Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sanikiluaq Court Circuit - January 2014 - Part 2

The entrance of the Amaulik Hotel on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

When we arrived in Sanikiluaq we learned that it was a busy week and that the newer of the Co-Op/Inns North hotels was full to the point where to stay there would have meant sharing rooms. However, we were given an option to stay at the old Amaulik hotel, where people could have a room to themselves. This was not the best choice to have to make. The old hotel is pretty decrepit. But having to work and live doubled up with roommates in tiny rooms for five days or longer is even worse, so the lawyers all opted to rough it in exchange for a bit of privacy.

You might remember that I wrote about the old hotel almost a year ago when I went on my first Sanikiluaq circuit. Co-counsel John also wrote about the old hotel in his blog last year and included a picture of a sign warning not to close the door to the furnace room off the kitchen because of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.  Nothing has been fixed since then, and the sign to warn people of the potential danger is long gone. As some kind of nod to safety, someone did think to jam a milk crate in-between the door and the frame.

But anyway, no worries, we knew not to close that door, and as long as it stayed open, the air would be fine.

During the first night of our stay we learned the hard way that there was a second door in the hotel that also should not be closed under any circumstances.  It turns out that the door to the laundry room also needs to stay open. Of course there was no sign to warn this unsuspecting guest of this. The problem only became evident when the rooms on one side of the hotel, the common area and the convenience store at the end of the building, became filled with heating oil fumes from the furnace. It’s just a good thing that it was only 10:30 p.m. and that everyone wasn’t asleep when it happened.

Help arrived thanks to a heating and oil technician who was kind enough to come and check the furnace for us even though he doesn’t actually work for the hotel.  He quickly identified the source of the problem and after about half an hour the air was reasonably clear. He said it was safe and that it wouldn’t happen again as long as both doors were kept open.  I did my best not to think about it and went to bed.  Being worried about waking up dead does not make for a restful sleep. If I slept with one eye open, it wasn’t because of the Bell’s Palsy.

The next morning one of the crowns expressed concern about the fumes to one of the Co-op/Inns North managers. It was pretty clear that despite having been told about the problem in the past, that there was no will on his part to fix it or to even pretend to be minimally concerned. He first offered the interesting explanation that it was just a quirk of the direction of the wind. He was then told that the heating person had been by and that he had explained the nature of the ventilation problem to us. After a brief exchange, the manager ultimately responded by saying, “Whatever” and walking away. That’s an exact quote. Whatever. Only toxic fumes instead of oxygen to breathe. Whatever. 

My stay at the old Amaulik wasn’t entirely bad. I didn't have to share my room. We could cook our own food in the kitchen. The coffee was plentiful. I was able to do laundry. I was one of the lucky guests who had a working shower. I had a toilet that wasn’t covered in suspicious brown stains (unlike one unfortunate member of the court party). And the threat of being poisoned and blown up in an explosion that would have been the punchline of four-less-lawyers-in-the-world headlines was definitely a distraction from the atmosphere of decay and the lack of cleanliness. I guess that's something.

January Hymn – The Decemberists
Stubborn Love – The Lumineers
After the Storm – Mumford & Sons


  1. Thank you for writing this. I might be working for the GN in the very near future. I live in the South right now. The job would require me to travel to communities all across Nunavut, sometimes for overnight work. I understood that life up there was very different, but the thought of encountering things like this in an establishment that actually charges people to stay The manager's response is truly epic, and the fact this place hasn't been shut down or forced by the government to fix its problems is mind boggling.

  2. Not only do they charge but the cost was $250/night per person. That's typical. Even if you have to share a room, the cost is still $250 per person. So the take per room is $500. Or $750 if you get really unlucky as I have a few times and had to share with two others. Hospitality up here does take a bit of getting used to. Inns North has no incentive to improve as there is little competition. Some places are better than others. They all aren't as bad as the Amaulik.