Why we make our products in Canada
I am a Canadian.
I was born in Montreal to two landed immigrant parents. My father came from a devastated Europe after WWII. He\’d been captured by the Germans early in the war and had served nearly the entire thing in a forced labour camp. He came to Canada looking for hope and opportunity after serving as a military policeman guarding Nazis awaiting trail after the war. My Mom was an adventurous young woman who left South Africa on a mail ship with hopes of seeing the world and perhaps climbing a mountain or two. They met in an elevator in Montreal in 1958.
My mother was a self-taught master maker, her first job in Canada was doing incredibly fine hand stitch detailing at a high end millinery shop near Phillips Square. She had extreme attention to detail and an artistic and visual sense she herself didn\’t fully understand. In her 80\’s and with arthritic hands, she could still hand stitch flawless floral details in silk thread on her household napkins and tablecloths. It would have been her birthday today.
This is my favourite photograph of my mother. A young woman, she is atop Cathedral Peak in South Africa, taken just before she left the country for the UK and then for Canada. I can\’t even imagine how tough it must have been in the early 50\’s for a young woman who wanted to travel, climb mountains AND be an expert milliner too, but she did it anyway.
My Dad wound up being a United Nations official, and my parents were stationed in various African countries during the 70\’s and 80\’s. Dad was a master communicator and a diplomat. He spoke 7 languages fluently. His colleagues joked they could have dropped him out of a plane into some remote uncontacted jungle tribe and within days he\’d be communicating fluently in the local language, be best palls with the tribal elders, AND have the entire tribe working toward a common goal. It was truly amazing to watch him interact with people. I reckon I got his team-building skills, but definitely not his language skills. If I only got 1% of his communication skills, I\’ll be OK.
Every Sunday, when I was a boy, my Mom and Dad would put me in the car, rain, shine, snow, sleet or bitter cold, and we\’d go to a nearby wooded area near the Pierrefonds suburb of Montreal. We\’d go into the forest and walk for hours. Just to be with nature. I asked my Mom why we weren\’t going to church like other people. God lives here, my Mom said.
I remember seeing massive snowy owls in trees against gray winter skies, the changing of the leaves (as Mom called it), the giant forest mushrooms, and the occasional log shanty of someone living rough. The wild flowers and the insects… We once came upon thousands of dead bees scattered across a sparkling crust of snow like small black and yellow pebbles. They\’d been living in a nearby hollow tree and had frozen in mid air, falling out, one by one onto the snow. Canada.
We would go tent camping in a large square military-style tent and play eye spy until we drifted off to sleep. T is for tent! The canvas was yellow and green and I can still smell it in the sun. Even now, camping in Canada is one of my favorite ways to connect deeply to our land.
These walks and the nights in tents under the Canadian stars in National and Provincial Park campsites gave me a love for our wonderful country and our land, and it\’s the main reason why I don\’t want it filled to the brim with e-waste, vape pens and carts from cannabis and tobacco companies which will be firehosing into Canada this Fall when cannabis extracts go legal.
A few years ago, I began a thought experiment (probably while camping in an Ontario Provincial Park). I mentally projected myself into a Canada 5 years after the legalization of Cannabis. Then 10 years – just to imagine what it might be like. To get a sense about what might happen to the country, to cannabis, and how it will impact our culture. I also imagined how I could make it better.
Why we make our products in Canada
My company has always made our products in Ontario, going back to 1993 when we began publishing tribe magazine, and we wanted to design and make our cannabis accessory products in Canada too.
I am old enough to have seen how our culture has changed in the last half century. Global supply chains. Raw materials shipped overseas to the cheapest places where products can be made, where people and sometimes even children slave in squalor and toxic waste to produce disposable average products that are just good enough to sell here.
Products that are designed to last only until the warranty expires and then be discarded. Products made with toxic metals and plastics because it\’s cheaper to make them that way. Products that are essentially e-waste once the container from China has been opened. Products that might contain cadmium and other toxic metals because that\’s what the Chinese manufacturer had available on the factory floor that day, or because it cost him less.
But something else was happening too; something many haven\’t noticed. Product design in general has changed to suit the overseas manufacturers. Everything began to look similar. Similar shapes, the same color palettes, the same functionality. \”Same, same but different,\” the saying goes. Everything was being designed to be made in China. The cheapest overseas makers were ultimately driving the design of the products we use! What\’s worse, our own Canadian companies were now encouraging this by manufacturing even more stuff in China.
