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Durham College launches Red Dress campaign to honour missing, murdered Indigenous women

Durham College launches Red Dress campaign
Durham College is spending the week honouring Indigenous women who have been murdered or are missing. Brittany Rosen has more.

Everywhere you look on campus at Durham College this week, you’ll see red dresses.

Inspired by Metis artist Jaime Black, the dresses serve as a visual reminder of the staggering number of Indigenous women and girls who are missing or murdered.

“When you see the installation, you recognize how large the problem actually is,” said Julie Pigeon, an Indigenous coach with the First People’s Indigenous Centre.

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Pigeon has been working at the centre for nearly a decade. Prior to that, she says she worked closely with the Indigenous community.

“I worked at a shelter for Indigenous women and children in Toronto for 15 years, so I am very aware of the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women,” she said.

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“It has always been something that has been very close to my heart.”

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According to Statistics Canada, while Indigenous women make up four per cent of all women in Canada, they represent 24 per cent of female murder victims.

With the Red Dress campaign, the college is hoping to raise awareness of the issue.

The campaign aims to spark conversation and immerse participants in workshops like a traditional beading class, which took place Wednesday.

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As an Indigenous student at the college, Laurel Blue is constantly striving to learn more about her culture.

“Because I’ve been kind of cut off from the culture, [I] didn’t really experience it all the time growing up,” she said.

“Coming to learn more about the issues and what’s going on in the community is really helpful.”

It’s not just helpful for the Indigenous community, but for those with a different perspective like Daniel Kissoon, a security and investigation student who is hoping to be a police officer in the near future.

“I think it’s very important to build rapport with different cultures. It’s important to be aware of other people’s sensitivities and how they view certain things,” Kissoon said.

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