Motto: Nunavut Sannginivut
(Inuktitut: "Our land, our strength")
Capital Iqaluit
Largest city Iqaluit
Largest metro Iqaluit
Official languages English, French, Inuit Language (Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun) [1]
Demonym Nunavummiut, Nunavummiuq (sing.)[2]
Commissioner Edna Elias
Premier Eva Aariak (Consensus government)
Legislature Legislative Assembly of Nunavut
Federal representation in Canadian Parliament
House seats 1 (Leona Aglukkaq)1
Senate seats 1 (Dennis Patterson)
Confederation April 1, 1999 (13th)
Area [3] Ranked 1st
Water (%) (7.7%)
Population [3] Ranked 13th
Total (2006) 29,474
GDP  Ranked 13th
Total (2006) C$1.213 billion[4]
Per capita C$39,383 (8th)
Postal NU
ISO 3166-2 CA-NU
Time zone UTC-5, UTC-6, UTC-7
Postal code prefix X
Flower Purple Saxifrage
Tree n/a
Bird Rock Ptarmigan
Website [ / ]
Rankings include all provinces and territories

Nunavut (from Inuktitut: ᓄᓇᕗᑦ ) is the largest and newest federal territory of Canada; it was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act[5] and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act,[6] though the actual boundaries had been established in 1993. The creation of Nunavut – meaning "our land" in Inuktitut – resulted in the first major change to Canada's map since the incorporation of the new province of Newfoundland in 1949.

Nunavut comprises a major portion of Northern Canada, and most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, making it the fifth-largest country subdivision in the world. The capital Iqaluit (formerly "Frobisher Bay") on Baffin Island, in the east, was chosen by the 1995 capital plebiscite. Other major communities include the regional centres of Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay. Nunavut also includes Ellesmere Island to the north, as well as the eastern and southern portions of Victoria Island in the west and Akimiski Island in James Bay to the far south.

Nunavut is both the least populous and the largest in geography of the provinces and territories of Canada. It has an estimated population of over 33,000,[7] mostly Inuit, spread over an area the size of Western Europe. Nunavut is also home to the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world, Alert.[8]


Nunavut covers of land and of water in Northern Canada. The territory includes part of the mainland, most of the Arctic Archipelago, and all of the islands in Hudson Bay, James Bay, and Ungava Bay (including the Belcher Islands) which belonged to the Northwest Territories. This makes it the fifth largest subnational entity (or administrative division) in the world. If Nunavut were a country, it would rank 15th in area.[9]

Nunavut has land borders with the Northwest Territories on several islands as well as the mainland, Manitoba to the south of the Nunavut mainland, Saskatchewan to the southwest  and a tiny land border with Newfoundland and Labrador on Killiniq Island. It also shares maritime borders with the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba and with Greenland.

Nunavut's highest point is Barbeau Peak ( on Ellesmere Island. The population density is 0.015 persons per square kilometre, one of the lowest in the world. By comparison, Greenland has approximately the same area and nearly twice the population.[10]


The region now known as Nunavut has supported a continuous indigenous population for approximately 4,000 years. Most historians identify the coast of Baffin Island with the Helluland described in Norse sagas, so it is possible that the inhabitants of the region had occasional contact with Norse sailors.

In September 2008, researchers reported on the evaluation of existing and newly excavated archaeological remains, including yarn spun from a hare, rats, tally sticks, a carved wooden face mask depicting Caucasian features, and possible architectural material. The materials were collected in five seasons of excavation at Cape Banfield. Scholars have determined these are evidence of European traders and possibly settlers on Baffin Island not later than 1000 CE. They seem to indicate prolonged contact, possibly up to 1450 CE. The origin of the Old World contact is unclear; the article states: "Dating of some yarn and other artifacts, presumed to be left by Vikings on Baffin Island, have produced an age that predates the Vikings by several hundred years. So [...] you have to consider the possibility that as remote as it may seem, these finds may represent evidence of contact with Europeans prior to the Vikings' arrival in Greenland."[11]

The written historical accounts of Nunavut begin in 1576, with an account by an English explorer. Martin Frobisher, while leading an expedition to find the Northwest Passage, thought he had discovered gold ore around the body of water now known as Frobisher Bay on the coast of Baffin Island.[12] The ore turned out to be worthless, but Frobisher made the first recorded European contact with the Inuit. Other explorers in search of the elusive Northwest Passage followed in the 17th century, including Henry Hudson, William Baffin and Robert Bylot.

Cornwallis and Ellesmere Islands feature in the history of the Cold War in the 1950s. Concerned about the area's strategic geopolitical position, the federal government relocated Inuit from the High Arctic of northern Quebec to Resolute and Grise Fiord. In the unfamiliar and hostile conditions, they faced starvation[13] but were forced to stay.[14] Forty years later, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples issued a report titled The High Arctic Relocation: A Report on the 1953-55 Relocation.[15] The government paid compensation to those affected and their descendants, but it did not apologize.[16]

In 1976, as part of the land claims negotiations between the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (then called the "Inuit Tapirisat of Canada") and the federal government, the parties discussed division of the Northwest Territories to provide a separate territory for the Inuit. On April 14, 1982, a plebiscite on division was held throughout the Northwest Territories. A majority of the residents voted in favour and the federal government gave a conditional agreement seven months later.[17]

The land claims agreement was completed in September 1992 and ratified by nearly 85% of the voters in Nunavut. On July 9, 1993, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act[6] and the Nunavut Act[5] were passed by the Canadian Parliament. The transition to establish Nunavut Territory was completed on April 1, 1999.[18]


Ten largest communities
Municipality 2006 2001 growth
Iqaluit 6,184 5,236 18.1%
Rankin Inlet 2,358 2,177 8.3%
Arviat 2,060 1,899 8.5%
Baker Lake 1,728 1,507 14.7%
Igloolik 1,538 1,286 19.6%
Cambridge Bay 1,477 1,309 12.8%
Pangnirtung 1,325 1,276 3.8%
Pond Inlet 1,315 1,220 7.8%
Kugluktuk 1,302 1,212 7.4%
Cape Dorset 1,236 1,148 7.7%

As of the 2006 Census the population of Nunavut was 29,474,[3] with 24,640 people identifying themselves as Inuit (83.6% of the total population), 100 as First Nations (0.34%), 130 Métis (0.44%) and 4,410 as non-aboriginal (14.96%).[19]

The population growth rate of Nunavut has been well above the Canadian average for several decades, mostly due to birth rates which are significantly higher than the Canadian average, which is a trend that continues to this day. Between April and July 2010, Nunavut saw the highest population growth rate of any Canadian province or territory, at a rate of 1.01%.[20] The second highest was Yukon, with a growth rate of 0.90%. However, Nunavut has a large net loss from migration, due to many native Inuit leaving the territory for better economic opportunity elsewhere.