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Indigenous groups in B.C. renew calls for justice for MMIWG on annual Red Dress Day

Click to play video: 'Ceremonies mark Red Dress Day'
Ceremonies mark Red Dress Day
WATCH: Ceremonies across the country marking Red Dress Day to raise awareness for the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people. An event will mark the day in east Vancouver Sunday evening and as Grace Ke reports, despite pressure year after year, problems remain. – May 5, 2024

Indigenous groups, leaders and nations are gathering Sunday across the province demanding for justice and accountability on annual Red Dress Day.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the First Nations Leadership Council both said Sunday marks a day of solidarity with victims, survivors and families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and members of the LGBTQ community.

Indigenous women account for 16 percent of all femicide victims and 11 percent of all missing women in Canada.

Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ peoples are also six times more likely to be murdered than their non-Indigenous counterparts, the First Nations Leadership Council said.

“It is shameful that the violence and fatalities of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ peoples continue unabated in Canada and represent a tragic ongoing crisis that highlights the systemic injustices and vulnerabilities of First Nations communities,” said BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee said.

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“Canada must address the related issues and establish a clear timeline for implementing the 231 Calls for Justice. In addition, the Indigenous and Human Rights oversight body is necessary in response to this emergency. We look forward to contributing to the next steps for putting the Indigenous Rights Ombudspersons into place.”

Red Dress Day was inspired by Métis artist Jamie Black’s installation project, which had red dresses hung in public spaces throughout Canada and the United States as visual reminders of the number of Indigenous women who have been killed or are missing.

There are several events and walks around the province, including one in Pitt Meadows and Penticton.

In Penticton, a Red Dress Day walk and a film screening of ‘Adaawk’, a documentary on the lives of families affected by the events along the Highway of Tears is being held.

In Pitt Meadows, a walk and ceremony is being held as well.

“While disproportionate rates of violence continue to affect Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit+ people with no signs of slowing, families, loved ones, First Nations and advocates remain steadfast in their efforts to end the crisis,” said Melissa Moses, Union of BC Indian Chiefs women’s representative.

Click to play video: 'Frustrations over lack of landfill search timeline'
Frustrations over lack of landfill search timeline

In Kamloops, models in uniquely designed red dresses are taking to the runway, this weekend.

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“The stories that come out through the fashion are deeply moving,” says Kim Coltman, organizer of the two-day Revolutions Red Dress Fashion Festival in Kamloops.

The 63-year-old former model says the eight designers taking part in the festival have created items to honour Red Dress Day, the national day of awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls observed annually on May 5.

“For the majority of them, they have been touched by this issue personally,” Coltman says.

Coltman’s mother was a residential school survivor from Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.

She also describes herself as survivor. Her childhood was marred by stays in foster care. She was abducted and assaulted as a teen. She says she knows all too well the world that Indigenous women can live in.

It was fashion that empowered Coltman. She signed with a modelling agency in 1972 and later created her own.

But the issue of violence aimed at Indigenous women and girls remained close to her heart.

When she saw the red dress movement, Coltman says she was inspired, and in 2015 she founded Fashion Speaks International.

Click to play video: 'Canada, Manitoba to develop Red Dress Alert for missing Indigenous women and girls'
Canada, Manitoba to develop Red Dress Alert for missing Indigenous women and girls

— with files from Canadian Press

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