Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sanikiluaq Circuit

In mid-January I was very happy to get to go to Sanikiluaq for a court circuit.  The geography geek in me likes the fact that is the southmost Nunavut community, located near the bottom of Hudson Bay, in the Belcher Islands.  I had also recently read The Long Exile - A true story of deception and survival in the Canadian Arctic by Melanie McGrath.  The book is about the forced high arctic relocation of Inuit families from the east coast of Hudson Bay. Sanikiluaq is not very far from where the story begins.

To get to Sanikiluaq on commercial flights from Iqaluit, you need to fly to Ottawa, and then to Montreal, staying overnight in either Ottawa or Montreal. To make the most of the trip, my plan was to overnight in Montreal on the way there, and to overnight in Ottawa on the way back. In the magic place inside my head, the stop in Montreal was going to be so much fun.  I mean, how could it not be? It’s Montreal! On the way back the plan was to stay with my brother Rob and my friend Mel and catch up with friends and family in Ottawa for an extra day or two before heading back to Iqaluit. 

The reality of the Montreal stop on the way was a bit less awesome than I'd hoped. My flight from Ottawa arrived in Montreal at about 7:30 p.m. and I had to wake up 5 a.m. to make my 8 a.m. flight to Sanikiluaq the following morning. This meant that my fabulous Montreal experience was actually a rather unexciting night at the Sheraton Montreal Airport Hotel, which is really more of a Dorval experience than a Montreal one. Oh well. 

At the airport in the morning, I met up with others in the court party and the four of us spent the day traveling together. We briefly stopped in Kuujjuarapik in northern Quebec. After that stop, when we were on the way from Kuujjuarapik to Sanikilluaq the pilot announced that there was some kind of instrument problem, and she turned the plane around and headed all the way south to La Grande near James Bay.  After an hour or so the problem was fixed, and we were able to fly to Sanikiluaq. As the next scheduled flight to Sanikiluaq wouldn’t have been until the Monday when court was to begin, it was a big relief that the plane was fixed and that we arrived just a couple of hours later than scheduled.

All of the court party except for the judge stayed at the old Amaulik Hotel in Sanikiluaq.  Here’s a picture of it.

I think it would be fair to say that the place is rustic. There was no working internet. Also not working for the first three days was the heat in my room, which meant that it went down to 13 degrees at night.  Most of the time I tried to leave the door open to the rest of the hotel which was heated, and that would bring the temperature up to about 17 degrees.  Despite the refrigeration, my room was a luxury suite compared to others.  It had its very own bathroom so I didn’t have to trudge down the hall to the ladies' communal one. There was also a couch, coffee table and a chair in my room, giving me a place that I could meet with clients.

Here’s a picture of the walk from court to the hotel.  It was a really cold week.

I took this picture of a boat not far from the Northern store.  I wish that I’d been able to get out more and take pictures, but the weather was pretty awful the whole time.  Also, when I’m in a community for a circuit, I work long hours.  Circuit court is a very intense experience. When the court only comes to a community a few times each year, it’s really important to try to get as much done as possible in the few days we have.

Although it was busy, court went well and somehow we finished quite early.  I had been scheduled to leave Sanikiluaq on a commercial flight on Friday the 18th, but as we finished on Wednesday, I decided to take the court charter straight back to Iqaluit instead.  I was sad that it meant that I wouldn’t see my family and friends over the weekend before heading north again.  However, one of my personal rules about circuit travel is to always take the first flight out at as soon as we’re done.  The reason for this is that you never know what’s going to happen with the weather, cancellations, or with planes going mechanical, and if you don’t leave when you can, you might end up stuck somewhere for a very long time.  As it turned out, I was wise to follow my rule because if I had tried to get out on Friday’s commercial flight, I would have been grounded until at least Monday because of bad weather.  It would have meant no friends and family anyway, and no time to get ready for my next circuit in Pond Inlet.

Co-defence counsel on the circuit beat me to blogging about the Sanikiluaq circuit in his blog Sybaritica so I’m linking to it here.  The first picture in his post shows me (in the grey/green jacket and backpack) taking a picture similar to the one below, but closer to the plane.  He’s also got a pretty amusing picture of how I got my Qiniq modem working again using gum, duct tape and a rock.

Civil Twilight - The Weakerthans
You Could Be Happy - Snow Patrol
Titanium - David Guetta & Sia

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