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In Canada's Arctic, Nunavut communities shrinking

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

Though Nunavut, a territory in Canada's eastern Arctic, is growing faster than most other parts of the country, at a rate of 8 percent between 2006 and 2011 according to census numbers released Wednesday, not all of its communities are growing.

Resolute, Chesterfield Inlet, Igloolik, Rankin Inlet, Grise Fiord and Hall Beach all have fewer residents now than five years ago.

The population of Hall Beach is decreasing faster than anywhere else in Nunavut. More than 100 people left that community in the past five years, for a decrease of 16 per cent since 2006. 

"We're not worried," said Paul Haulli, mayor of Hall Beach.

Haulli says the 547 people in the community like living there. There aren't many jobs for people in town right now but he said mineral exploration nearby may change that.

"So maybe down the road there will be good employment," he said.

New jobs, he said, would bring more people back to the community.

Iqaluit grew more than eight per cent in the past five years, to a population of about 6,700. Nearly 32,000 people now live in Nunavut, about 2,400 more than there were five years ago.

The fastest growing community is Repulse Bay, where the population grew to 945 from 748 in 2006. That's a 26 per cent increase.

According to Statistics Canada, the big reason for Nunavut's population growth is its high birth rate.

Yukon's growth expected

The Yukon Bureau of Statistics says growth in that territory is due mostly to interprovincial migration, as its birth rate isn't high enough to maintain current population numbers.

Gary Brown, a senior information officer with the Yukon Bureau of Statistics said it did not come as a surprise that growth in the northwestern Yukon territory is highest in the country and nearly double the national rate.

"It's being reflected in the housing situation, rental situation, record high labour force numbers," he said. "This isn't a surprise seeing we are the highest population growth in the country. It basically backs up everything we've seen over the last five years."

N.W.T. numbers suggest housing crunch

In the Northwest Territories, which led the nation in its rate of population growth in 2006, the census showed the territory's population had stayed virtually the same in the last five years, decreasing by a total of two people.

Tim Doyle, executive director of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, blames regulatory red tape for slowing down resource development.

"We have a resource-rich territory," he said. "Everybody else that has the same type of land is doing extremely well and we're not."

Yellowknife's population grew by 500 people while about two thirds of the smaller communities in the territory had their populations drop. Jean Marie River statistically showed the biggest change; its population plummeted by 20 per cent.

In places like Fort McPherson, Wekweeti and Wrigley -- all communities whose populations went up -- the number of occupied private dwellings went down, indicating there may be more of a housing crunch in those communities than there was six years ago.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.