Many communities across the country will be holding events today for the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), also called Red Dress Day.
As part of the campaign, red dresses are hung to symbolize the many Indigenous women victimized by violence who are murdered and missing.
In Greater Sudbury, a permanent sculpture will be unveiled at the N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre.
Executive Director Marie Meawasige said having the artwork on a busy downtown street will help spark conversation and awareness about murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.
“I’m sure a lot of people don’t know about this, so I’m sure we’ll get more questions on it from the community,” she said.
The piece was created by M’Chigeeng First Nation artist Kathryn Corbiere. It was commissioned by the N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre and the Greater Sudbury Police Services, and was paid for through a grant from the federal government.
“It’s just an awareness that Indigenous women are among a lot of women that are murdered and missing in Canada,” Meawasige said.
The Timmins Native Friendship Centre will hold a sacred fire ceremony to mark Red Dress Day.
Healing and wellness coordinator, Jaylin Renaud said there will also be canvas available for participants to put red hand prints on. Those will then be hung throughout the friendship centre as artwork.
“So that it continues to bring that conversation and dialogue with everyone that comes in the building,” she said.
This will be the first in-person Red Dress Day for the Timmins Friendship Centre, because of restrictions over the past two years during the pandemic.
Renaud said she hopes the event brings awareness, but that conversations continue well after May 5.
She adds she particularly wants people to remember the Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.
“I always keep in the back of my mind hope and try to continue to spread that message and provide the community with support, whatever that may look like at a local level.”
The REDress Project began more than a decade ago as an art installation by Métis artist Jaime Black. It featured a series of red dresses representing missing women who were victims of violence. Red Dress Day is now held annually to commemorate murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.
Laurentian University began its own version of Red Dress Day in 2016. Red dresses are hung along the roads within the post secondary school’s campus.
“It opens up the conversation to talk about the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and to just open the conversation and create that awareness that this is happening, this has happened and it continues to happen,” said Susan Manitowabi, interim associate vice president Academic and Indigenous Programs.
She said the campaign is personal for her because of the women she knew who’ve gone missing or are believed to have been murdered.
“For a lot of people we’ve got those close associations with somebody, that makes it really important because we’re very connected to our families and communities and when something happens in our community we feel it.”
Manitowabi said Laurentian holds its Red Dress Day event in February for several reasons. February is heart month and is associated with the colour red. Plus students can participate in the campaign because they are still on campus.
But to mark the May 5 Red Dress Day, Laurentian is launching a collaboration with Cambrian College and Collège Boréal. The three schools will be seeking donations of red dresses. Each school will have its own drop off points.
“These red dresses will be used on each of their individual campuses when they do their own celebration for the Red Dress campaign,” Manitowabi said.
“The more that we can bring awareness to [missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls] the better we’re able to address this and hopefully prevent this from happening again.”