Making connections
North Baffin communities linked by transit system

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

ARCTIC BAY (Oct 04/99) - It's fitting that the only two communities connected by a road in all of Nunavut would seize the opportunity to utilize that 34-kilometre stretch of freedom to the best of their ability.

As well as hosting a nationally renowned marathon that attracted thousands of tourism dollars for 20 years, residents of Nanisivik and Arctic Bay have also had the wherewithal to set up a transit system to link the two North Baffin communities.

Ron Light, the general manager at Nanisivik mine, said the busy little bus provides a priceless service to residents hailing from both communities.

"It does provide a link and it provides us with the opportunity to continue to employ local residents. It's an essential service to the mine to bring the employees over from Arctic Bay," said Light, the GM since 1988.

"It goes back and forth from Arctic Bay for each shift."

Light explained that because there were very few personal vehicles owned by the more than 1,000 people living in the two hamlets, the bus service, along with other aboriginal incentive employment programs that were being developed, helped the mine keep Inuit residents of Arctic Bay on staff.

Conceived by Enokseot Holdings in 1976, the bus system changed hands four years ago and was taken over by Arquartuuq Services, owned by hamlet mayor and entrepreneur Moses Oyukuluk. Joining his fleet of loaders, dump-trucks and a taxi, Light said Oyukuluk, who contracts the service to the mine so the cost of the bus isn't absorbed by the employees themselves, also used it to ferry cruise ship passengers from the dock at Nanisivik to the airport.

Light further added that the bus provided a valuable social service to mine workers and to the dwellers of Arctic Bay.

"Arctic Bay residents usually come over if the community club is having a dance or function at the recreation centre and lots of people come over for the recreation facility and to swim in the pool on Sundays."

Nanisivik employees hop on the bus to play hockey in Arctic Bay in the winter months and Light said the communities used it to get to each other's religious and Christmas gatherings.

Nataq Levi, an apprentice electrician who has worked at the mine for eight years, rides the bus six days a week for 13-week stretches. He said the trip could be a bit of an adventure, weather depending. He also noted that the rugged terrain and varying sea levels along the 34-kilometre stretch also makes for an interesting ride.

"It can be nice and clear and you can see the bay and then you're in the mountains and you see snow and you keep going and you're back into summer again."