Saskatchewan leaders, community and businesses mark Red Dress Day

Click to play video: '‘Our women are sacred’: Red dresses hung in Halifax to call for justice and honour MMIWG2S' ‘Our women are sacred’: Red dresses hung in Halifax to call for justice and honour MMIWG2S
WATCH: On May 5, Red Dress Day, Mi’kmaq women and their allies hung red dresses from some of Nova Scotia’s largest government buildings to honour more than a thousand Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people who have been murdered, or gone missing in Canada. As Elizabeth McSheffrey reports, they say little has been done to answer the 231 calls for justice released by the National Inquiry into MMIWG2S nearly three years ago, and are calling for immediate systemic change – May 5, 2021

Several leaders and community members in Saskatchewan took part in a virtual ceremony for Red Dress Day to honour missing and murdered Indigenous woman, girls and two-spirited people.

The annual event is usually held in front of the Red Star Woman monument outside the Saskatoon Police station, but went virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ceremony included remarks from Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand, Saskatoon Police chief Troy Cooper and Mayor Charlie Clark.

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The day is marked across Canada with a red dress symbolizing missing and murdered Indigenous woman, girls and two-spirited people.

Wednesday’s ceremony also included the family of Megan Gallagher who has been missing for almost eight months.  She was last seen on Sept. 20, 2020, and police say her disappearance is now being investigated as a homicide.

The day of the ceremony, police released a recording of a call made on Megan’s cellphone. Investigators are asking the people who made the call to come forward so they can find out how they got Megan’s phone.

Read more: Calgary honours missing and murdered Indigenous people

Choking back tears, Brian Gallagher broke down the time his family last saw Megan to the weeks, days, and hours.

“It’s been a long time since we last shared a hug. We missed Thanksgiving, we missed Christmas (and) we missed her at Easter. We missed numerous birthday parties, lots of laughs amongst jokes. Her birthday is April 9, we had a birthday party without her,” Brian shared.

“Quite simply, this is our new reality,” Brian added.

“Megan is greatly missed. She is an amazing soul.”

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Brian acknowledged that Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday and many families will face the same reality his does with a missing loved one.

“When thinking about missing and murdered Indigenous woman and girls, there are far too many families suffering this incredible pain and loss. It is the families that are calling home the missing and murdered in their communities.”

“It is sisters, it’s siblings, it’s mothers, it’s daughters and it’s grandmothers that we long to see again. When they go missing, a piece of our soul goes with them. Nothing is ever the same again. We travel different routes in the hopes that somehow we’ll see them. “

Regina bookstore raising money, awareness for cause

One local bookstore in Regina is selling red pins to raise awareness to the issue. The proceeds of the $15 pins will go to Circle Project, also in Regina.

Circle Project is a community-based organization offering a number of programs including adult and youth programs, and a family violence program.

Aware House Books in Regina is selling red dress pins to raise awareness and money. Courtesy Aware House Books Facebook

“We actually work with offenders and it’s our top priority because we need to break the cycle of violence so that includes working with the offenders and the families in general,” executive director Ann Perry told Global News.

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Circle Project is currently located on 8th Avenue and will be moving to a new location on Elphinstone and 5th Avenue. The building was donated by Conexus Credit Union.

Beaded by Indigenous women in Guatemala, the red dress pins are available at Aware House Books.

Perry said the donations will support the creation of the Circle Project Community and Cultural Hub on Elphinstone which is in the middle of construction.

Perry added Circle Project staff was humbled and honoured to hear that Aware House Books was donating the proceeds to them.

Read more: National billboard campaign hopes to continue MMIWG conversation

“It’s so meaningful to us because it validates the importance of the work that we’re doing,” Perry said.

It’s important to have a day like Red Dress Day to “shine a bright light in areas where there are dark corners,” Perry explained.

She said this is an issue that affects the community.

“It occurs in our community as well. This is not just happening in Vancouver and Toronto and the big city centres. This is happening across the country. Indigenous woman in this country are six times more likely to be victims of violence than their non-Indigenous counterparts,” Perry said. “That’s a pretty startling statistic.”

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The issue hits close to home for Circle Project, as Perry explained that some former participants and students of the adult education programs are among the murdered and missing.

“We don’t compare that to what the families go through, but it’s still a really difficult thing to live through. It’s heartbreaking, it’s traumatic.”

— With files from Anna McMillan

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