A National Emergency

The ongoing deaths and disappearances of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people were declared a Canada-wide emergency by the House of Commons this week. 

Jaime Black, The REDress Project, installation still, Ace Art Inc., 2011. Photo by Suzanne Morisette.

Red Dress Day

Today is Red Dress Day, the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People. It is observed annually on May 5.

The day is marked by people hanging red dresses from trees, windows, fences and balconies. Dangling limply on hangers without women to wear them, the dresses are visual reminders of the thousands of missing Indigenous people in Canada.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in its 2019 report, said the crisis constitutes a genocide of Indigenous people.

“Indigenous women are 12 times more likely to be murdered or go missing than other women in Canada, and 16 times more likely to be killed or disappear than white women,” according to a Globe story that referred to the public inquiry.

The report cited research from Statistics Canada showing Indigenous women and girls accounted for almost a quarter of female homicide victims between 2001 and 2015: though they represent only 5 per cent of women in Canada.

The first Red Dress Day was observed in 2010, after artist Jaime Black launched her continuing REDress art installation. Black collects and hangs red dresses in public spaces to bring awareness to the crisis, and the dresses have come to symbolize the issue.

The Moose Hide Campaign

The Moose Hide Campaign takes place on May 11. It began as a British Columbian-born, Indigenous-led grassroots movement to engage men and boys in ending violence towards women and children. It has since grown into a nationwide movement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians from local communities, First Nations, governments, schools, colleges/universities, police forces and many other organizations – all committed to taking action to end this violence.

Since the Campaign began over 10 years ago along the Highway of Tears, thousands of communities and organizations across Canada have held Moose Hide Campaign events and joined the annual Moose Hide Campaign Day ceremony and fast. People of all ages, genders and backgrounds are invited to take part in Moose Hide Campaign activities.

The campaign is grounded in Indigenous ceremony and traditional ways of learning and healing. A cornerstone of the Moose Hide Campaign is the moose hide pin. Wearing the pin signifies your commitment to honour, respect, and protect the women and children in your life and speak out against gender-based and domestic violence.

What can you do?

Stand in solidarity with Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people and show the government that you demand justice for them and their families:

  • Read the 231 Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2019).
  • Take a picture wearing a red dress pin and a moose hide pin and post on social media “ I am wearing this pin in support of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People in Canada. They and their families deserve safety and justice. #MMIWG @JustinTrudeau”
  • Attend an event in your local community.
  • Write to your Member of Parliament and Prime Minister Trudeau demanding measurable and accountable action be taken, as outlined in the 2019 report.

Community Resources

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) Safe Passage program, a database that documents and tracks MMIWG2S cases and the systemic violence that is causing the crisis by collecting and publishing stories by survivors and families. The Indigenous-led, community-driven, trauma-informed, and survivor-centred initiative offers safety resources, educational materials and research tools. It also identifies “safe places for people to go,” as well as “places that are not so safe,” said Carol McBride, president of NWAC.

There is a national, toll-free 24/7 crisis call line providing support for anyone who requires emotional assistance related to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The number is 1-844-413-6649