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People & Culture

Canada Goose donates surplus material to Nunavut

  • Jul 30, 2015
  • 654 words
  • 3 minutes
Photo courtesy: Canada Goose Expand Image

The Inuit live in some of the harshest conditions on earth, which means the design of their traditional clothing had to be virtually flawless to ensure maximum warmth and survival; indeed, a basic parka design has changed very little over the decades.

The material it’s made of, however, has changed significantly. Traditional furs are warm, but the 1970s saw a shift toward modern synthetic fabrics that are thinner, lighter and can be highly effective against moisture and wind. They can also be bright and beautiful, but like many items we take for granted in southern Canada, they’re often unavailable at either of Pond Inlet’s two stores: the Northern and the Co-op.

Local sewers sometimes make special orders for material, but like everything else, fabric has to be flown in, and prices can be prohibitive.

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(Photo: Tyrone Burke)

“Fabric can be up to $50 a metre,” says Apphia Killiktee, a sewer from Pond Inlet, Nunavut who makes up to 20 parkas a year. “The material for a whole parka is four hundred bucks, and we sell them for $250.”

That’s why Killiktee (and just about everyone else in the small northern hamlet) waits eagerly for a give-away of parka-making materials at the Pond Inlet community centre. Through its resource centres program, winter wear maker Canada Goose brings fabric, buttons and zippers to northern communities to give them to sewers like Killiktee, who help keep parka-making traditions alive.

“What we’re giving away here is really just leftover material from our factory in Toronto,” says Carrie Baker of Canada Goose. “If we weren’t bringing it up here, it would just get burned. That’s what usually happens to surplus material in the garment industry. Bringing it here helps the community out, but for the company, it also solves a waste problem.”

The program got its start when, during a 2009 visit to Canada Goose’s Toronto factory, Pond Inlet sewers Meeka Atagootak and Rebecca Killiktee asked if they could have scrap material. The company obliged, sensing an opportunity to reduce waste while simultaneously building a unique corporate social responsibility program. Since then, the Canada Goose Resource Centre program has stopped by Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Kujjuaq to give away materials, but its roots are in Pond Inlet.

Anticipation for the program’s return in 2015 is palpable. Almost all of Pond Inlet’s 1600 residents will show up for this year’s event. The pickup basketball game that’s been running round the clock for days beneath the midnight sun of the Arctic summer will even grind to a brief halt while local children come to see what all the fuss is about.

By the time community centre’s doors open at seven, about a quarter of the hamlet’s entire population is waiting anxiously in line. Countless rolls of material are unspooled and given away. No one leaves empty handed, and no material is left behind.

More remarkable is the diversity of the crowd. From young teens to an elder whose exact age is unknown because she was born before contact with southern Canadians was made. Most of the crowd is Inuit, but several of the southerners who reside here turned up to bolster their own sewing projects too. Traditions are being sustained and even exchanged.

Even though Inuit youths are learning to make parkas later than they used to—around 13 or 14 years old instead of 7 years old—it still helps them appreciate themselves, Killiktee says as she shows off a parka she stitched together using an old comforter as filling in a shell of wind stopping denier fabric brought north by Canada Goose the previous year.

“That’s how women, in the old days, were proud of themselves. They made something beautiful. With today’s young people, they have low esteem… You’ve got to do something to be proud of yourself.”

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Pond Inlet, Nunavut. (Photo: Tyrone Burke)

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