Skilled Canadian makers started losing their jobs, plants closed, you know all this.
Then these cheaply made products began to try to differentiate from each other in our marketplace with expensive marketing campaigns, social media influencers and fancier packaging. In essence the veneer got shiner, but the substance underneath got lower quality to pay for it, and our landfills began to fill with more crap.
Manufacturing overseas is not something I will do. Canadian companies make a clear choice when they decide to make their products in China to sell in Canada. That choice is theirs, but essentially its a choice to NOT make products in Canada yet sell them here. They are importers of Chinese goods; no matter how slick their branding.
This is what it has become. The CEO of one of Canada\’s new licensed cannabis providers, Tantalus, recently called me a protectionist on twitter when I simply asked him if his company\’s vape products were being manufactured in Chinese factories (they are).
What the fuck? If being a protectionist means making our products here in Canada with the finest and safest North American materials… That\’s us! This is a good thing! It\’s a badge of honor dude! Let me tell you how proud I am to make our products in Canada – you won\’t be able to shut me up! I love harnessing the skills of our supremely talented Canadian makers to create amazing new products in the cannabis space to sell to the world. Let me tell you how nice it feels to make products in Canada…
We always choose Canada. Always.
Many companies are afraid to tell you how and where their products are made, and it\’s often because they don\’t even know. They just wait for the container to arrive. And if something happens to you they\’ll blame the Chinese supplier.
Anyway, back to the story. So I started looking at areas where my 26 year old Canadian company could make a positive contribution in the cannabis sector, while not selling the actual cannabis itself. My thought experiments had shown that in 5 and 10 years from now cannabis will be integrated fully into our culture, in spite of the chaos happening now.
I wanted to make a truly Canadian contribution to the cannabis sector with an eye on exporting our products, the opposite of what was happening in Canada. It\’s our legalization after all, an immense opportunity for Canadian business. It\’s something we should proudly be going after. I wanted to make things better, by making better things, as Seth Godin likes to say. And this is exactly what we\’re doing.
We are making functional, lasting, different and innovative products here in Canada. We are leading.
People do not throw our products away, but they\’re welcome to toss our packaging – it\’s mostly compostable.
What we\’re doing is symbolic too. I wanted to showcase our country\’s finest materials by making our cannabis accessories from them: Canadian natural materials, Canadian precious metals and Canadian gemstones, and to showcase the skills of our gem cutters, goldsmiths, casters and carvers. I want our products to reveal the stunning greatness of Canada\’s natural beauty.
I want to put a real Canadian flag on global cannabis culture, not a brand logo that was printed in China.
For this reason, we are focusing at the very tip of the spear. We\’re the company that makes the solid gold dabbing nails. Don\’t know what that is? That\’s OK, we also make 925 silver cannabis grinders! With Canadian silver! Tribe of Canada they are starting to call us and I like that. We\’ve created the very highest end in the cannabis accessories category.
And isn\’t it nice it\’s Canadian?
We work mostly with precious metals and it\’s why we sought and received the Federal Government\’s permission to use Canada\’s National Precious Metals Mark on our products. It\’s Canada\’s highest symbol of quality in precious metals and indicates our products are wholly made in Canada. It\’s a rare honor to have permission to use this mark.
We also make cannabis accessories in fine North American steels and will be coming out with a collection of cannabis-derived silver and gold jewelry in time for Christmas. This is a solid gold dabbing nail for cannabis concentrates:
You don\’t have to buy our products or even like them. They might not be for you. But if you want cannabis accessories of the very finest quality, with full materials trace-ability, entirely made in Canada; we\’re it.
If you are a Canadian business thinking about getting into the exciting new cannabis sector, or any sector in Canada really… Instead of settling for what the Chinese can make you on the cheap with untraceable materials; seek out Canadian manufacturers who use safe, North American sourced materials. Design and make your own products here for sale in Canada but especially to the rest of world. We\’ve done it and so can you.
Making products in Canada lets us innovate, lead and develop sustainable cannabis related IP. As more and more countries legalize cannabis we might actually have products to sell into those markets — but only if we invent and make them ourselves. Cannabis is truly a unique springboard for Canada. Let\’s think bigger and use the legalization to make something useful, good and lasting.
Thanks for being a part of tribe,