May 5 is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People, sometimes referred to as Red Dress Day. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people across Canada.
According to the RCMP, more than 1000 Indigenous women and girls were killed or went missing between 1980 and 2012. However, this may underestimate the true number, with organizations like the Native Women’s Association stating that the number is closer to 4000 (Source: Canada releases plan on missing […], Ellsworth). Despite gaps in data, Statistics Canada estimates that Indigenous women are six times more likely to be killed than non-Indigenous women (Source: article Regina business joins forces [...], Sciarpelletti).This is a crisis and a critical issue in our country that we must acknowledge and fight.
Why a Red Dress?
The Red Dress is used as a visual symbol to represent the disproportionate and violent acts towards Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people and was inspired by the REDress Project by Jaime Black. Black’s installation art piece, started in 2010, is comprised of hundreds of red dresses being hung in public spaces in North America to serve as a visual reminder of the women who are missing or murdered. The artist shares that the instillation aims to “draw attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Aboriginal women and to evoke a presence through the marking of absence.” (Source: link to website JaimeBlack.com, Black).Black chose the colour red after a conversation with an Indigenous friend, who told her red is the only colour the spirits can see. "So (red) is really a calling back of the spirits of these women and allowing them a chance to be among us and have their voices heard through their family members and community". (Source: Red dresses seek to draw attention [..], Suen)
Red Dress Alert (2023)
On May 2, 2023, Winnipeg Centre MP Leah Gazan, presented a motion, calling on The House of Commons to declare the continued violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people national emergency and provide funding for a public alert system (Source: MPs call for national emergency declaration [...], Stefanovich). As a result, The House of Commons has unanimously voted to carry the motion (Source: House unanimously supports system to alert public[...], CTV News).
Referred to as a Red Dress Alert program by Gazan and other advocates, the system would theoretically function similar to the Amber Alert System and notify the public when an Indigenous woman, girl, or Two-Spirit person goes missing ( Source: Manitoba MP urges federal government to create 'Red Dress Alert'[...], Taylor). Gazan has said an alert system would be a step for the federal government to take to end the genocide of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people, "Eighty percent of children that are reported through Amber Alert, are found. We deserve that, we deserve that care" (Source: Implementation of Red Dress Alert[...], Sanders).
To learn more about the calls to actions that were presented and the Red Dress Alert:
The REDress project is just one of many movements, projects and actions that have been taken throughout the years to bring attention to this national crisis. The following list of links reflects just some of the work that has been done:
What can you do?
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is one of the many legacies of the Indian Residential schools highlighted in the Not Just Another Day Off exhibit previously in the Murray Library. The exhibit featured a red dress with an explanation of the REDress project by artist Jaime Black. Items included in the exhibit were: Finding Dawn, a documentary focusing on BC’s Highway of Tears, as well as multiple books that shed light on historic and ongoing violence against Indigenous women and girls. A listing of the educational materials used in the exhibit can be found on the exhibit's website (link to exhibit website) as a PDF file (link to exhibit pdf file). A resource guide is also available for individuals to learn more (link to resources guide).
Additional information sources:
- Link to Native Women’s Association of Canada
- Link to a Padlet created by Women’s Center of Calgary and links out to many reports and information sources.
- Link to IWG2S Coming Home, a report prepared for the city of Saskatoon as a response to the MMIWG2SLBTQQIA+ calls for justice
- Link to Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report from 2017, compiled by Statistics Canada.
- Link to Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik
- Link to Saskatoon's Indigenous Women & Girls and Two-Spirit People webpage
Support where and when you can
Support current movements to bring awareness to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. These are just a few:
Remember their names, their faces and their stories
The CBC has created a Case Explorer to track missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Please be aware that this page and Case Explorer includes images, names and stories of these individuals.
Safe Passage is a project developed by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) to help individuals learn more about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people in Canada.
Demand change and accountability
Since the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls closed in 2019, the Government of Canada has been tasked with creating a National Action Plan to address this crisis, yet very little work has been done. (Source: link to website Safe-Passage.ca, Native Women’s Association of Canada)
Please contact your city council, MLAs, MPs, and other political leaders to ask what they have done and what they will do, and to demand they take action now.
- Link to how to write to the Saskatoon city council
- Link to how to contact the RCMP in Saskatchewan
- Link to how to contact the Premier of Saskatchewan’s office
- Link to list of current Saskatchewan members of the legislative assembly (MLAs)
- Link to list of current Saskatchewan members of parliament (MPs)
- Link to contact the NDP National Leader
- Link to contact the Green Party National Leader
- Link to contact the National Conservative Party
- Link to contact the National Liberal Party
- Link to contact the Prime Minster