I might be going to Kuujjuaq on business

To supplement my translating income, in September I started a new job as a judicial interpreter (French and English) with the Court of Quebec. It’s actually really interesting work and I seem to have a flair for it (the judge in a murder case I did complimented my work in court, and the prosecutor called my boss to add his praise, which apparently never happens, so that was a nice moment).

Part of the job is occasionally being called upon to interpret in other courthouses throughout the province. Up to now, I’ve only worked in the Montreal courthouse and youth court, although I almost was sent to Longueuil (a suburb) last week.

Anyway, I got a call this morning from a court employee in Amos, in the Abitibi region, and he wants me to fly up to do a case next week. We’re discussing the modalities – besides court time, I’m paid for my travel time, and of course the plane, taxi, hotel, and food are paid. Just to clarify, I say, “So, I’m paid up to the time I land in Amos --”

“Oh, not Amos,” he interrupts. “Kuujjuaq.”


Kuujjuaq is the largest Inuit community and regional centre and transport hub of Nunavik, the Inuit region that makes up the northern third of Quebec. It’s a town of 2,000 people on Ungava Bay, and it sits above the 58th parallel of north latitude, 900 km north-northeast of Montreal. It has direct flights to Montreal as well as to Quebec City, Iqaluit, and Nunavik’s other communities. Like all communities in Nunavik, as well as Nunavut and some other northern regions, the only way in or out (other than by sea during the ice-free period) is by plane.

So a bit of a splash for my first actual business trip ever.

I’ve always had a curiosity about Canada’s north, though owing to astonishingly high air fares and all other types of costs, it’s not one that’s easily satisfied. Both my parents have been to Iqaluit at different times – my mom in the 70s when it was still Frobisher Bay, Northwest Territories, and my dad in 1999 for the creation of Nunavut. He also reported from Nunavik in 1999 on a deadly avalanche in Kangiqsualujjuaq (spelled it right my first try!), and did a pair of acclaimed documentaries on the Dené community of Délįne on Great Bear Lake in the NWT. He even brought me once on a report to Thompson, Manitoba, although I forget what about.

So I’m really excited. It’s not fully confirmed yet, though, as Quebec is currently experiencing a Crown attorneys’ strike and the case may not proceed. But I’m looking forward to seeing a region that despite being in my own province is so very different from my own and not one I thought I’d ever get to see.

Wow! I’m a little envious. I’ve always wanted to see the North, but there’s never been much of a demand for people like me there… Maybe that will change as we ramp up thepassive geothermal house designs.

Incidentally, current temperature in Kuujjuaq is -24 °C, which wouldn’t even be unusual in Montreal this time of year, although at the moment we’re having one of our mid-February warm spells.

Also, remarkably, it won’t be the furthest north I’ve ever been; that’ll still be Stockholm (specifically Arlanda Airport).

Well that will be cool in at least two senses.

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

Fantastic on being praised for your work! Excellent!

I know in Japan depositions at least, both sides bring in interpreters, and the one not interpreting acts as a checker, and I’ve heard it can get NASTY. You know, "errm, the interpreter said ‘cow’ when he should have said ‘moo cow,’ etc.

Do you work with checkers too?

How do you even pronounce that name, Q-Jack ?


No, we just swear oaths. The fact that most of the people in the room can speak both languages does help keep me on my toes.

I’ve usually heard KOO-joo-ack, but I don’t speak Inuktitut.

Will you be permitted to take a few days of your own time while up there and still have the flight back paid for?

I don’t really have a lot of time to take at the moment, but I’ll be arriving at noon the day before the trial and leaving at 4 pm the day after, so I’ll have a bit of time to look around.

Are you going to be involved in a murder mystery that will permit you and the audience to be better acquainted with the Inuit community, and their way of life?

You should reach out to Nunavut Boy, a Doper, for a bit of an overview!

Either way, sounds fascinating.

Dang! Is the company going to spring for serious cold-weather gear? I don’t think I have a single pair of gloves or boots that would survive those temps!

It’s sounds like wonderful adventure!

I’m impressed with a place with two jj’s in its name. Have a great time in your new experience, Matt!

Finally, the court cancelled on me because they couldn’t find a hotel room free (who would have thought Kuujjuaq in February would be such a tourist draw?), but I’m on their list and may yet make it up there one of these days, hopefully in a more temperate season.

Oh, I’m sorry that’s not going to work out for this trip. One of my best friends from high school ended up teaching in Nunavik for about 10 years, and he loved it. Life altering experience.

Gillam, Manitoba is my Canadian north limit, thus far, though I’d love to change that.

On some of the smaller reserves in northern Ontario, counsel have been known to bunk in the lock-up.

You have me beat by seven minutes. (Gilliam is 56º21’ to Peace River, Alberta’s 56º14’)

matt_mcl, sorry it didn’t work out this time.

better luck next time, matt_mcl!

Count me among the envious. I came tantalizingly close to a paid trip to Alert some years ago.

A couple of my best friends make semi-frequent trips to Eureka and Grise Fjord. I am trying to figure out a way to hitch a ride.

One of these days…