Following World War II, the garment industry in Canada had a shortage of labourers and needed tailors. The Garment Workers Scheme was approved by the Canadian government in 1947 as a plan to bring approximately 2500 tailors and their families into Canada to work in the garment industry. The scheme was largely funded by the Canadian Jewish Congress and organized by a group of Jewish industry leaders. A committee of five men were elected to go to displaced person’s camps across Germany and Austria to select tailors for immigration. These men included Max Enkin (chairman), Samuel Herbst, Bernard Shane, David Solomon and Sam Posluns.
Tailors were guaranteed one year of employment at equal pay and terms as other employees in a Canadian garment factory. They were also given housing accommodations to rent and a loan to cover initial costs of living. The Jewish Immigrant Aid Society, the Canadian Jewish Congress, the International Refugee Organization and participating employers were integral to the success of the project. The opportunities afforded immigrants allowed them to integrate into society after years of displacement and hardship.
Today’s Tailor Project began in 2017 when Larry Enkin, son of Max Enkin, approached Impakt Labs to research the lives of the tailors and their children who came to Canada through the Garment Workers Scheme. To date, Impakt Labs has interviewed nearly 100 tailors and their families and is researching the history of the Garment Workers Scheme through collected archive material. The project has shed light on the value of immigration and employment opportunities, as well as partnerships between government, industry and community.
The complete history of the Tailor Project has not been told before. We are collecting archival material and creating a timeline that pieces together this important time in history.
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