The traditional parka in Canada’s eastern Arctic is the amauti (also amaut or amautik, plural amautiit). The amauti is designed to carry a child against an adult’s body to utilize body heat and protect the child from frostbite, wind and cold. Traditionally the mother or female caregiver wears the amauti, but fathers or male caregivers may also wear the garment.
Traditionally, the amauti is made from a variety of materials including sealskin, caribou or - when extreme warmth is not required - duffle (a thick woolen cloth) with a windproof outer shell. For thousands of years, children have been held in the hood on the back of amautiit – a tradition that continues in the eastern Arctic communities of Nunavut and Nunavik today. The amauti is also seen in the Northwest Territories, Greenland, Labrador and Alaska.
In the south Baffin tradition, a male who wears an amauti is said to be more successful when hunting for certain species of animals in the following hunting season.
As clothing materials and production techniques evolved in the 1900s, the parka designs advanced rapidly. Manufacturers began to produce parkas that could be shipped easily to remote locations. Synthetic materials were created and utilized to protect against moisture, wind and cold. The Canadian military began to issue parkas to service people in northern climates. Helicopter pilots, scientists, and international film crews also began to adopt the parka as a necessary tool for survival while working in Canada.
As the parka became more widespread, style changes emerged and the amauti-styled pullover parka became nearly obsolete. As consumers adopted the parka en masse, an open front to the jacket became the norm. Demand increased and parka styles continued to diversify. While bush pilots in Canada’s north required bulky, heavy jackets with dedicated gun holster pockets, women in Toronto sought a lighter, more flattering fit. Manufacturers took notice.
Today parkas are available with a great degree of diversification in style and functionality. They range from light pieces worn in the dry, urban winter to parkas that protect the Canadian Rangers in Nunavut from extreme wet and cold.
Perhaps the best-known modern parkas are those made Canada Goose, a Canadian-owned company that has designed parkas for over fifty years. Canada Goose parkas are lauded as the warmest jackets on Earth by mountain climbers and Antarctic researchers who continue to trust Canada Goose to protect them from life-threatening temperatures that surround them.
Canadians know cold weather - it's a part of our national identity. We live with it, do battle with it and even celebrate its bracing challenges.
That's why Canada Goose has been manufacturing its authentic extreme weather gear right here in Canada since 1957. They test their products in North America too, because there are simply no better judges of the quality of parkas and jackets designed to withstand the coldest temperatures than the people who live and work in them.
From Canadian Arctic Rangers – police forces working in sub-zero temperatures – to US National Science Foundation researchers stationed in Antarctica, to oil rig workers and even Arctic Air pilots, Canada Goose is proud that the most demanding wearers in the world choose to wear Canada Goose.
In 2007 Canada Goose invited two traditional sewers from an Inuit community on Baffin Island to share Inuit knowledge with the Canada Goose design team.
Meeka Atagootak and Rebecca Kiliktee led Canada Goose through an exciting learning process. First they explained why they insisted on reflective strips around the jacket (eight months of the year are spent in total darkness – and it's important that snow machines be able to see you) and why they wanted fleece on the inside of a zipper. They then showed their hosts why zippers were not used on the full length of the jacket and why the shell of the parka should be removable. In the end Meeka and Rebecca helped to create the Baffin Anorak – a one-of-a-kind, truly Canadian parka.
1st Canadian to top Everest
"On my last step towards the summit of Everest my foot fell through the snow. Then it happened again. Finally, on my third try it held and I climbed to the top of the world.
Looking out across hundreds of kilometers, I paused to remember the four men who lost their lives during our ascent. I hoped it might matter to them that a few of us had persevered.
It was cold. Thirty below. But we had the right clothing for the conditions. This gave us some time to take it all in. I shut off my oxygen system and breathed in the ambient air of Everest's summit. It was 9:30am. We had the whole day to get off alive."
—Laurie Skreslet, Climber, speaker, the first Canadian to summit Everest.