Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are the subject of a new national billboard campaign making its way across Canada this week.
Artists Against Racism, a Canadian-based charity, commissioned the project, which will see 13 cities from coast to coast host artwork from prominent Indigenous artists.
“This issue is huge and requires a huge response,” said Lisa Cherry, executive director of Artists Against Racism.
“We just wanted to be right in people’s faces…and we wanted them not to be able to miss it so we decided to do the largest thing we could think of.”
The campaign follows the release of the final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls earlier this month.
Cherry said the group wanted to keep the dialogue going on the issue of the missing and murdered.
“We hope it creates more empathy and compassion in people so that they start to think about the issue,” said Cherry. “And then hopefully go even further and start to take action whether they are looking at Indigenous women differently or writing to their MPs.”
Billboards went up on Monday and will stay up for a week.
The campaign features artwork from Metis artist Christi Belcourt, Dakota-Sioux artist Maxine Noel, Anishinaabe artists Frank Polson and Jackie Traverse.
For Traverse the issue hits close to home.
“I’ve lost many friends, I’m an Indigenous woman, I have three daughters, I have one granddaughter,” said Traverse.
“This is really where my heart is.”
(Dakota-Sioux artist Maxine Noel’s piece Not Forgotten)
Traverse’s piece titled Tied Butterfly is on display in one of Winnipeg’s oldest francophone neighbourhoods.
“I’m pretty happy…to see if in this area where people can view the work and maybe think about it,” said Traverse.
“What does it mean? Create some dialogue and raise some awareness of the issue.”
Billboards can be seen at the following locations:
HALIFAX: 132 Main St. east of Gordon Ave.
MONCTON: Paul St. north of Kennedy
MONTREAL: Boul Rene Levesque and Delorimier
OTTAWA: Regional Road 174 Orleans just west of Trim Road
TORONTO: Gardiner Expressway east of Islington Ave.
THUNDER BAY: Memorial Ave. north of Harbour Expressway
WINNIPEG: St. Mary’s Rd. north of Vivian Ave.
SASKATOON: Idylwyld Dr.N.
REGINA: Victoria Ave. west of Park St.
EDMONTON 50 St.south of Sherwood Park Freeway
VANCOUVER: Scott Rd. south of Larson Rd.
KAMLOOPS: Highway 5 south of Halston Ave.
PRINCE GEORGE: TBD
Cherry said it was important to include larger cities as well as places that have a high number of missing and murdered such as Kamloops and Prince George.
While the campaign aims to raise awareness and keep the conversation going, it also aims to provide support for those at the heart of it.
“We’re trying to make [women] feel better and realize there’s people behind them,” said Cherry.