All members of the University of Saskatchewan (USask) community are invited to gather on Friday, May 5 to show their support for ending violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.
Red Dress Day—also known as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People—is observed annually on May 5. The day in Canada was inspired by Métis artist Jaime Black’s REDress Project, an art installation that featured empty red dresses in various environments to represent missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Dr. Angela Jaime (PhD), USask’s interim vice-provost of Indigenous engagement, said the event on May 5 will provide an opportunity for the campus community to learn more about the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people (Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, and all other sexual orientations and genders).
“It is a time to educate ourselves and to educate others, and to acknowledge the struggle of families who have lost women and Two-Spirited in their communities,” Jaime said.
“It’s about elevating this to the prominence of conversation that it deserves—and for us to do something about it.”
The final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls acknowledges “that persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses are the root cause behind Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.”
The report includes the voices of more than 2,380 family members, survivors of violence, experts, and Knowledge Keepers, and delivers 231 Calls for Justice directed at governments, institutions, and all Canadians. Some of the Calls for Justice are featured on outdoor banners placed around The Bowl on the main USask campus.
Amnesty International and the Native Women’s Association of Canada have acknowledged the disproportionate rates of violence against Indigenous women when compared to other women in Canada. Amnesty International’s research has “raised concerns that deaths of Indigenous women and girls are not always fully and properly investigated and that as a result some murders of Indigenous women and girls may have been wrongly classified as accidental deaths.”
USask’s Red Dress Day activities, hosted by the Office of the Vice-Provost Indigenous Engagement, will be held at the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre. The event will include a presentation from The Honourable Lua Gibb (LLB’05), a judge of the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan. She is a USask graduate and a member of the Onion Lake Cree Nation.
Darlene Okemaysim-Sicotte, with the group Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik (Women Walking Together), will speak at the event at the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre. Iskwewuk E-wichiwitochik is a coalition that provides moral support to the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls by creating opportunities for them to tell their stories.
Dakota Bear and Casey Desjarlais, the owners of Decolonial Clothing, will also speak during USask’s Red Dress Day activities. Bear is a hip-hop artist who will also perform at the event.
“This gathering is an opportunity for the campus community to come together on Red Dress Day, and to listen, learn, and reflect on the truths about violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people in our communities,” said Dr. Airini (PhD), USask’s provost and vice-president academic.
Jaime said faculty, staff, and students can make a difference by educating themselves about the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, reading the Calls for Justice, and having crucial conversations about systemic change. She said it is important that Canadians do not look away from this issue, but rather confront it every day.
“We have to be vigilant to ensure we are caring for communities impacted by this movement, even if those impacted are not our family or extended family,” she said. “We have to care for each other.”
USask’s Red Dress Day event will be held from 11 am – 1:30 pm at the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre on Friday, May 5. Lunch will be provided. Register to attend.