Red Dresses hang on the side of roadways across Vancouver Island, serving as a grim reminder of the disproportionate number of Indigenous women who have gone missing or been murdered over the years.
May 5 is Red Dress Day across the country, a national day of awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), and according to a recent Statistics Canada report conducted over a 14-year period, the rate of homicide for Indigenous women was six times higher than for non-Indigenous women (4.82 per 100,000 versus 0.82 per 100,000) across Canada — most notably in the territories and the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
“Red Dress Day was put in place for us to remember all those women who have gone missing or were murdered,” said Judith Sayers, President of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC). “It’s also to bring awareness to the general public about this issue and that there are many unresolved issues out there.
Sayers says the dress colour reflects the loss of the person, signifying a loss of blood and it is a vibrant colour in Indigenous culture. She also says Nuu-chah-nulth has had 53 murders or suspicious deaths of women over the years including Lisa Marie Young and Margaret Klaver.
“There’s many, and it’s amazing how many people we do know that lost their sisters,” said Sayers.
The Statistics Canada report also showed that according to the Homicide Survey, approximately nine of ten (89 per cent) homicides of Indigenous females reported between 1980 and 2014 were solved by police.
The survey also says RCMP had an 81 per cent resolution rate of homicide cases involving Indigenous females investigated in 2013 to 2014.
Sayers says during this time she finds herself thinking of Chantel Moore and the investigation into her death.
“It’s almost been a year since she was shot and we still don’t know if there are going to be any charges against the police,” said Sayers. “We haven’t seen the investigative report, we don’t know happened that night.”
She says the current situation is frustrating for them, as they don’t know what happened to someone they know.
Sayers says she hopes the red dresses being hung on the highway will bring an awareness to the public about the issue.