Megan MacLeod, a fourth-year honours health studies and gerontology student, has just finished her third annual Warm Up for Winter clothing drive. The campaign, which she started herself in her second year at Mac, collects and distributes winter clothing for children and adults.
MacLeod was inspired to start this initiative after volunteering and working at the Norman Pinky Lewis Recreation Centre in North Hamilton.
“I saw a need in the community for warm winter clothing,” she said.
“Children were coming to the after school program with inadequate winter clothing … [and] I definitely felt that I could do something to fill that need.”
She certainly did her best. As of the distribution on Oct. 19, she had collected 6000 items, far more than the 3000 last year and 1000 in the program’s first year.
The clothing was stored at MacLeod’s family home in Caistorville, a small town of about 100 people, where a team of her friends and family sorted and packed the thousands of items to be transported to the Hamilton community centre.
And because of her promotional efforts, only 200 items were left over at the end of the day. The network of community organizations and school principals helped bring a record crowd to her distribution day.
The reaction from those people who picked up the clothing was also positive.
“Some people shy away from reactions like [hugging],” she said. “But a lot of people were very appreciative of it, even if they didn’t … say it, you could tell … a burden was just released from them just because they didn’t have to put out hundreds of dollars to clothes.”
MacLeod’s community involvement is not limited to Warm Up for Winter. In fact, this is the third clothing drive she’s organized. The first was a shoe drive for people living in Haiti at the time of the earthquake, for which she sent 4000 pairs of shoes to help with earthquake relief.
She also organized Glitz, Glamour, and Graduation, an initiative that provided grade 8 girls with dresses and beauty services for their graduation ceremonies.
All of her campaigns were clothing drives, but she didn’t plan that.
“I didn’t think about any of them,” she explained. “They were all spur of the moment, and because there was a need.”
She plans to continue this kind of community service in future, and not just with Warm Up for Winter.
After completing her health studies program, as well as a certificate in not-for-profit business offered through the new Social Sciences collaboration with Mohawk College, MacLeod hopes to pursue a Master’s at McMaster and eventually work for an NGO.
“A dream job would be to take what I’m doing right now and turn it into a career … something along those lines, giving back to the community. I would love to eventually do that.”
They are everywhere. Flocks of them, shuffling along snow-laden sidewalks, seemingly impervious to the trials of winter.
They are Canada Goose jackets, proud owners buried somewhere underneath layers of protection. Bulky yet functional, these jackets are both an assault on style and a comfortable addition to the winter wardrobe of Canadians. But what’s really behind that puffy outer shell?
Canada Goose jackets are lined with real down. This soft, fluffy material comes from either geese or ducks, and the company assures consumers that it is all ethically harvested. Simultaneously, it notes how the down that lines its jackets is never procured through ‘live-plucking’.
That soft fur that lines their hoods? It’s coyote fur. Real coyote fur. Canada Goose – the company that makes them, not a group of real Canadian Geese – defends their decision to use real fur as environmentally sound, and even takes a swipe at animal rights activists who would rather a synthetic fur be used for not realizing the ecological benefits of the real thing.
What goes into these jackets is a source of constant controversy. Even Justin Trudeau, son of the former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and current Liberal MP for Papineau, faced serious criticism in 2010 when his annual Christmas card featured a photo of his family, bundled up in Canada Goose parkas.
If even MPs aren’t spared critique over their donning of such controversial garb, how do students feel about these jackets? Ryan Sparrow, a second-year Labour Studies major, owns just such a parka. When asked to discuss his coat, he commented on how his particular jacket, a typical black variation of the company’s signature line, fit his wardrobe. “It’s stylish, warm and functional,” he said.
There exist some aesthetic benefits to the jacket as well, including numerous pockets. “It’s got a pocket on the inside, and areas just to keep your hands warm,” Sparrow noted, demonstrating the purely utilitarian aspects of the coat.
To the average owner of a Canada Goose jacket, functionality trumps all. Who could blame them, really? These pieces have such patriotic names as the “Banff Parka” and the “Calgary Jacket,” and are spotted on every major celebrity when they venture north of the 49th Parallel. The product tries very hard to capture the very essence of what it means to bundle-up in the depths of a Canadian winter. One might even be surprised to find out where they are made.
Big-ticket goods like Canada Goose jackets are normally made overseas and shipped to North American markets. When asked where he thought his coat was made, Sparrow provided an understandable response. “They’re probably produced in an export processing zone,” he mentioned, making reference to special areas in the global south where companies can produce goods without dealing with customs regulations.
Interestingly, Canada Goose jackets are made in Canada by unionized workers with the Workers United Union, Local 437. In fact, the union and company have currently begun negotiations for a new contract for workers at the company’s Toronto plant.
So what about those jackets that say “Made in China” on their label? Chances are, they are one of the hundreds of knock-off Canada Goose jackets floating around the internet and markets around the world.
Canada Goose even has a section of its website dedicated to ‘counterfeiting’ of their product. The site is hardly modest and calls on diligent consumers to watch out for products made illegally in Asia, with instructions for upright citizens on how to contact the RCMP if they suspect a site or store is dealing in faux-Canada Goose material.
There is even a portion of the site dedicated to naming and shaming sites that have been caught with knock-offs of the real thing.
At the end of the day, they are ugly but functional, made with real animal products but produced by unionized workers and are the source of constant critique and debate. All this nonsense about coats almost makes flying south for the winter seem like the only rational option.