Red dresses hang from Gatineau lamp posts for #mmiw

Annette Francis
APTN National News
GATINEAU – As hundreds of Sisters in Spirit vigils across the country have come to an end, 40 red dresses remain hanging from lamp posts in Gatineau Quebec.

Each life-less dress hangs on a lamp-post by a hanger, a type-written note attached, which reads, “In Memory of Thousands of Missing, Murdered and Abused Women.”   

It’s quite an eerie visual on display, says the project coordinator Lillian Beaudoin.

They’ve been carefully hung there, left to blow in the wind for the past week. 

Each donated dress represents someone’s missing or murdered mother, daughter, granddaughter or grandmother and according to Beaudoin, although there’s only 40 dresses the project is doing what was intended, to get people talking about the need for an inquiry into missing or murdered Indigenous women.

Beaudoin is a life-long resident of the city of Gatineau, located across the river from Ottawa, but she says home is Kitigan Zibi First Nation, the same reserve where two teenaged girls went missing six years ago and have never been heard from since.

Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander are two of over 1,200 missing or murdered Indigenous women across Canada since 1980.

Beaudoin says something has to be done.

“Its more than a crisis, it’s unacceptable, it’s crazy,” she says. “Sometimes I’m embarrassed to be Canadian because we let this go on for so long.” 

That’s why Beaudoin brought the Red Dress project to her hometown. 

“I believe education is key and knowledge is power and while we were doing this project, and putting up the red dresses, people were looking at them and asking questions, it’s starting a dialogue and that’s really what this is all about,” she says.

Gatineau resident Clarisa Piercey says people are becoming more aware of the issue.  She also believes something has to be done, the government needs to call an inquiry because it’s a shame that in this day and age, nothing’s being done.

Beaudoin borrowed the idea from Jaime Black, a Metis artist from Winnipeg who began the project four years ago, to honour and represent the women and their families.

The dresses will be removed Monday, but Beaudoin says plans are underway for another community to put them on display. 

She says the exhibit will be back in Gatineau next year, and will continue every year to keep the conversation going, to get people to stand up and speak out for an inquiry.

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