Greetings from Canada’s Arctic

Aurora Borealis in Pangnirtung, Nunavut    PHOTO: Michael Davies

By Dudley Maseko

Author Dudley Maseko, originally from sub-Saharan Africa, is enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime experience living in Canada’s Arctic, especially during the time of COVID-19.
PHOTO: Myriam Sévigny

The Glebe was my home for many years before I moved up to Canada’s Arctic. I lived in the historic Colonel By Towers on Bronson at Holmwood during university and while working for the Government of Canada. I am a graduate of Carleton University (BA Hons ’10 and MA ’12) and the University of Ottawa Law School (JD ’15). Since September 2017, I have been living north of the tree line in Iqaluit, Nunavut – Canada’s Arctic capital. I moved north to join Nunavut’s legal team as legal counsel with the territory’s department of justice.

I am very fortunate to be living in Canada’s Arctic during the pandemic because until very recently, Nunavut was the only jurisdiction in Canada – and possibly the world – with no confirmed cases of COVID-19. On September 19, however, Nunavut reported its first confirmed cases at Hope Bay mine in Cambridge Bay. The fact that Nunavut is cut off from the rest of Canada, with no roads into the territory, has turned out to be a great advantage for staving off the virus. To reduce the risk of a wider outbreak, Nunavut’s government has taken precautionary measures which include restricting all non-essential travel to the territory. All travellers to Nunavut must go through mandatory quarantine in Ottawa before flying north.

Nunavut was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, making it the newest, largest, and most northerly territory of Canada. It is Canada’s largest province or territory with a total area of 2,093,190 sq. km. (almost a million square miles). It encompasses one fifth of Canada’s total landmass and includes Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island. If Nunavut were a country, it would be the 15th largest in the world. It is home to the world’s northernmost permanently inhabited place, Alert.

Living in Canada’s Arctic has been the adventure of a lifetime for me. Growing up in southern Africa, I never imagined I would see a polar bear in its natural habitat. I never imagined I would see the northern lights but now I have and I continue to marvel at their beauty. I thought Ottawa winters were as cold as it gets, but they were just training – a warm-up – for Arctic winters. In Nunavut, I have experienced temperatures close to -50 in blizzard-like conditions.

During the winter, I frequently wake up or return home from work to find the front door to my apartment frozen shut. Imagine pupils at Glebe Collegiate being sent home because the doors of the school are frozen shut as was the case at the school in Cambridge Bay in 2018.

Nunavut is home to what is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful communities in all of Canada, Pangnirtung. Set at the base of a mountain and at the mouth of a river, surrounded by majestic fiords, Pangnirtung is located on Baffin Island. The view down the Pangnirtung Fiord and the Weasel River Valley is breathtaking. Pangnirtung is home to the Auyuittuq National Park which features many terrains of Arctic wilderness, such as fjords, glaciers and ice fields. I invite all Glebites who are interested in travelling and hiking above the Arctic Circle to visit Auyuittuq National Park and go backpacking along the Akshayuk Pass on the Cumberland Peninsula. I guarantee it will be an expedition of a lifetime.

As part of my practice, I advise the Government of Nunavut on the legal aspects of procurement, tendering and requests for proposals. As with most lawyers across Canada this spring, I had to brush up on force majeure clauses, the common law doctrine of frustration or material adverse change, in preparation for contract performance issues related to COVID-19. I am part of a team of lawyers who advise all 11 departments of the Government of Nunavut and the territorial corporations. My practice is in the areas of corporate/commercial law and privacy.

As I reflect on my time living north of 60, I realize it has been the opportunity of a lifetime.  However, I do miss the serene, tree-lined streets of the Glebe and going for walks along Dow’s Lake. I look forward to returning to Ottawa in the near future.

Dudley Maseko is a former Glebe resident and lawyer who now lives in Canada’s Arctic.

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