A Blizzard In This Part Of Canada Delays Exams For 6 Months - Atlas Obscura
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A Blizzard In This Part Of Canada Delays Exams For 6 Months

A high school in Nunavut, Canada, with snow mobiles parked outside. (Photo: eanoee/WikiCommons CC BY 2.0)

For the past week, the East Coast has been blanketed in warnings about the incoming blizzard. But the prospect of a snow day—or several—is nothing compared to what is happening in Canada’s Nunavut territory, where students will have to wait as much as six months between exams.

This area holds an awful lot of superlatives: it’s the nation’s newest territory (officially separating from the Northwest Territories in only 1999), as well as its biggest (roughly the size of all of western Europe), its least populated (having about as many people as the city of Kizil’urt in Russia), and its northernmost and its coldest.

Fog in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. (Photo: Alan Sim/flickr)

Life in Nunavut is not like life in the rest of North America. The capital and largest city, Iqaluit, has a population of around 6,700. Food and amenities are wildly expensive; Iqaluit, for example, lies on Baffin Island (possibly the site of Helluland, a land sighted by explorers in ancient Norse sagas), which is not accessible by road. In fact, it’s mostly not accessible by sea, either; for most of the year, the sea routes are frozen. Alcohol is fiercely regulated and sometimes banned outright, which, obviously, leads to a thriving black market. Bootlegging alcohol is a multimillion-dollar industry in Nunavut. 

This year, thanks to a huge blizzard after unseasonable warmth, Nunavut students had to delay exams—for four to six months.

 Grise Fiord in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut, Canada (Photo: Mike Beauregard/flickr)

The 12th-grade (“grade 12,” as the Canadians say) students in Nunavut are subject to anti-cheating measures of the standardized tests, which were made for a much-more-temperate Alberta, there are only a few times per year that students are allowed to sit for the exams.

This isn’t the first time Nunavut has gotten smashed with weird winter, as you might guess; the Kivalliq region reigns as Canada’s Blizzard Capital, with over 20 storms that qualify each year. One blizzard, the longest in Canadian history, lasted for over seven days, with stores completely sold out of food by the time it subsided. In one town, they cancelled Halloween in 2014 due to the threat of polar bears. Seriously. New Yorkers, you don’t have it so bad.

Update, 1/22: In an earlier version of this article, Nunavut was misidentified as a province. We regret the error.