Nunavut is Canada's newest territory, having been split from the Northwest Territories in 1999. It is also Canada's largest province/territory, being larger than Alaska but having less than an eighteenth of the population; their population is only two thirds that of Greenland's and is roughly on par with the tiny European country of Liechtenstein with the capital Iqaluit having 20% of the population alone. It is very remote, not being connected by road to the rest of Canada; the only ways in are by air or sea. This isolation does have advantages, though, with there only being seven confirmed deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic in the territory, which, even considering their low population, is still pretty impressive.
The territory was set aside for independent government by the Inuit as a result of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, the largest indigenous land claim settlement in Canadian history. Prior to this, the Inuit had dealt with forced relocations, assimilation, and other forms of genocide, largely because Canada wanted to secure the region during the Cold War. Today, the government of Nunavut is working on further decentralizing power between its three regions, Kitikmeot, Kivalliq, and Qikiqtaaluk, although this is still a work in progress. The territory is infamous for its harsh laws against alcohol, with many parts of the territory banning it entirely, resulting in a large black market that is the cause of most of the territory's crime. However, they have recently taken small steps towards legalization, with Iqaluit opening its first liquor store in 2017.
Beyond that, Nunavut is mostly just known as a vast, empty wilderness. The weather station of Eureka records the lowest year-round temperatures in all of Canada, with an average temperature of −18.8 °C (−1.8 °F), with the nearby Alert being considered the northernmost permanently inhabited settlement. In 2022, Nunavut gained a land border with Greenland on Hans Island due to Canada and Denmark settling a dispute where Canadian and Danish ships would take turns leaving their countries' flags and bottles of alcohol on the island by splitting it in half. Most of the territory consists of tundra, although Ellesmere Island has some nice mountains. Like the rest of the Arctic, Nunavut is at risk due to climate change, with much of the permafrost being at risk of melting, which will result in problems like making transportation using dogsleds or snowmobiles more difficult, limiting the Inuit's ability to preserve traditional food sources like caught fish in the cold, and destroying much of the infrastructure that is built with permafrost in mind. There is additionally the threat of diseases that currently can't survive in Nunavut's cold climate making their way northward. However, climate change is also opening up new sea routes in the Arctic, which is bringing its own problems due to an increase in tourism. Nevertheless, Nunavut is likely to receive a lot more attention in the coming decades due to climate change, although the soil there is so barren that building large-scale settlements there will still be difficult even with the rising temperatures.
- COVID-19 Information, Government of Nunavut
- Canada’s genocide: The case of the Ahiarmiut, Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann, The Conversation 9 December 2018
- In 1st year, Iqaluit store sells 1.9 million beers, 190,000 bottles of wine, Angela Hill, CBC News 4 September 2018
- Climate Change Impacts, Nunavut Climate Change Secretariat