Winnipeggers gather for Red Dress Day as advocates warn of growing crisis
For Bernadette Smith, Red Dress Day has always been difficult. Along with many others who’ve lost their loved ones, she spends the day remembering her sister who went missing in 2008.
“There’s still a lot of women that are going missing and being murdered. And we know that there’s a lot of men as well, Indigenous men going missing,” said Smith. “I think it’s important for Canadians … to know that no one’s immune to this.”
Red Dress Day is an annual event that is dedicated to honouring Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirited people. Red dresses are hung to symbolize the lives lost.
Carol McBride, head of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, said this is an ongoing emergency.
“I’m a mother. I’m a sister. I’m an aunt,” said McBride. “And I’m just imagining some of our families and our women are suffering right now.”
In a report last year, Statistics Canada reported that 63 per cent of Indigenous women experienced violence while nearly half experienced sexual assault.
Winnipeg has been called ground zero for many of these incidents.
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Here in the city, people gathering for a round dance at Portage Avenue and Main Street, and later marched down to the Forks.
Similarly, at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, a special display was set up consisting of hundreds of items from Indigenous survivors, families, and even artists. The display can be viewed for free until May 7.
The items on display include red dresses, quilts, and banners, and are part of a bundle from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“In order for this to change, it’s going to take societal change in how we treat one another, support one another, and make sure that those supports are there for folks that need (them),” said Smith.
Smith is a member of provincial parliament representing Point Douglas and is one of the founders of Drag the Red, a volunteer organization that searches in and around the Red River for missing and murdered Indigenous women.
A report that looked into those who were missing and murdered was released in 2019. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the findings painted a picture of a crisis, amounting to genocide.
Red dresses across the country mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit Peoples
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