Red Dress Day

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Centennial flame, Ottawa

Hon. Brian Francis: Honourable senators, I rise today to mark Red Dress Day, also known as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People, which is observed annually on May 5. Red Dress Day is one of several campaigns started by activists to call attention to the staggering number of Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people who are extremely vulnerable to adverse experiences such as abuse, violence and death in Canada. It was inspired by Métis artist Jamie Black’s REDress Project, an art exhibit that continues to see red dresses hung in public places as powerful visual representations of the loved ones who should be wearing them today, as well as of the tremendous pain and trauma survivors and their families and communities grapple with daily.

The day also calls on government, institutions and others to take tangible and immediate action, which is key, given the ongoing failure to fully implement the 231 Calls for Justice identified by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in 2019.

These legal imperatives must be fulfilled to protect and save the lives of Indigenous women and girls and gender-diverse people, who deserve to live in a country where they are safe, secure and supported, no matter where they are.

Colleagues, this Friday people of all backgrounds will take part in marches and other events to remember the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people and to stand in solidarity with survivors, families and communities. I will join a walk in Charlottetown, hosted by the Aboriginal Women’s Association of PEI, the Native Council of Prince Edward Island, the Lennox Island First Nation, the Abegweit First Nation and the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI.

I hope you will also find ways to participate in Red Dress Day, including by reflecting on what you can personally do to transform the strained and damaged relationship of Canada with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Together we can build a present and future where the power and place of Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people is restored.

Let’s stand for, with and by Indigenous leaders and grassroots activists, such as Senator Michèle Audette, who have brought awareness to this national tragedy and continue to demand urgent action and change.

Wela’lin. Thank you.

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