Photo: Dev Banfield
CANADA — May 5 is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People, also known as Red Dress Day.
Nationwide, people are hanging red dresses from windows and trees to mark the occasion, symbolizing the thousands of Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people who have been affected by this crisis.
“Red dresses are used to call the spirits of missing and murdered women and girls back to their loved ones. Let’s think of our stolen sisters and their families. Let’s take this opportunity to push for meaningful implementation of the Calls for Justice of the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG),” Carol McBride, president of Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), said in a statement on Thursday.
The NWAC is a Canada-wide organization that represents the voices of Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people in Canada. The organization was founded with the goal of enhancing and promoting the social, economic, cultural, and political well-being of Indigenous women. The organization calls May 5 “a day of solidarity, a call for justice, [and] a flame of hope for those who still stand,” for all families who have lost loved ones to the crisis. A release from the organization says that today it is demanding “action that matches the gravity of this ongoing genocide.”
How the GTA is Honouring Red Dress Day
Friday morning in Toronto, people rallied to raise awareness of the crisis. Between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) held a rally outside of Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino’s Office, located at 511 Lawerence Avenue West. According to the OFL website, the rally was organized to join “MP Leah Gazan’s call to the federal government to set up a ‘Red Dress Alert’ to notify the public when an Indigenous woman, girl, or Two-Spirit person goes missing.”
Meanwhile in Scarborough, a walk is planned for this evening. A candlelight rally kicks off at 5:30 p.m., and stretches three kilometres, beginning and ending at The Hub Mid-Scarborough, located at 2660 Eglinton Ave. East.
In Mississauga, libraries and museums are working together to present The REDress Project to commemorate Red Dress Day. Red dresses will be on display from today through Thursday, June 15, at all libraries and museums, the Great Hall at City Hall and Heritage Mississauga.
Red Dress Day was inspired by Métis artist Jaime Black’s REDress Project installation, first displayed in 2010. Black hung empty red dresses to symbolize missing and murdered women for the first time, and the garments have been symbolic of the crisis ever since.
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People
Sixty-three per cent of Indigenous women have experienced physical or sexual assault in their lifetime, according to data from StatCan’s Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces.
Meanwhile, the government agency found that between 2015 to 2020, the average homicide rate involving Indigenous victims was six times higher compared tonon-Indigenous victims. Data shows that the rate of Indigenous people who were victims of homicide was particularly high in the Prairie provinces and in the territories compared to the rest of Canada.
In its Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview, published in 2014, the RCMP reported that 1,017 Indigenous women and girls were victims of police-reported homicides between 1980 and 2012, while 164 Indigenous women and girls were considered missing at the time. However, many activists believe the collective number of MMIWG to be much higher.