Igloo-shaped St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit
  • The government of Nunavut is unicameral, meaning it is consensus based, with no parties. The Northwest Territories is also unicameral. (Fun fact: Nebraska is the only US state that is unicameral).
  • The territory elects a single member to the House of Commons of Canada, making it the 2nd largest electoral district in the world (after Greenland).
  • There are three major mines in Nunavut: 2 gold and 1 iron ore. Other economic activities include oil, gas, arts & crafts, fishing, hunting, military research, and tourism.
  • Cape Dorset just off Baffin Island is considered the epicentre of Inuit arts and crafts.
A bone tool with designs on it
An Inuit tool made of bone
  • Aakuluk Music is the first music recording label in Nunavut. It was started by the Iqaluit band the Jerry Cans.
  • Isuma is the first ever Inuit-owned film production company. It is based on Igloolik, Nunavut. The 2001 film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner was the first film ever totally acted in the Inuktitut language.
  • An Inuit circus group called Artcirq from Igloolik performed at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
  • The 2002 Arctic Winter Games were hosted jointly by Iqaluit, Nunavut and Nuuk, Greenland. The biennial games include participants from Canada, Russia, Greenland, and Alaska.
  • There are two junior hockey teams in Nunavut: the Kivalliq Canucks and Baffin Blizzard.
A traditional sled in Nunavut
A sled rests in summer
  • Katajjaq is a type of throat singing unique to the Inuit. Tanya Tagaq, the most famous performer, is from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.
  • There is one college in Nunavut, Nunavut Arctic College, with several campuses in different communities. There are also several Arctic research stations in the territory.
  • Nunavut used to have the highest population growth rate in all of Canada (12.7% from 2011 to 2016), it was surpassed by the Yukon (2016 to 2021).
  • Pond Inlet is also home to Canada’s most northerly Tim Hortons (the iconic doughnut and coffee shop). Before it was opened, the one in Iqaluit was the highest. GoogleMaps also shows one in Alert, but it does not actually exist (the reviews on it are funny, though!)
A person in a yellow winter coast sitting on a rock and looking out at a bay and island with frozen mountains
Looking out at Bylot Island from Pond Inlet
  • Nunavut has the highest rates of smoking in Canada. Over 50% of adults smoke, including 90% of pregnant women.
  • Alcohol has had a destructive impact on many Inuit communities, including very high rates of FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder).
  • 6 municipalities in Nunavut are dry (no alcohol allowed), while 12 have committees that regular alcohol use, including banning it at Christmas.
  • Nunavut has by far the highest suicide rates in Canada, at 100 per 100,000 people. If it were ac country, it would have the highest rate of suicide in the world (second would be Greenland, also inhabited by Inuit). Reasons include lack of education and mental health care, overcrowding in houses, extreme weather and lack of sunlight in winter, isolation, alcohol and abusive relationships, and more.

Nunavut Historical Facts

  • Mainland Nunavut was first inhabited by the Pre-Dorset people, a Paleo-Eskino group from Alaska, 4500 years ago. Soon after, they also moved into the High Arctic.
Some bones in the ground on an island in Nunavut
Whale bone remains on Somerset Island
  • 1000 years ago, the Thule (the ancestors of the modern Inuit) arrived and replaced the Dorset culture. By 700 years ago, the lived across the region of Nunavut.
  • According to Viking sagas, Leif Erikson, who may have been the founder of the first European settlement in the Americas (located in present-day Newfoundland), saw Baffin Island before he made the settlement further south.  
  • In 1576, the English explorer Martin Frobisher came looking for the Northwest Passage. He was the first European to meet the Inuit. Frobisher Bay (the bay in front of Iqaluit) is named after him, and Iqaluit used to have the same name.
  • Frobisher was followed by other explorers in search of the Northwest Passage, including Henry Hudson (who landed on present-day mainland Nunavut), William Baffin, Robert Bylot, and John Franklin.
  • On Franklin’s third and final voyage to the Arctic, his ship goes stuck in ice and he and all his shipmates died. His sunken ship, the Erebus, is located off the north coast of mainland Nunavut.
Gravestones for the explorer John Franklin in Nunavut
Grave of Sir John Franklin on Beechey Island
  • The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen successful found the Northwest Passage from 1903 to 1906. He would later also lead the first expedition to the South Pole.
  • After that, whalers, missionaries, and traders entered the Arctic region, but the government of Canada largely ignored the High Arctic region.
  • Ever since 1670, mainland Nunavut had been part of the North-Western Territory and Rupert’s Land, which was administered by the Hudson Bay Company and North West Company. The southern part of Baffin Island was also part of Rupert’s Land. The rest of Baffin Island, and all of the other Baffin Islands, remained in the hands of England.
  • In 1870, England/Hudson Bay Company surrendered the North-Western Territory and Rupert’s Land to Canada, and they became the North-West Territories of Canada.  
  • In 1880, the Arctic Islands were also handed over and became part of the North-West Territories.
A map of the Northwest Passage through Nunavut and Northwest Territories
The Northwest Passage
  • From 1898 to 1905, the NWT shrank as the territory of Yukon and provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were carved out.
  • In 1912, huge parts of NWT also joined Manitoba, Quebec, and Ontario.
  • In 1925, Canada extended its maritime boundary all the way to the North Pole.
  • After WWII, Canada realized the strategic importance of the Arctic islands. In 1953, the government deceived Inuit families from northern Quebec into moving to Resolute and Grise Fiord so that it could lay claim to the islands.
  • In the 1970s, the idea arose of creating a separate territory for the Inuit people in the Arctic. It was first discussed with the government in 1976.
Some houses in Iqaluit with northern lights in the sky
Northern lights above Iqaluit
  • In 1983, a vote was held across the NWT, and a majority voted in favour of the separation.
  • A land claim agreement was drawn in 1992, and ratified after 85% of the population voted for it in a referendum.  
  • The agreement was signed and the boundaries of Nunavut were drawn up in 1993, while Iqaluit was chosen as the capital-to-be in 1995.
  • The Nunavut Act, which saw the creation of Nunavut on April 1, 1999, was the largest land claim settlement in Canadian history and one of the largest in the world.
  • In 2008, Eva Aariak became the territory’s first female premier (and only the second premier ever).
A small plane on the runway at the Iqaluit Airport
Aircraft at the Iqaluit Airport
  • In 2014 and 2016, two of Franklin’s ships, the Erebus and the HMS Terror, were discovered at the bottom of the sea. The bay where they were discovered is now called Erebus and Terror Bay.
  • In late 2021 and early 2022, fuel leaked into the Iqaluit water supply, leading to an ongoing water crisis.