Formed from what was the E Northwest Territories (the former Baffin, Keewatin, and Kitikmeot regions), Nunavut has a western boundary wtih the Northwest Territories that runs north from the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border (at 60°N) to the Thelon River, west to just above Great Bear Lake, north to the Arctic Ocean, east into Victoria Island, and finally north, bisecting Victoria and Melville islands. Spanning three time zones and including one fifth of Canada's total land area, it is bounded on the east by Baffin Bay, the Davis Strait, and Quebec's Ungava Peninsula and on the south by Manitoba. Nunavut encompassess most of Canada's Arctic islands, including Ellesmere, Baffin, Devon, Prince of Wales, Southampton, and Coats, as well as the islands in Hudson and James bays. The establishment of Nunavut created a Canadian
Four Corners where SW Nunavut, SE Northwest Territories, NE Saskatchewan, and NW Manitoba meet.
Geographically, the territory is largely on the Canadian Shield and almost entirely north of the tree line (except near the Manitoba border); the landscape is dominated by tundra , rock, and snow and ice. The territory is effectively controlled by the Inuit, who make up 85% of the population and speak Inuktitut as their first language, although control could change with population growth.
Most of the richest and most well-developed parts of the Northwest Territories, which lie along the Mackenzie River, were not included in Nunavut, which must rely on the development of its mineral resources, such as diamonds (which are now being mined), in addition to hunting, fishing, fur trapping, sealing, and the production of arts and crafts. The Inuit hold outright title to about 20% of Nunavut, including 13,896 sq mi (36,000 sq km) of subsurface mineral rights. The territory faces problems including high unemployment, substance abuse, and suicide rates, and some 90% of its budget currently comes from the Canadian government. There are no paved roads, and long-distance travel is largely by air. There is a small tourist trade, lured by the wildlife and vast, spare wilderness, as well as Inuit cultural attractions.
The separation of Nunavut from the Northwest Territories began with a 1992 territorial referendum in which the electorate approved the move as part of the largest native land-claim settlement in Canadian history. The process concluded with the establishment of the new territory on Apr. 1, 1999. Nunavut has an elected 22-member assembly. Members of the assembly are elected on a nonpartisan basis. Paul Okalik was elected by the assembly as Nunavut's first premier; he was reelected in 2004, but lost to Eva Aariak in 2008. Peter Taptuna became premier after the 2013 elections. Paul Quassa succeeded him in 2017, but lost a no-confidence vote in 2018, and Joe Savikataaq became premier. The territory sends one senator and one representative to the national parliament.
See R. G. Condon, Inuit Behavior and Seasonal Change in the Canadian Arctic (1983).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Canadian Political Geography