Halifax marks Red Dress Day with ceremony honouring MMIWG2S, calls for change

Click to play video: 'N.S. marks Red Dress Day in honour of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls'
N.S. marks Red Dress Day in honour of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls
WATCH: May 5 marks the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, also known as Red Dress Day. Ceremonies were held across the country, including in Halifax where people gathered to honour lost loved ones and push for change. Megan King has more – May 5, 2023

A crowd gathered at Halifax’s Grand Parade on Friday to observe Red Dress Day — a day of remembrance for Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.

“The red dress…is so important because we want people to remember that these women mean something to us,” Denise John told Global News.

John, a victim support navigator with the Mi’Kmaw Native Friendship Centre, experienced the loss of a loved one first hand in 2019 — the death of Chantel John in southern Newfoundland.

“In my own community, Chantel got murdered. And in the small community that I’m from, we would never see that,” said John.

“When I heard that she got murdered, and it was a horrific act of violence, it changed us forever.”

Story continues below advertisement

John says there are as many as 4,000 Indigenous women that have gone missing or have been murdered across Canada, including ongoing cases across the country.

“We have these ladies, these sisters, in Winnipeg that were found in a landfill. And the families are the ones out there on the ground.”

The latest health and medical news emailed to you every Sunday.

Denise Pictou-Maloney is another advocate who knows what it’s like to lose someone — her mother was murdered 47 years ago in South Dakota.

Denise Pictou-Maloney is remembering her mother on Red Dress Day, who was murdered 47 years ago. She now fights for accountability and change for Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. Megan King / Global News

“It doesn’t matter how many shelters we put up, it doesn’t matter how many alert systems we put out there. If we’re not addressing the violence in our own back yards and the reason why our women are leaving our communities and becoming high risk, then we’re always going to continue to go missing and murdered,” Pictou-Maloney said.

Story continues below advertisement

In June of 2021, the federal government launched its national action plan to end violence against Indigenous women and girls which contained 231 calls for justice.

“It seems to be quite organizationally transactional, politically based and, unfortunately, economically challenged,” Pictou-Maloney says. “So that, unfortunately, impacts our women’s lives because we continue to go missing and murdered, as long as we have those parameters in place.”

John continues to worry for her loved ones as the issue persists.

“I’m an auntie. I wouldn’t want something like this happening to my niece or anyone that I love,” John says. “I want to make sure these women are never ever forgotten and that they are honoured.”

That’s why wearing the symbolic and sacred colour red while calling for change works to honour their loved ones.

“Someone has to, you know, take the first step and hold someone accountable,” Pictou-Maloney says. “We don’t have an accountability mechanism and we’re going to continue this cycle.”

–With files from Ella MacDonald

Click to play video: 'Red dress day 2023: Liberal MP calls for implementation of alert system ahead of MMIWG2S'
Red dress day 2023: Liberal MP calls for implementation of alert system ahead of MMIWG2S

Sponsored content