Nunavut's polar bear licence plates may go extinct

The Nunavut government has announced a contest to design a new licence plate, which would replace the iconic bear-shaped plates that adorn vehicles in the territory.
A Nunavut licence plate adorns the back of a vehicle in Iqaluit. The territorial government is accepting public submissions for a new design that would replace the bear-shaped plates. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Polar bears could soon become extinct in Nunavut — on drivers' licence plates, anyway.

The Nunavut government launched a contest on Wednesday for a new licence plate design, which would replace the iconic bear-shaped plates that currently adorn vehicles there.

The polar bear plates have been used in Nunavut since 1999, when it became its own territory.

Nunavut used to be part of the Northwest Territories, and it adopted the same white bear-shaped licence plate design that has been used in the N.W.T.

But the N.W.T. government, which holds the copyright to the polar bear design, is "making some changes" to that territory's licence plates, according to a Nunavut government release.

Since the copyright included Nunavut, the eastern Arctic territory must change its plate design as well, officials said.

However, that does not necessarily mean Nunavut's registered cars, trucks and other vehicles will bear the same rectangle-shaped licence plates as everywhere else in Canada.

"Our polar bear licence plate was very popular because of its shape. This new licence plate could take on a unique form as well," Economic Development and Transportation Minister Peter Taptuna stated in the news release.

The Nunavut government is accepting submissions until Aug. 26.

Four finalists will receive $500 each, and the winner will get an additional $1,000. Cabinet will select the winning design.

With files from The Canadian Press