Red dresses and pictures of family members line the fence in front of Parliament Hill to honour the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people.
Bridget Tolley, founder of the grassroots group, Families of Sisters in Spirit, organized the Red Dress event in Ottawa. She’s been advocating for missing and murdered Indigenous women for over 20 years after her mother was killed by Quebec police in 2006.
“I’m trying to bring awareness to our missing and murdered but I want to see truth, I want to see accountability, we need action,” says Tolley.
On Tuesday, the House of Commons unanimously backed a motion declaring missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit peoples a Canada-wide emergency. The motion also called for funding for immediate investments into a red dress emergency alert system to notify the public when an Indigenous woman, girl, or Two-Spirit person is missing.
The motion, tabled by Leah Gazan, the NDP critic for women and gender equality came just a few days before Red Dress Day.
But for Gazan, actions are urgently needed to address this emergency.
“It’s important to point out that the National Inquiry came out almost four years ago. The government then announced $724.1 billion in 2020. It’s now 2023. They’ve only spent 5% of that funding. “The government needs to immediately implement the red dress alert,” says Gazan.
Here’s a round dance that took place in Winnipeg:
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its final report in 2019 and found that Indigenous women are 12 times more likely to go missing or murdered than any other group in Canada. Gazan has met with Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair to discuss how to urgently implement the red dress alert system.
“The government needs to immediately implement the red dress alert. I have offered to assist minister Blair and set up a meeting with key people around the country that can provide direction on what that will look like.”
In a statement from the office of the Minister of Emergency Preparedness, Blair says he’s committed to meeting with families of victims, survivors and advocates in Winnipeg at the earliest opportunity.
“While public alerting is a matter of shared jurisdiction, and the conditions for most alerts are set by provinces and territories, we believe that the federal government has a role to play. Budget 2023 includes a commitment to provide $2.5 million to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada over five years to facilitate and coordinate work on advancing the National Action Plan on Missing and Murdered Indigenous.”
Minister of Crown Indigenous-Relations, Marc Miller is due to make an announcement Monday on Indigenous shelters and transitional housing.
Here’s what took place in Saskatoon today: