Iqaluit water crisis

The state of emergency in the capital of Nunavut continues

A state of emergency was called in Iqaluit on Oct. 12 when evidence of fuel was found in the city’s water supply; the Nunavut minister of health has extended the state of emergency until Oct. 28.

Iqaluit is the capital city of Nunavut, with a population of more than 7,500 people, and the highest population of Inuit of any Canada city, with over 3,900 Inuit people living there. Residents of the city have been advised not to drink or cook with the tap water, even boiled or filtered, as the tap water is not safe for consumption.

According to an article in Nunatsiaq News, residents began complaining on Facebook of foul-smelling tap water on Oct. 2. The source of the fuel contamination is still under investigation.

As the crisis continues, hospitals are unable to wash or sterilize their equipment. Iqaluit Deputy Mayor Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster explained in a Twitter thread that, because of the water crisis and the pandemic, some patients have had to be medivaced to Ottawa. One medivac can cost over $40,000. 

“The current state of emergency in Iqaluit has impacted our only hospital’s ability to provide my mum’s urgently required procedure because the equipment that is needed can not be safely sterilized due to the fuel in the water,” tweeted Brewster.

Nunavut CBC reporters Jackie McKay and Pauline Pemik believe that this water crisis is tied to infrastructure gaps between the Arctic and the rest of Canada, as well as the impacts of climate change in the region and the failure of the federal government.

The issue has reached Canada-wide, with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, along with NDP MP for Nunavut, Lori Idlout, sharing in a public statement, “The federal government must immediately respond to the state of emergency in Iqaluit due to a contaminated water supply.”

The statement explained that having access to clean water is a common issue in rural and remote communities, specifically in Northern areas and Indigenous communities.

The Federal government responded to the crisis on Oct. 22 by sending the Canadian Armed Forces to help provide and distribute clean drinking water in Iqaluit.


Graphic by Rose-Marie Dion

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