Nunavut, which translates from the Inuktitut dialect of the Eastern Arctic Inuit as "Our Land," is a territorial subdivision of the erstwhile Northwest Territories. Broadly speaking, it comprises that part of the Canadian mainland and Arctic Islands that lie north and northeast of the treeline as it runs from the west end of the Dolphin Strait to some 60 km south of the point where the Tha-anne River flows into Hudson Bay. Of the principal Arctic Islands, it excludes Banks Island, Prince Patrick Island and parts of Victoria and Melville Islands. The total land and offshore area is 2.1 million km2.

The territory was established by the Nunavut Act of June 1993 and became a constitutional entity on 1 April 1999. Its Inuit population became beneficiaries under the Nunavut Land Settlement Agreement, also of June 1993. That Agreement subdivides Nunavut into 3 designations of land: 1) Crown lands over which Inuit have the right to hunt, trap, fish and participate in management; 2) 318 084 km2 of land that is Inuit freehold property as far as surface rights are concerned; and 3) 37 883 km2 of land on which subsurface rights are included with the surface freehold. Inuit were invited to select the parcels of land for each designation. In compensation for the Crown lands that are not to be Inuit property, the federal government agreed to pay to recognized Inuit organizations $1.17 billion over 15 years.


In 2006, Nunavut had a population of 29 474. Between 2001 and 2006, its population increased 10.2%; a similar trend as between the years 1996 and 2001 and gave it one of the highest increases in population among the provinces and territories during those time periods. Over three-quarters of the population is Inuit and 4 official languages are recognized: Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, English and French. It has the youngest population in Canada with a median age of 23.1 (Canadian median age, 39.5). The largest community and its capital is Iqaluit.

Government and Politics

Politically, Nunavut has its own legislative assembly, which has powers equivalent to those of any other federal territory, and its own Supreme Court. There are no political parties and candidates run as individuals. A premier is selected from the 19 elected MLAs. The first premier of Nunavut was Paul Okalik (1999-2008). Eva Aariak is the territory's second premier (2008-). Similar to the NWT, Nunavut has consensus government, a system that blends the principles of parliamentary democracy with the Aboriginal values of maximum cooperation, effective use of leadership resources and common accountability.

Commissioners and Premiers of Nunavut

Role Term
Helen Maksagak
Commissioner 1999-2000
Peter Irniq
Commissioner 2000-2005
Ann M. Hanson
Commissioner 2005-2010
Edna E. Elias Commissioner 2010-2015
Nellie T. Kusugak Commissioner 2015 to present
Paul Okalik
Premier 1999-2008
Eva Aariak
Premier 2008-2013
Peter Taptuna Premier 2013 to present