Iqaluit welcomes Ottawa Anglicans
Tuesday, December 13, 2016 at 03:52PM

Visitors enjoyed the chance to worship several times in the newly-rebuilt St. Jude’s Cathedral with all its Inuit art.

Photo: Eileen Mortimer      

By Frances Macdonnell

IN MID-AUGUST thirty-three Anglicans flew from Ottawa to Baffin Island, landing in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, to embark on a week-long visit.

I had always wanted to take some teens to Iqaluit to help them learn about Canada’s Arctic. I also hoped to see relationships established between Northern and Southern Anglican youth, with a long-term plan to encourage future exchanges – but our group quickly grew to include a large number of adult Anglicans as well. They all wanted to visit the Arctic.

The travellers included nine youth from four different parishes: St. Stephen’s, Ottawa, St. Mark’s, Ottawa, St. Thomas’s, Stittsville, and St. James, Perth; and twenty-four adults, from St Stephens and three other Ottawa parishes.

The nine youth were billetted with four local Iqaluit families, while the adults stayed in the Frobisher Inn. St. Stephen’s Church had successfully fund-raised to give the nine teenagers $1,000 each to cover half their airfare, while the Ottawa Branch of the Prayer Book Society also generously contributed.

The Ottawa group had decided to take large quantities of badly-needed supplies to Iqaluit to help the people there. The Arctic community determined in advance that they most needed fresh food (vegetables and fruit) for the soup kitchen, long-term food for the two food banks, baby clothes for the Iqaluit Hospital, which serves all of Baffin Island, school and craft supplies for the local schools, and extra clothes and general toiletries.

All the parishes involved gathered supplies and raised money for buying food. A massive packing operation took place in St. Stephen’s Hall a few days before the group left.

First Air, the airline that flies daily between Ottawa and Iqaluit, provided a very generous baggage allowance of 180 pounds per traveller, so the group carried several tons of supplies for Iqaluit!

The local Anglicans who run the soup kitchen and the food banks met the group at the Iqaluit Airport with trucks to transport most of the supplies. Throughout the week, as more suitcases were unpacked, additional supplies were ferried to the Hospital and to Nakasuk School.

On the first Sunday in Iqaluit the travelers attended two services of Morning Prayer, the first in English at 9:45, the second in Inuktitut at 11 am in St. Jude’s Cathedral. I played the organ. We were warmly welcomed by the Very Rev. Jonas Allooloo, Dean of the Diocese of the Arctic, and the Rev. Jared Osborn and his wife Deacon Rebecca Osborn.

The teenagers worked for seven days at the Iqaluit Music Day Camp, which has operated for a week every August since 1996. The Camp gives the children of Iqaluit a chance to engage in numerous musical activities. The workshops offered, led by experienced instructors, included throat-singing, Inuit drum-dancing, recorder, creative music and story-telling, fiddle, guitar, accordion, percussion, xylophone, contemporary dance, and choir, with junior and senior workshops at each level.

The Ottawa teens joined the local Iqaluit youth in helping to organize and coordinate each workshop for the 153 participating children, who were largely between the ages of five and ten. This whole project has been master-minded and run in Iqaluit by Darlene Nuqingaq, a fantastic Anglican creator and teacher. She, like many other southerners, arrived in Iqaluit originally planning to stay for one year – but is still there thirty years later!

During the same week, the adults worked in teams each day to prepare and serve lunch at the local soup kitchen, and also helped with the lunches at the day camp. In addition, the adults did a lot of sight-seeing, including a day-long excursion to Pangnirtung, and an afternoon guided walk in Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park.

Each evening special activities were planned including a barbeque and a square-dance. On the final night a concert was held in the large gym in Nakasuk School, at which the day camp children performed the music each of their workshop groups had prepared. For a finale, they sang two songs in Inuktitut accompanied by all their instruments.

The audience included a great many Inuit elders whose hearts were gladdened to see the children of Nunavut learning to maintain their own culture. The Ottawa adults were also in the audience, while all nine visiting youth performed with their workshop groups.


At the Iqaluit airport, six Ottawa teens say goodbye (for now) to new friends.

Photo: Eileen Mortimer      


There were many other highlights during the week:

•   The chance to worship several times in the newly-rebuilt St. Jude’s Cathedral with all its Inuit art – the cross over the altar made of narwhal tusks; the hangings on the reredos, which were embroidered by each of the twenty-two communities in Nunavut; the altar rail, lectern, and hymn-boards made of dog-sleds standing on their ends or sides; the oak cathedra brought from England, which was the only thing to survive the fire that destroyed the previous cathedral in 2005.

•   The tour of Nunavut’s Legislature, one of the most beautiful rooms in Canada, featuring a narwhal-tusk mace and an incredible amount of local carving and embroidery; the legislators (there are no political parties) sit in a circle, with each legislator’s chair covered in seal-skin.

•   The Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre’s wonderful display of Inuit art; the opportunity to observe Inuit artists at work and to buy Inuit art from the actual artists in both Iqaluit and Pangnirtung.

•   A workshop on throat-singing provided just for the Ottawa group’s adults, at the end of which they successfully throat-sang a song in two  parts by themselves.

•   A tour of the Iqaluit Hospital where members of the adult group were able to hold a four-hour-old baby already wearing some of the baby clothes brought from Ottawa.

•   For myself, teaching organ lessons in the Cathedral to interested local musicians, including an extremely talented 16-year-old Inuit youth who may well become a fine church organist in the future.

•   A praise-and-mission service on Sunday evening, during which eight hymns were sung in Inuktitut from the 1938 Hymnbook.

•   The excursion to beautiful Pangnirtung, where the chef who provided lunch said “This is the largest group to come to Pang since Angela Hewitt!” (A group of music lovers from Ottawa had visited Iqaluit and Pangnirtung in 2013, when Angela Hewitt played a piano recital in St. Jude’s Cathedral to celebrate its re-opening after the fire.)

•   Getting up at 4 a.m. to climb the hill behind Iqaluit and watch the sun rise, with the full moon still hanging in the sky.

•   Perfect weather – a whole week of sunshine and warm temperatures - the highs ranged between 15C and 18C each day, which is extremely warm for Iqaluit.

Best of all was the opportunity to work with and get to know and love so many

Northern Anglicans. Marni Crossley, the long-time President of the Ottawa Diocesan ACW, said, “I’ve been packing the Bales for the North for decades – and now I’ve actually met the women who unpack the bales when they arrive in Iqaluit!”

On the last full day in Iqaluit, a Eucharist for the group was celebrated by Rev. Jared, with the three visiting Ottawa priests all participating: Rev. Dr. Anne Quick, the Rector of St. Stephen’s, Rev. Canon Michael Fleming, and Ven. Paul Blunt.

The group left behind all their surplus empty suitcases (many donated through various Ottawa congregations) at the Hospital Boarding House, for future use by the people of Baffin Island.

The tour has created personal friendships and established solid relationships between St. Jude’s Cathedral, Iqaluit, and St. Stephen’s, Ottawa, as well as between the two dioceses.

All the teens involved made lasting friendships and exchanged e-mail addresses, and are now actively staying in touch. We hope that with some financial help, some of the Iqaluit teens can be brought down to Ottawa for an exchange visit this summer.

And the travellers, youth and adults alike, all want to return to the Arctic again. This is just the beginning of an ongoing co-operative adventure.   TAP

Frances Macdonnell worships at St Stephen’s in Ottawa and is the Ottawa Branch Treasurer of the Prayer Book Society of Canada. 

Article originally appeared on The Anglican Planet (
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