Darlene Eyegotok’s sewing machine is about to be very, very busy.
“I’m going to do a summer parka for my daughter, a parka for next winter for my son and then one for my dad,” she says. “He’s 80 but he’s never had a homemade parka.”
In her arms, she’s holding a stack of neatly folded fabric, while all around her other women (and a few men) are choosing their own bundles from a nearby table, a rainbow display of red, green, black, blue and (most wanted) camo. It’s an organized chaos that’s over almost as soon as it’s begun.
It, of course, is a Canada Goose Resource Centre event, held in partnership with Canadian North (known as First Air at the time of this event), this one happens to be in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, but Canada Goose has been holding them across the Arctic. It all began with a simple request: Two sewers from Pond Inlet named Meeka Atagootak and Rebecca Kiliktee were visiting the Canada Goose Toronto production facility and happened to see scraps of fabric remaining from parka production. They asked if they could take this leftover material home so their friends and family could use it to make winter jackets. That sparked an idea that has grown into over 10 donation events and over 2,000,000 metres of fabric donated.
“In a town like Cambridge Bay, you don’t get much material – and if you do, it’s expensive,” explains Shelly De Caria, senior manager of community relations and sales at Canadian North and someone who’s been to many of these Resource Centre events. “For a mother to be able to get this fabric means she can make parkas for her kids. I’ve been back to communities six months [after a Resource Centre event] and I often see they’ve been made. They’re just so happy because it’s helping them and helping their family.”
For Cambridge Bay mayor Pamela Gross, watching from the sidelines, these events are also linked to culture, because having fabric enables Inuit women to continue a tradition of creating parkas for themselves and their families.
“We still have people who are seamstresses and we like to pass on our traditional knowledge,” she says. “Our reality is that we’re cold for eight months of the year, so I know that people are very appreciative of the material.”