General News · 14th September 2010
The sun rises at 6:30am and sets about 8pm. Daytime highs of 4-7 degrees complement nighttime lows of 1 and 2, and soon it will snow, followed by the ocean freeze-up of mid to late October. Beluga sightings send boats rushing out to sea for the hunt, and walrus, char and cariboo provide the Arctic version of a healthy and bountiful harvest.
Hall Beach, or Sanirajak in Inuktitut, is home to 700 people, mostly Inuit. Our summer guests at the small hotel are geologists and scientists, but with the arrival of construction supplies by freighter ships from Montreal, the southern carpenters have arrived and building has commenced on a new five-plex rental unit and a new community hall.
The medical center is staffed by three nurse-practitioners who handle medical emergencies that don't require airplane medical evacuation. Medical doctors, based in Iqaluit, visit once a month, staying for a week at a time and seeing as many patients as possible. Two of our employees (Lizzie and Serena) are pregnant, and are travelling this week to Iqaluit for ultra-sound exams. The flight, room and board are covered by the Nunavut government. Dentists, based out of Montreal, visit the community with an assistant every two months, spending a week to ten days helping patients.
Hall Beach is in the eastern arctic zone, and all southern groceries and supplies originate in Montreal. Most of the southern labour is from Newfoundland or Quebec, and the two supply ships that deliver all groceries, fuel and building materials are loaded in a Montreal port and delivered to Nunavut in August and September.
Liquor is restricted in Hall beach, and a local "alcohol committee" approves of applications for legal liquor purchases from Iqaluit. There is an allowable limit per person, but a black market thrives, and here, as in every other Nunavut village, mickeys sell for 100 dollars each while 26 ounce bottles sell for 250 dollars. Marijuana in Nunavut can be purchased (illegally, like un-approved alcohol) for 20 dollars a joint, or 60 dollars a gram. In all my trips and long-term stays in 11 of the Nunavut communities, I have seen no sign of crystal meth, cocaine, heroine or crack, but these are available in the capital city of Iqaluit.
Justice Robert Kilpatrick, senior Nunavut judge, told federal justice minister Rob Nicholson in July this year that "the Nunavut judiciary is facing an impending crisis". There are not nearly enough judges, lawyers and prosecutors to handle the growing crime rate, and between 2002 and 2009, in an area with the approximate population of Campbell River, the Nunavut court handled 30 homicides, 50 attempted murders, 166 aggravated assaults, 2059 sexual assaults, 2340 level-two assaults, and 23,343 common assaults (statistics Canada).
There is also a peace and tranquility in these communities that is hard to explain. Employees show up for work at their leisure, often hours later than scheduled. Little ones walk through the front door of the hotel, into the kitchen, and wait for me to serve them supper with their moms who work in the kitchen. Their moms quietly explain they need 50 dollars to buy groceries, and how can I say no. Dad will walk into the hotel, any time, pour a cup of coffee, and ask me if I'd like to go see a polar bear close to town, or visit the graves of his relatives buried at the end of the gravel road. In most communities, the women who work in the hotel show up about 10 minutes late, sign-in, then begin the shift with a coffee break, followed by a cigarette (everyone smokes). An hour later it's time for another coffee and a smoke. When whales approach, or the arctic char arrive, people leave work and begin the hunt. There is no discussion or explanation, it is the way things are done. Life here is poetic, with all its joy and suffering.
Abby and Rose, looking for cookies at the hotel.
Joapie and Lizzie, Rose's mom and stepfather
Fresh, healthy cariboo for supper.
Storage sheds for hunting supplies.