While the famous Alaska Iditarod and Yukon Quest attract much publicity, there is another dog sled race to take place in March - Ivakkak in northernmost Quebec.
The race is scheduled to start on March 10th , 2014. The race will depart from the Hudson coast community of Kuujjuaraapik to Umiujaq and Inukjuak, finishing in Puvirnituq in time for the Snow Festival. The mushers will travel approximately 600 kilometres during the race. The number of dog teams is yet to be confirmed. Mushers have until February 11th, 2013 to register. Eleven teams of 2 ranging from the communities of Kuujjuaq, Tasiujaq, Quaqtaq, Puvirnituq and Kangiqsujuaq will compete for the championship 13th edition Ivakkak cup. The number of dogs varies from 10 to 12 per team. The participants are all Inuit.
The race is very exciting event for the communities because the Inuit tradition of husky dogs keeps history alive. The race is sponsored by Maivik Corporation.
Makivik, which in Inuktitut means “To Rise Up,” is a fitting name for an organization mandated to protect the rights, interests and financial compensation provided by the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, the first comprehensive Inuit land claim in Canada, and the more recent offshore Nunavik Inuit Land Claim Agreement that came into effect in 2008. The Corporation’s distinct mandates ranges from owning and operating large profitable business enterprises and generating jobs; to social economic development, improved housing conditions, to protection of the Inuit language and culture and the natural environment.
While the race is a popular event and focal point for the communities, a bigger concern for the Inuit is housing. According to Statistics Canada, in 2011, the population of Nunavik was 12,090 persons, of which 89% were Inuit and 34% were less than 15 years old. Nunavik has the highest level of overcrowding in all of Canada, 68% of the families live in overcrowded housing. As part of the 2010-2015 Housing Agreement, 337 housing units will be built. The government of Quebec has undertaken to finance the construction and operating cost of an additional 300 units to be constructed between 2012-2016.
Unlike the Iditarod and Quest, the Ivakkak, attracts little outside attention or tourists. Yet is an important race for the Inuit as it celebrates an ancient tradition.
The Inuit in northernmost Quebec face an acute housing shortage.