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Meet The People Of
Canada’s Arctic

Credit: JS Moore
Credit: Pokiak Family

Shaped By Ice And Cold

A large majority of the people who live in Canada’s Arctic are Inuit. Inuit means “the people” in Inuktitut. This is their common language, even if differing dialects are spoken in different communities. Inuit are one people across Canada’s Arctic with a common culture and a shared history. There are about 53 Inuit communities across Canada’s Arctic—in the Inuvialuit region of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, the Nunavik region of northern Quebec and the Nunatsiavut region in northern Labrador. Inuit also live in the circumpolar regions of Alaska, Chukotka (Russia) and Greenland.

The Role Of Sea Ice

To Canada’s Inuit, sea ice is an extension of the land. It is part of their stories and their teachings, and plays a critical role in their daily lives. They depend on it to travel and hunt, and for some economic and leisure activities. The Canadian Inuit consider all three elements (land, water and sea ice) a part of their home, and integral to their culture and their way of life.

Complex Communities

Although the majority of people living in Arctic communities are Inuit, there are an increasing number of southern Canadians settling in Arctic communities. High Arctic communities, especially those in Nunavut, are physically isolated and yet they are communities in which people make a living. Today, Canada’s Arctic communities have complex ties to the global economy and international political movements. They are also experiencing some of the most rapid environmental change.

Hunting Credit: JS Moore


Living off the land and eating “country” (traditional) food are woven into the very fabric of being Inuit. Especially in the smaller communities, their lives still follow the Arctic’s seasons and the bounty provided by its land, water and sea ice. It's an important part of the culture and makes economic sense, too. Nearly all communities in Canada’s High Arctic are inaccessible by road or rail. This region has the highest costs of living in Canada. Everything, including people, fuel, food and vehicles, arrives by plane or sealift, making everyday items expensive. Country foods also have a much smaller environmental footprint than foods shipped thousands of kilometres to the far North.

Belugas As Food

Many Inuit hunt belugas to sustain their health and their culture. Beluga hunts often involve several hunters and their families who share their catch. Beluga skin and blubber, called muktuk, are the favourite part. It’s a rich source of vitamin A and C in a land where fruits and vegetables from the south are expensive when they're available at all. Country foods like muktuk are an important part of the diet for Inuit who rely on it for good nutrition and to sustain their culture.

Beluga Muktuk Credit: Lisa Loseto

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