‘Our people still don’t matter’: Calgary MMIW advocates denounce removal of red dresses by road maintenance company 


It took countless hours to set up and by Thursday, on National Red Dress Day, the city of Calgary was spotted with red.

But it was almost for not.

The night before, a highway maintenance company called Carmacks had taken some of the red dresses down.

Bear Clan Patrol Calgary representative Yvonne Henderson said Carmacks employees clashed with organizers.

“It shows that our people still don’t matter. It shows that the memory of our men and women don’t matter,” Henderson told media at a Red Dress Day event, adding the dresses had been thrown out by Carmacks.

She said workers called the memorials illegal, despite signs from the city that read “Please respect all memorials on site.”

“They don’t see the memory that’s attached to these, they don’t see the humanity behind them, they don’t see the spirit, the power and the place that goes with every shirt, with every dress, with every prayer ribbon,” says Henderson.

Carmacks area manager, Phillip Mendiev attended the event on Thursday. He says he offered an in-person apology to families of missing and murdered Indigenous Peoples.

He tells media the Carmacks crews were operating “within their contract” and says an investigation has been launched.

“We do need to educate our coworkers and employees more on this topic,” Mendiev said. “And I believe the education on this topic as well as the line between the contract and items such as this.”

APTN News reached out to the office of the Minister of Transportation, who contracted Carmacks.

Press Secretary, Rob Williams replied stating, “In this time of reconciliation, it is completely unacceptable and disappointing. Alberta’s government expects that it will never happen again.”

Henderson said more awareness needs to be raised about what the red dresses stand for.

“We need non-Indigenous people to step forward. We need them to have actions that match their false and empty words,” she said.

“It makes me want to hang up red everywhere. It makes me want to have red dresses every day of the year. It makes me want to put up more.”

Video Journalist / Calgary

Tamara is Métis from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She received a diploma in interactive media arts at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon and has worked as a videographer for CBC in Winnipeg and Iqaluit. Tamara was hired by APTN in 2016 as a camera/editor and is now a video journalist in our Calgary bureau.