Red Dress Day
May 5th marks Red Dress Day, also known as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People. It is a day of remembrance and action, and a call to honour the lives of Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people who have been mercilessly stolen from their communities, families, and loved ones.
In bringing awareness to this day, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission pauses to acknowledge the many families affected by the loss of their daughters, sisters, mothers, aunties, grandmothers and two-spirit family members and friends.[AA1] We affirm our support to the L’nu peoples whose land we occupy and commit to all efforts to protect their rights and safety in Mi’kma’ki.
Red Dress Day is a time to raise awareness of the ongoing crisis of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people, and to act in response to the exhausted calls for redress, justice, and accountability for those who have been harmed or lost. This is not a new issue. This is a legacy of a time when Indigenous peoples were considered separate from our society, less than human, and disposable.
Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people in Canada are disproportionately impacted by violence, including physical and sexual assault, homicide, and human trafficking. According to a 2014 report by the RCMP, Indigenous women are four times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women in Canada. This violence is a symptom of larger systemic issues, including colonialism, racism, poverty, and the intergenerational trauma resulting from residential schools and other forms of state-sponsored violence against Indigenous peoples.
Honouring Red Dress Day is one way we can recognize and address these issues. By wearing red, hanging red dresses in public spaces, or participating in other actions to raise awareness, we show solidarity with all Indigenous peoples and signal a commitment to addressing this crisis. But it is important to remember that awareness and signals are not enough. Action is needed to address the root causes of this deplorable violence and support Indigenous communities in their efforts to heal, grow and thrive.
Action includes taking steps to redress the ongoing impacts of colonialism, such as ensuring access to clean water, adequate housing, and healthcare in Indigenous communities. It means supporting Indigenous-led efforts to address violence, such as the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and implementing the recommendations of that inquiry’s final report. For us at the Commission, it also means strengthening our relationships within the L’nu communities we serve, and ensuring our support always aligns with the needs of community.
As individuals, we can ask our elected officials to support changes required to protect Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people. We can learn about Indigenous history, culture, and perspectives, and support Indigenous-led initiatives in our communities. This may include attending community events, volunteering with Indigenous organizations, supporting Indigenous-owned businesses, and amplifying Indigenous` voices.
On Red Dress Day I call on all Nova Scotians to honour the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people and educate ourselves and each other about the ongoing crisis of violence against Indigenous peoples across Canada. It is not enough to simply wear a red dress or hang a banner. We must take action to address the root causes of this violence and to support Indigenous communities in their efforts to heal and reclaim their sovereignty. By doing so, we can work towards a future where all Indigenous peoples are able to live free from violence and oppression.
The preceding is a statement from Joseph Fraser, Director & CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.
- How Red Dresses Became a Symbol for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
- Video: The REDress Project, an art installation by artist Jaime Black
- MMIWG2S Their Voices Will Guide Us: Youth and Student Engagement Guide
- Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
- Report Card on Government Follow-up to Reclaiming Power and Place: Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
- MMIWG2S Calls for Justice
- MMIWG2S Gallery of Artistic Expressions
- The Red Dress (film via National Film Board of Canada)
- Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: Films and Documentaries
- Honour and Remember: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Woman and Girls
- Bringing a Human Rights Based Approach to the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry
- Safe Passage Map
- MMIWG2S Wellness Tools