O Canada

Made in CanadaR5

Melissa Yuan-Innes, North Lancaster, ON

We're very patriotic. It's hard to pinpoint, the Canadian thing. It's almost like a small-town mentality.

—Mike Weir

I buy Canadian. This sounds old-fashioned nowadays. I just had a baby and the sleepers I received as gifts were made everywhere from China to Tunisia. I am grateful and I dress my baby in them every day and night.

But if I have a choice, I buy goods made in Canada. I check the labels. I buy honey from the farmer down the road. Our neighbour keeps cows (Belted Galloway steers, to be exact) on our land, and if we eat beef, I try to buy it from him.

One day, I was working in the emergency room and the nurses started talking about cross-border shopping. We work in Cornwall, Ontario, an economically-depressed town with a handy bridge to upstate New York. The nurses raved about how much more cheaply they could buy groceries and clothes across the border.

"It's so worth it," said one.

"I love it," said another. "The border guards don't give you too hard a time if you've got groceries and baby clothes. What about you, Melissa?"

I shook my head. "I don't do it."

"But it's so much cheaper. Don't you want to buy clothes for Max?"

I tried to explain without hurting anyone's feelings. "I have a lot of hand-me-down clothes for Max. I've hardly bought anything for him between that and some gifts."

"What about for yourself, then? They have lots of nice stuff."

"I don't really need another shirt. So if I'm going to buy something, I prefer to buy it from someone local. There are a lot of cool designers in Montreal." Montreal used to be a clothing manufacturer's hub and you can still find Canadian-made baby goods, well-cut boots, and women's clothing with a certain je ne sais quoi. I've also driven in the other direction, to Ottawa, for their designers. I've searched online to support artisans. I'd rather buy a few well-made items than many cheap ones that fray and stain and end up in a rag pile or, worse yet, a landfill site.

One other nurse said she shopped locally, too, but the three cross-border shoppers stared at us in incomprehension. I thought about pointing out that all of us had relatively well-paying jobs. Heck, just the fact that we had jobs put us ahead of many people in Cornwall, especially since the paper mill closed down. If the locally-employed people didn't support the stores in town, those shops would close down too and we'd lose even more jobs.

But I could tell I wasn't going to change anyone's mind that day, so I quietly went back to work, armed with my conviction.

When I can, when it's available, I shop Canadian.

(464 words)