Canadian Olympic gear made in China, MPs cry foul
Published Friday, May 2, 2008 9:21PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 8:10PM EDT
Federal Opposition members are questioning why the Canadian Olympic team's uniforms and gear are being made mostly in China -- especially during a time when Canada's textile industry is struggling.
The teams' official supplier, the Hudson's Bay Company, on Wednesday unveiled the designer duds to be worn by Canada's athletes during this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing. About 80 per cent of the uniforms will be made in China, and that number goes up to 90 per cent for Olympic wear sold to the public.
Critics say Canadian athletes should wear clothing manufactured strictly in Canada.
"This is a no-brainer," said New Democrat MP Paul Dewar on Friday.
"This is our Olympic team. We should be ensuring that all of our Olympic athletes are proudly wearing Canadian-made textiles and all of their uniforms should be made in Canada."
Liberal MP Denis Coderre said Canada is missing a "tremendous opportunity" to promote this country's textile industry on the world stage -- and called it an "unacceptable" snub considering the industry's struggles.
HBC stresses the uniforms and gear are "100-per-cent" Canadian and designed by a Toronto-based team, and that uniforms the athletes will wear on the podium and during the opening parade will be 100-per-cent Canadian-made.
But manufacturing the rest of the clothing required the company to turn to the Chinese market, said Hillary Marshall, director of corporate communications for HBC.
"There are some unique aspects to this collection. In particular, it's the first eco-friendly Olympic collection that's been designed for Team Canada, perhaps for any Olympic team," Marshall told CTV Newsnet on Friday.
"It required that fabrics be sourced -- fabrics that are made of things like bamboo, cacona, organic-blended cotton. These are items that help with the technical nature of the product. They help to keep the athletes cool, they have moisture wicking properties, they have cooling properties. Because those are items that are hard to find in Canada, they're sourced mainly in China, (so) we made the product there as well."
Marshall acknowledged cost was a factor, especially considering the quantities of clothing required -- enough to fill 600 stores, including the Bay, Zellers, Home Outfitters, as well as those sold online.
Chris Rudge, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, told The Canadian Press the government has not raised the issue of uniforms with the Olympic committee, adding the government likely believes it's impractical to insist on 100 per cent Canadian-made uniforms.
"The reality is that there's no longer manufacturing capacity in Canada that can meet the volume needs that are necessary to manufacture particularly the replica clothing that is sold to the public,'' said Rudge.
He pointed out HBC will not provide the uniforms that Canadian athletes will actually wear during competitions, due to their highly technical requirements.
Canada's manufacturing industry has been hit hard by the rising Canadian dollar and the flood of cheap foreign imports, especially from China.
Dewar, the NDP's foreign affairs critic, said he hopes the government and HBC will make sure the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver will feature uniforms that are made in Canada.
"Wouldn't that be an embarrassment to have our uniforms made in China or anywhere else for the upcoming Vancouver Olympics? So hopefully someone is doing their homework on that," he said.
Marshall said HBC has already started to design the uniforms for Vancouver, and told CP that the company would be "very happy'' to sit down with Canadian textile and garment manufacturers to explore their ability to provide the volume of clothing needed at competitive prices.
"As a Canadian company, we prefer to buy Canadian," she said.
Canadian clothing company Roots, which made the Team Canada beret that became the hit of the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, was a previous supplier for Canadian athletes. The company made a point of making its Olympic clothing in Canada. HBC outdid Roots in 2005 with a $100-million bid.