The community is invited to gather for a Red Dress Day Candlelight Vigil this Thursday, May 5 starting at 8 p.m. to remember the lives and struggles of Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people (MMIWG2S), and men who have been murdered or are missing.
The vigil is being held at the St. Andrew's United Church, 128 1st St. E. and begins with a short walk from the "Chicken Lady" in the heart of the Historic Downtown.
It's a day set aside to raise awareness and education, but also to stand up and demand action to end the violence.
"We'll have a whole agenda," says Gloria Snow, one of the organizers, "And then family members are free to come up and talk, to have their picture and say the name of their loved one. It's open to anyone who wishes to come."
Gloria is one of many who have been personally touched. There remain many unanswered questions about the death of her aunt Evelyn Snow, who was found deceased by the railway tracks in Cochrane on March 20, 1977.
"Because of COVID, there's been kind of a lapse in things, so I want to keep energizing people, to know that we're still here, that we're still resilient, and still speaking our family members' names, and being vigilant about that."
It has been nearly three years since the final report of a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls called for transformative change to eradicate violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA . Nearly 2,400 people participated in the truth gathering, and 1,484 family members and survivors provided testimony.
Gloria was one of them.
It revealed that persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses are the root cause behind Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.
It made 231 calls for justice, outline transformative actions in the areas of health, security, justice, and culture including:
- Establishing a National Indigenous and Human Rights Ombudsperson and a National Indigenous and Human Rights Tribunal;
- Developing and implementing a National Action Plan to ensure equitable access to employment, housing, education, safety, and health care;
- Providing long-term funding for education programs and awareness campaigns related to violence prevention and combatting lateral violence; and
- Prohibiting the apprehension of children based on poverty and cultural bias.
The RCMP report "Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview" found that more than 1,000 Indigenous women were murdered over 30 years. From 2001 to 2015, the homicide rate for Indigenous women in Canada was almost six times as high as the homicide rate for other women.
Last year, a Red Dress Day drive-thru was established at the United Church, where people could read articles posted at several stations or scan their QR codes. Each was marked with a red dress.
In March, Krista Fox, Lindsey Bishop, and Diane Morin were in Stoney Nakoda and Cochrane as part of their Kilometres for MMIW walk across the nation. They will be in Winnipeg for Red Dress Day.
Mayor Jeff Genung says he plans to be in attendance at the Candlelight Vigil to listen, learn, and provide support where possible.