Red dresses honour Canada's missing, murdered aboriginal women
Rallies countrywide marked the 10th anniversary of what is known as the Sisters in Spirit March, a national day of remembrance for the Canada’s missing and murdered aboriginal women.
The red dresses were featured across Canada at rallies, as well as displayed on front lawns, trees and fences on Sunday, to honour and represent indigenous women who are gone, but not forgotten.
Using red dresses was the brainchild of Winnipeg-based Metis artist Jaime Black, who created the REDress Project five years ago. Black has collected hundreds of donated red dresses that have since been displayed in public spaces across Canada.
Although Black’s installations have been shown in public before, this year the artist asked all Canadians to display a red dress as a sign of support for indigenous women.
Black views the colour red as sacred.
“One woman I spoke to, she's Dakota, and she said red is the only colour that the spirits can see,” Black told CTV News.
She acknowledges that the sight of empty, flowing red dresses is haunting.
“It’s almost like an empty garment of clothing kind of operates as a marker of those women who are no longer with us,” she said.
Bernadette Smith, whose sister Claudette Osborne vanished seven years ago, said red is a “very powerful” colour.
“When I look at it, I think of beauty,” Smith said. “But I also think of the blood that possibly, somebody is carrying on their hands.”
Osborne is among the 1,200 missing or murdered aboriginal girls and women in Canada.
“It’s tough because we don’t even know anything,” Smith said.
Beyond Smith’s front lawn, red dresses were also displayed at marches in Regina and Edmonton.
Several hang near the memorial for Tina Fontaine, the 15-year-old girl whose body was pulled from Winnipeg’s Red River in 2014. Her death was classified as a homicide and remains unsolved.
Although, the REDress Project is not a call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, many who attended the marches support such an investigation.
Says Black: “I’m skeptical that more government legislation or inquiry or whatever paperwork basically, is going to change things on the ground for indigenous women,” Black said.
But she does want Canadians to always remember the lost lives of all the women.
With a report by CTV’s Janet Dirks