Missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people (MMIWG2S+) are being remembered by the Brock University and Niagara College communities during a weeklong display of red dresses and through several virtual events. The initiative started Monday, Feb. 8 and goes to Sunday, Feb. 14.
The REDress Project, which involves the hanging of red dresses in public spaces, began as an art installation by Métis artist Jamie Black first displayed at the University of Winnipeg in 2011 and has since been replicated in communities across Canada. The empty red dresses are meant to signify the loss of thousands of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit, lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual (2SLGTBQQIA) people over the past 40 years to colonial violence.
Since 2019, Brock University has hosted an installation of red dresses around campus and a public event raising awareness about MMIWG2S+ organized around Feb. 14 in solidarity with the annual Women’s Memorial March held in Vancouver since 1991.
Brock’s Acting Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement, Robyn Bourgeois said continuing to raise awareness of the longstanding injustices the week discusses was of critical importance.
“Violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGTBQQIA people has always been a part of colonialism in Canada, and it continues to be a part of Canadian society because Canada remains a colonial country,” she said. “While Canada undertook a formal inquiry into this violence, the government has yet to respond to its findings and, more importantly, take action to protect Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGTBQQIA people from violence. This inaction comes with an extraordinary cost for Indigenous Peoples.”
Along with an array of virtual events to further raise awareness, this year will see red dresses hung at Brock University and Niagara College, the latter of which is participating in the initiative for the first time. Dresses will be hung outside at the University’s main campus and the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, and at Niagara College’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Welland Campus — each including an attached note with information about the project to help increase awareness. The College community is encouraged to share photos of themselves tying a red ribbon to a tree to honour the MMIWG via social media.
“Being a part of the REDress Project with our partners at Brock University and having the opportunity to display the red dresses on our campuses is very meaningful to the Niagara College community. It will offer a striking visual reminder in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day and Family Day that each and every missing and murdered Indigenous woman and girl was loved,” said Lianne Gagnon, Director, Student Services, Niagara College.
“The important issue of MMIWG is in the hearts and minds for all of us at Indigenous Education, and supporting the LGBTQ2S+ community is a vital component of our core NC values to ensure a safe, diverse and inclusive place for all. We hope that our involvement will further engage our College and the public to learn more.”
Bourgeois said the partnership with Niagara College showed awareness of the issue was growing.
“I’m so excited this year’s REDress event is a collaboration between Niagara College and Brock University,” she said. “Partnership and collaboration are the cornerstones of success, and I’m so pleased we can work together to raises awareness about MMIWG2S+.”
Along with the existing red dress display and participating in the virtual events, community members are also encouraged to hang a red dress where they are (for example, in a window or outside) for the week and to send a photo of the dress to REDressBrock@gmail.com to be part of a virtual display.
By hanging red dresses, participating virtually and taking time to learn about ongoing injustices, Bourgeois said participants can contribute to appropriate remembrance and necessary changes in policy going forward.
“We need events like this because the work isn’t done,” she said. “Not only do we need space to remember MMIWG2S+, we also need to continue to press this issue and demand justice for MMIWG2S+, their families and Indigenous communities generally. We cannot be silent as long as this violence continues.”
The REDress initiative is sponsored and supported by Brock University’s Human Rights and Equity Office, Social Justice Centre, Sexual Violence Prevention Committee, Faculty of Social Sciences Dean’s Discretionary Fund and Office of the Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement; and Niagara College’s Facilities Management and Indigenous Education. That support will allow virtual events for REDress 2021 (listed below) to run from Monday, Feb. 8 to Friday, Feb. 12.
Both the Brock and Niagara College communities, as well as the public, are encouraged to attend the virtual events to learn more about the REDress Project, the MMIWG inquiry and the impacts the issue is having in Niagara.
Men, Masculinity and MMIWG
Thursday, Feb. 11 from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
This panel discussion considers the role of Indigenous men in addressing the issue of MMIWG2S+. It features a panel of prominent Indigenous men: former CFL player JR LaRose, journalist Sean Vanderklis and filmmaker Nick Printup.
To attend the event, please visit Brock’s REDress website.
Our Sisters in Spirit Gala
Friday, Feb. 12 from 7 to 9 p.m. A gala film screening of Brock student and NC alumnus (2015) Nick Printup’s film Our Sisters in Spirit. Printup created the film as a student in NC’s Broadcasting — Radio, Television and Film program to explore the question of calling a national public inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the director. The event will be opened by Fallon Farinacci, a Métis woman who served as a member of the National Family Advisory Council for the National Inquiry into MMIWG2S+. To attend the event, please visit Brock’s REDress website.
(Source: Niagara College news release)