How ‘Authentic’ is Your Made in Canada Corporate Gift?

You’ve been tasked with buying a gift for a visiting executive, your event keynote speaker, or maybe a foreign dignitary. Your goal is to find an item that portrays quality, represent Canada’s uniqueness and culture, and reflects your corporate values. But where do you start?

To buy your precious gift, you are not likely going to the local tourist shop to buy some tea towels with images of loons and beavers. You need to find a reputable dealer who is well connected to original and genuine Canadian-made gifts. They can help you through the myriad of authentic versus knock-off items that can result in a misguided purchase.

Here are a few things you need to consider; is it really Made in Canada? There are government rules and guidelines around professing that a product is Made in Canada, but they are not always apparent when it comes to labeling. For example, an item might be designed in Canada but actually made in India or China. Or, a base object has been brought in from offshore and painted or altered in Canada. The details are not always visible, so be sure to ask your product source for what they know, or what they can find out.

Based on the Canadian Competition Bureau, here are few guidelines to consider:

For a product to be labelled “Made in Canada“, the following need to happen:

  • at least 51% of the total direct costs of production is Canadian
  • the last substantial transformation of the good needs to happen here in Canada

For a product to be labelled “Product of Canada” the following guidelines apply:

  • the last substantial transformation of the good occurred in Canada
  • 98% of the total direct costs of producing or manufacturing the goods have been incurred in Canada

Alternative language is often used to be more specific about product origins like, “Assembled in Canada with foreign parts” or “Sewn in Canada with imported fabric”. Although there are varying subtleties based on food, textiles, and other categories, here is a simple example of what a ‘Canadian’ chutney product might look like:

  • Packaged in Canada – nominal processing in Canada
  • Chutney was produced in bulk in the US, but placed in jars and labelled in BC
  • Made in Canada – a Canadian entity does the key processing
  • Labels might say ‘Made in Canada’ from domestic and imported ingredients”, if a BC food processor used fruit and vegetables from The Okanagan and cane sugar from the Caribbean.

Product of Canada – the whole supply chain is in Canada

The chutney could qualify for this designation if, for example, they used fruit and vegetable ingredients from the Okanagan and Manitoba beet sugar. The ingredients, processor, and assembly is all in Canada.

Made in Canada or Canadiana?

More and more companies are using Canadian Made gifts when promoting their businesses. The quality of them are far superior, with high perceived value. The recipient feels more appreciated and valued. These gifts are an important part of building a business network, especially internationally.

But are you giving a Made in Canada gift or just something depicting Canadiana?

Your local tourist shops are full of Canadiana, products showing icons of our culture. The Mountie t-shirt, or moose coffee mug. Maple leaf pens and candies. And replicas of First Nations art on a keychain.

The shop inventory will be 95% made offshore.

Some shops will have serious, authentic First Nations art, but the shop worker won’t know if it’s truly Made in Canada, or only partially so.

How to Ensure Native Canadian Art Is Genuine

Most authentic First Nations art comes with an enclosed information sheet or card with a bio of the artist, and description of the piece. However, there are still some things to be aware of. Soapstone carvings are absolutely an iconic First Nations art form. Genuine native carvers put an arctic igloo icon on each piece to show that the artist is First Nations. But, there are also great soap stone carvers who are well known but are not native. If that is important to you, look for that native logo.

Someone like artist Sue Coleman paints watercolours with native symbols in them. She is not First Nations but incorporates traditional designs, and is famous for it. Other examples show bowls made offshore but hand painted here, and purses made in Indonesia but the native design is applied here.

The price point will also tell you if it’s genuine or not. Genuine First Nations art works will have a higher price tag than a knock-off Canadiana item.

How Do You Find the Truth?

Find a reputable dealer! They will source genuine high quality products. You need someone who has studied the laws, rules and guidelines; someone who knows how to get the answers to ensure authenticity, or at least what the supply chain sources are. To many people that is extremely important.

A reputable dealer will have extensive experience and deals with government, universities, and corporations. Ask for references or to see testimonials. If they are a member of your business network, they can answer those questions in person.

Next Steps

Your gift requirements may also extend to employee recognition, very important clients, or key people in your referral network. By presenting them with a quality, authentic Canadian made gift shows that you care and respect them. Your good will is appreciated and often talked about with their peers, family and friends, when they receive a special gift!

One Reply to “How ‘Authentic’ is Your Made in Canada Corporate Gift?”

  1. THANKS, Tina, great information. Did not know about the First Nations arctic igloo. And you are so right, people appreciate the extra effort/ cost and notice when something is not done thoughtfully.

    Appreciation is like a bit of insurance. If you have been genuinely appreciative of someone, they are more likely to forgive you when you have an “oops.” I know I am.

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