A Cabbie Abroad in Iqaluit


It’s the same the world over: if you want the low-down on a place, speak to the cab driver.

Earlier this week, our very own City of Iqaluit was featured in the BBC Two show called "A Cabbie Abroad," a show where "London cabbie Mason McQueen takes on the challenge to drive a taxi in three very different cities around the world."

In a small town like Iqaluit, news travels fast – especially when that news involves the BBC. Needless to say, we have been waiting for this episode to air ever since the film crew was here this past winter.

After watching the episode, it is clear that "A Cabbie Abroad" is about much more than driving taxis in foreign countries. It is a show that uses those taxis as a lens for understanding local culture. As a result, not only does the documentary show the – err, idiosyncracies– of Iqaluit transit, but it also explores the broader socioeconomic conditions in the north.

I initially hoped the producers would accurately depict the "finer side" of Iqaluit's taxi service (i.e. the unique characters that are your cabbies; the familiar strangers that are your fellow passengers). Well, they sure did. By becoming a temporary Pai-Pa Taxi driver, the show's host, Mason McQueen, quickly learns about $6 [August 2015 update: $7] per person fares and the horror that is driving in blizzards.

Those who are familiar to Iqaluit will appreciate the host's frustration with unintuitive building numbers and experience of "rush minute" at four corners. Heck, even those who aren't familiar with Iqaluit appreciated the humour:

I also hoped the producers would represent Iqaluit in a respectful and objective manner. Having experienced life in the north for four years, I have come to learn that a fine line exists when communicating the stark realities of this territory that, while seemingly pristine at first glance, is greatly affected by social issues at a closer look. If anyone perceives that the fine line has been crossed, it may result in some backlash.

It doesn't take long for the host to recognize the deep divide between the rich and the poor, yet he acknowledges that "some have adapted better than others in this modern world." Not only does he navigate the treacherous roads with consideration and care, but he navigates the complex social issues in the same manner. To come face-to-face with food insecurity, homelessness, and suicide is a difficult task for anyone (let alone a first-timer to the north), but I think Mason does a great job. The Brits agree:


The documentary focuses on the positive aspects of living in the north as well. Mason enjoys the lighter side of life in Iqaluit by learning how to navigate slippery roads from Pai-Pa Taxi's Craig Dunphy, being taught how to throat sing by The Jerry Cans' Nancy Mike, and being shown how to ice fish by Honorary Toonik Solomon Awa.

Perhaps the most entertaining part of watching the show is spotting some familiar faces (much like when watching the Iqaluit episode of Amazing Race Canada). Well-known Iqalummiut make appearances throughout the episode, including Becky Kilabuk, Karliin Aariak, and David Murphy, among others.

From what I can tell, the documentary appears to be well-received in the UK...


... But I'm curious to know what Iqalummiut think of the episode. So please check it out and let us know!

For our readers who live in Nunavut who have not yet seen the episode, you can find a friend who has 1) Iqaluit Cable’s “Places” package, 2) a PVR, and 3) enough forethought to have already recorded it this past Sunday night (Updated: The episode is streaming for free on DailyMotion!). For our readers who live in the UK (anyone? Bueller?), you can stream the episode on BBC iPlayer for another ten days.

If you're still not convinced to watch "A Cabbie Abroad" in Iqaluit, the truest testament to its viewing value is this: European football fanatics chose to forego FIFA World Cup in order to watch "A Cabbie Abroad." Bam.

Have you watched Iqaluit's episode of "A Cabbie Abroad?" What did you think of it? Let us know in the comment section below or via Twitter!