Hello Spring

Longer days and migrating animals return: spring in the North is 'such a wonderful time of the year'

Ruth Kaviok, an amateur botanist living in Nunavut, shares her community’s experience with spring and why it’s an incredibly important time of year for nature and people.

Arviat, Nunavut: Ruth Kaviok shares why spring is an incredibly important time of year for nature and people.

Sunrise in Liidlii Kue, N.W.T. (Submitted by Jonathan Antoine)

Across many parts of Canada, spring is full of colourful flowers and budding trees by early May. But in the Far North, the flowers won't be out anytime soon and there are no green trees in sight. The Canadian Arctic experiences spring somewhat differently than the south, but there are still clear signs that spring is awakening there, too.  

During spring months in northern Canada, communities like Arviat, Nunavut still experience temperatures below freezing on a regular basis and have an all-around different approach to measuring the onset of spring. Arviat community member Ruth Kaviok says that while there are no budding trees in her backyard, she's been seeing signs of spring for a few weeks. 

Pangnirtung, Nunavut, 3:14 a.m. on May 7, 2021. (Submitted by Wally Atagoyuk)

"The land around us is still full of ice and snow," says Kaviok. "But it feels like spring here because the geese have started to come back, the snow is melting in town, and the sun is out more."

Kaviok is an amateur botanist and says that, unlike southern Canada, flowers aren't a staple of spring in Arctic communities — in fact, they won't be blooming for a few more months. But when the snow melts, an estimated 800 species of vascular plants — adapted to short, sunny summers in the Canadian arctic — are quick to sprout. 

"My favourite flower is bog rosemary, a little pink flower that grows in clusters near the ground."

Bog-rosemary. Plant flowering close up. (Grigorii_Pisotckii/iStock)

Flowers play an important role for Kaviok and her community when they do start to bloom across the northern tundra. 

"The flowers up here are used for cultural purposes. We use them for medicine, for food. Anything we can use to maintain our traditional way of life — whereas a lot of flowers in the south are planted and are often there to be pretty." 

Ruth Kaviok is an Inuk and amateur botanist living in Arviat, Nunavut. She is the Recreation Coordinator at the Arviat Elders Centre and former president of the National Inuit Youth Council. (Courtesy Ruth Kaviok)

Perhaps the most telling sign of spring in the Arctic, is the return of wildlife. Kaviok mentions that when spring hits in her community, everyone rushes to get out on the land. "It's our favourite time of the year because it starts to warm up and we can be outdoors and it's our chance to go hunting and to go fishing."

"Hunting is really a perfect time for all of us during the spring. The warmer days bring migration routes that come here like the caribou herds. And people share their catches within the community which makes it such a wonderful time of the year." 

An old ski-doo, boggan and the spring melt. This is a "true northern photo," says Aaron Black. He captured this moment at the V Lake boat launch near Yellowknife, N.W.T. (Submitted by Aaron Black)

While the north looks vastly different from the south during the spring months, Kaviok confirms that there are some universal experiences with the changing seasons — no matter where you are in Canada. 

"The warmer weather really brings out the joy and happiness within the community because they're outdoors after all the cold and darkness."

Click here for more scenes from spring across the country. Show us your spring with the hashtag #HelloSpringCBC.


Erinn Drage

Erinn Drage

Erinn Drage is an environmental educator and scientific communicator specializing in conservation stories.