A doll named Saila Qilavvaq that hails from Iqaluit is one of the top Canadian toys of the year, according to the Canadian Toy Testing Council.
Saila is the latest Maplelea doll from Avonlea Traditions, a company based in Newmarket, Ont. She's 46 centimetres tall and has long black hair, fake seal-skin kamiks (traditional boots) and comes with a journal in Inuktitut, English and French.
The Ottawa-based council rates toys, after letting children try them out for a few weeks. The council said Saila made the top 10 of the 2012 Children's Choice toy awards because people like Saila's realistic look and her beautiful clothing — some of which is made in Nunavut.
Kathryn Morton, president of Avonlea Traditions, said people who collect the dolls wanted one that came from the North, and they chose Nunavut.
"I decided that the only way I could really learn what it was like to be a 10-year-old girl growing up in Iqaluit was to go there," she said. "And so my family and I went there for 10 days over Christmas two years ago and we met a lot of people and talked to a lot of people and learned a lot about Nunavut."
That trip helped Morton connect with some of Nunavut's artists and small businesses. Saila has many different accessories that can be purchased separately, some of which are made in Nunavut.
One of them is a genuine "Pang hat," which are crocheted by women in Pangnirtung and worn by people all over Nunavut. Saila's hat was designed specifically for her and has created some new employment in Pangnirtung.
"We were able to ask a number of younger women in the community to start crocheting Pang hats, but they’re doll-size Pang hats, so that has been very exciting to involve young women," said Deborah Hickman, co-ordinator at the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts in Pangnirtung.
Saila also had an amauti — a traditional women's parka — crafted for her from the community of Arviat. It's made by women who work at Kiluk Limited, a small arts and crafts centre that normally employs three seamstresses. But when the order for Saila's amautis came in, the centre had to hire five more women to help make the 900 mini amautis.
"It's good. It has increased employment and it’s exciting making products for southern markets," said Sherlyn Kadjuk, manager of Kiluk Limited.