Jennifer Touchie prepares to re-hang red dresses on May 1 after vandals removed the dresses she had originally hung along Highway 4 days before. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Jennifer Touchie prepares to re-hang red dresses on May 1 after vandals removed the dresses she had originally hung along Highway 4 days before. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Red Dress Day honours Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women, men and children

As vandals target displays, May 5 marks Red Dress Day across the Island and the country

Tomorrow is the day the message behind all those red dresses comes into sharpest focus.

May 5 is Red Dress Day and the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).

In the 14-year period from 2001 to 2015, Statistics Canada reported the homicide rate for Indigenous women was nearly six times higher than that for non-Indigenous women. According to the West Vancouver Island-based Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC), there are 53 Nuu-chah-nulth females whom have been murdered or a suspicious death. The two missing Nuu-chah-nulth females are Lisa Marie Young and Margaret Klaver. Both these cases are unsolved.

“We have had many losses in the Nuu-chah-nulth. Be it missing, murdered, no justice, not enough evidence to charge people who have murdered or hurt our people. Our families hang these dresses and shirts to honour the people we have lost,” said Jennifer Touchie, a member of the Ucluelet First Nation, one of 14 bands within the 10,000-person Nuu-chah-nulth.

Over the weekend, Touchie hung, for the second time, three red dresses and one blue shirt to honour her brother James Williams who died from blunt head trauma last summer. Much to her disbelief and heartache, vandals removed the red dresses she had originally hung the week before.

“I could not believe that someone would do that. I felt heartbroken. I really felt upset and a lot of anger. It takes a lot of strength within to hang these dresses up. When people take them down that really hurts us. It hurts our soul, it breaks our heart,” she said.

It was at least the third such recent incident on Vancouver Island recently.

RELATED: B.C. woman won’t let vandals who tore down her red dresses win

RELATED: Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

President of the NTC Judith Sayers said tearing down the red dresses are acts of racism.

“The hanging of red dresses was to bring more awareness of MMIWG, the large number of them and the lack of finding them or resolving the murders. This is a reality for Indigenous people and those that will not accept these truths, have no understanding of the situation, nor do they want to understand and preventing more MMIWG from going missing or preventing the violent acts,” said Sayers.

Anita and Tyson Touchie helped re-hang the dresses on Ucluelet First Nations treaty lands just before the Tofino-Ucluelet Highway 4 junction. Anita says the red dresses and blue shirts bring awareness to the history of trauma that generations of Indigenous people have faced since contact and colonization.

“We are still recovering from that,” said Anita. “Missing and murdered Indigenous women, men and children. Our children who are in foster care system. Our people who have addictions… You know the root connection to all of it is the trauma and the history of trauma connected to cultural oppression and residential school. It’s all connected. In our language we say hišukʔiš c̕awaak everything is one and everything is connected. When we bring awareness to this is about wanting people to know there is something wrong and it’s not okay,” she said.

Ucluelet’s new detachment commander Sergeant Kevin Smith said they are investigating the removal of the red dresses. He said without knowing what the motivation was, they cannot officially say the incident was a hate crime.

“At this point, we are just treating it as a theft. I don’t know the motivation behind it and therefore we are just investigating it and see where it leads. I don’t know if it was taken because someone needed clothes and didn’t realize. I think we need to educate people on why the dresses are there and the importance of it and the cultural significance of it,” said Sgt. Smith.

Touchie hopes the investigation is strong.

“Sometimes it feels like the police don’t care enough. We are all the same and we shouldn’t be treated differently. We should be treated with respect, love and kindness,” she said.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ: RCMP needs structural changes to address racism: MMIWG commissioner

READ: Quebec’s BEI completes investigation into Chantel Moore’s fatal shooting by police officer

READ: First Nation demands transparency in Tofino RCMP shooting investigation

missing First NationsMMIWGunsolved crimes

Just Posted

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of two shot by police in critical condition says Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

Condemned building of the Twin Gables Motel in Crofton is not safe and yet a teen has been climbing around on the roof while others were ripping the siding off the building. (Photo submitted)
Destructive behaviour by teens wreaking havoc on Crofton

Residents becoming fed up with the constant vandalism and fires

A fire destroyed a commercial building on Idlemore Road early Tuesday. The fire is under investigation. (Kenn Mount photo)
Early morning fire destroys new Sooke distillery

Firefighters still investigating cause of Island Shiners Distillery blaze early Tuesday

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham promotes the government’s BuyBC food program in 2019. (B.C. government)
Money running out for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in B.C. schools

‘Looking at ways to support this type of program,’ minister says

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Experts now predict 33.6% rise in B.C. home sales for 2021

BCREA economists also predict home prices to increase by 14.3%

A boat caught on fire this morning (May 11) in Port Hardy. (Adam Harding/Port Hardy Fire Rescue Facebook photo)
Fishing boat catches fire in Port Hardy, owner’s quick thinking puts out flames

The incident is a good reminder to always have a working fire extinguisher onboard your boat

Most Read