Insights April 2023

Reflections on Nunavut and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit

Susan Anderson


As the CIO for Nunavut Health, a major responsibility is leading the management of the Health Information Unit (HIU). Prior to the establishment of the HIU in the fall of 2020, Nunavut Health did not have a single organizational unit dedicated to the effective management, utilization, and protection of health information. Instead, these functions were spread across different organizational units, such as eHealth, Population Health Information, the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer, Population Health, and Policy & Planning. 

Spreading this work over many units allowed for a number of significant functional gaps in the overall health data management. This affected health program design, delivery, and management.

The initial establishment of the HIU saw the consolidation of the eHealth and Population Health Information Groups within a single unit under a single management team led by the new CIO. Our HIU staff live and work in the communities of Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay. Our team includes both Inuit and non-Inuit members. Those of us that were new to the community saw this as an opportunity to learn about and participate in Inuit culture.

IQ Values

How would I summarize what it is like working and living in Nunavut? A great point of entry is lifting up the eight IQ societal values. IQ is shorthand for Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, or Inuit traditional knowledge:  

IQ Days 

IQ Days, typically held in Spring, are organized by our Inuit leaders so they could share their lived experiences of these IQ values and relate them to their connection with the land and beauty of Nunavut. This was greatly appreciated by myself, especially as a newcomer to the Territory. My partner and I first arrived in Iqaluit in early December when daylight was short and the winds were strong. We had experienced winters in northern Saskatchewan and Alberta, but those experiences did not prepare us for our first winter in Iqaluit.

HIUT team

Photo Credit: HIU Team by HIU Team

Since the formation of the HIU, we have held two IQ Days. IQ day outings give non-Inuit staff an opportunity to experience life on the land, hear Inuit stories, partake in local celebrations and participate in traditional games.

Our first HIU IQ Day meeting was at Astro Hill Movie Theatre where we were able to digitally include all of our staff, including those who work in other Nunavut communities. We had an excellent view of each of our remote team members as their images were projected on to the large movie screen.  

At the time Our Deputy Minister was Ruby Brown, and Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, Jasmine Pawa, each shared a keynote message with the staff. Not exactly a Star Trek holodeck experience, but I appreciated our tech team’s seamless ability to merge our in-person and virtual team members together.  

Our next HIU IQ Day at Sylvia Grinnell Territory Park was attended by our Iqaluit team and two of our contractors from outside of Nunavut. The Sylvia Grinnell River was still breaking and ice mixed with water flowed by the camp site where we gathered. Although it was early June, we came prepared and dressed warmly as the Spring winds were biting. 

As our team was still gathering, some of us began to build a strong fire in the pit. With no trees in Nunavut, Tracy MacDonald, our Director of eHealth, had planned ahead and brought wood with her that was broken down from shipping palettes. With our team collected, we shared a meal that was acquired from our favourite take-out restaurant, Yummy’s.

It was during this IQ day that I held my first one-on-one meeting with our new acting Deputy Minister, Dan Florizone. This was accomplished virtually as I sat in a team member’s vehicle using it as a temporary mobile office. A first for me and a great a welcome to Nunavut for Dan.

Group pictures were taken and the team engaged in Inuit and non-Inuit games, including a challenging scavenger hunt out on the Tundra. These IQ Days enabled me to feel like a part of the community and gave me a perspective that I can take into my work with me.

About the Author(s)

Susan Anderson, Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the Health Information Unit, Nunavut Health


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