Two members of the Queen’s community are selling facemasks with Indigenous art designs and have raised more than $6,000 for Indspire, a national charity helping First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students attend post-secondary schools.
The Kanata Trade Co. was launched in November of 2020 by Amira Gill, Sc’19, MSc’21, and her twin sister, Nadya Gill, Law’22.
The sisters, who are Inuit, received bursaries and mentorship programs from Indspire that helped them while at university, so they wanted to give back and support the charity that supported them.
“I feel really privileged for everything I’ve been able to achieve,” says Amira, who recently finished graduate school and started working at Defence Construction Canada. “I didn’t do this alone, so I am trying to give someone else the opportunity to enhance their lifestyle like I was given.”
Amira feels supporting university students is important because the experience teaches students a lot of lessons about themselves that go beyond the classroom. “It helps you navigate who you want to be as you are growing up,” she says. “It enhances your communications skills. It teaches you how to network. So (going to university) is a lot more than the education, it is more about trying to figure out who you are.”
The sisters decided to sell facemasks with Indigenous designs to honour the charity they are supporting. The artists get a royalty from every purchase, so the sisters are happy to be able to help both Indigenous students and artists.
They chose to sell masks in the beginning because they were in high demand and there weren’t many options for people to buy Indigenous-inspired masks. They created a website and started promoting the Kanata Trade Co. on Facebook and Instagram. They received a big order early on from the Residence Society of Queen’s University (ResSoc) to supply masks for all residence student-staff members.
Even though Amira has now graduated and is working full time, the Gill sisters plan to continue raising funds. They recently added journals and art cards to their online store as they expect demand for masks to slow down as more vaccines get into the arms of Canadians.