Augustin Gariépy, founder of Canots Nor-West, was born in 1911 in Alberta, Canada, on the shores of the Petit Lac des Esclaves. As a child in the Canadian Northwest, he got to know the Aboriginals and prospectors who stopped by his parents’ general store and saw them paddle off in their canoes over the clear waters of the expansive lake.
In 1930, Augustin Gariépy was working in Edmonton for Arctic Boats and Canoes. There he learned to build canoes, many of them for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Mr. Gariépy worked for Arctic Boats and Canoes until he left for Quebec, in 1931.
In the mid-1930s, he started to build his own cedar canoes in his new home province. When World War II broke out, the Government of Canada assigned him to work for the company Canadian Power Boats in Lachine, Quebec.
At the end of the war, in 1945, Mr. Gariépy founded his new company: Les Canots Nor-West Canoes enr. At the time, his customers were vacationers with cottages in the Laurentians, along with hunters, fishermen, and residents of the Abitibi region. Initially inspired by the canoes that he learned to build in Alberta, Augustin Gariépy innovated by creating his own models, putting his own original signature on this new line of canoes.
In 1960, after 30 years spent building canoes, his company was legally incorporated and became Les Canots Nor-West Canoes Inc. Slowly be surely, its reputation spread, not only throughout Quebec up to the limits of Ungava, but also to Northern Ontario, the Arctic regions of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, then further east to Labrador. Over the years, Les Canots Nor-West kept refining its cedar canoes, particularly those made for northern regions, known as freighters. Today the company Les Canots Nor-West Inc. offers a range of models from 12’ to 26’. The 26’ model was Mr. Gariépy’s final creation, shortly before his death in 1994.
Throughout his life, what Augustin Gariépy put his heart and soul into improving the quality of his products to better meet his customers’ needs. In 1994, four of Mr. Gariépy’s sons, Jean, Robert, Roger and François, took up the torch without compromising their father’s standards of excellence. Over the years, the company has become a family business where knowledge is passed down from generation to generation.
Since 2012, Les Canots Nor-West Canoes Inc. has been proudly managed by two of Augustin Gariépy’s grandsons, Carle and Dominique. This incredible story and the company’s renown continue, making for some happy canoeists.