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 people

As vandals target displays, May 5 marks Red Dress Day across 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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Demonstrators lined Hwy 16 May 5 to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Deb Meissner photo)
VIDEO: Smithers gathering marks Red Dress Day honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Approximately 70 people lined Hwy 16, drumming, singing and holding up placards

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

The road to Telegraph Creek (Hwy 51) was closed April 15 due to a washout. On May 4, the road was opened to light-duty passenger vehicles during specific times. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure/Facebook)
Telegraph Creek Road opens for light-duty vehicles

Road has been closed since April 15 due to a washout

FILE – Residents of the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory southwest of Montreal continue to monitor a blockade leading to blocked railroad tracks that pass through their community as they protest in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on Sunday, March 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter McCabe
B.C. Supreme Court rejects Wet’suwet’en bid to toss LNG pipeline certificate

Opposition last year by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs set off Canada-wide rail blockades

On any given day, Brenda Mallory can be found holding court in her front yard on her acreage near Tyhee Lake. (Thom Barker photo)
Spice of Brenda: Our long-time columnist gets frank (when wasn’t she?)

Brenda Mallory has packed a lot of creativity into her life

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread continues with 694 new cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Vancouver Island 12 year old speaks to lack of supports

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,500 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

B.C. average home price and sales level to 2023, showing steep drop in sales expected next year. (Central 1)
Forecast calls for B.C. home sales to ‘explode,’ then drop off

Average price to rise another 10% in 2021, credit unions say

Members of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. (File photo)
B.C.-wide #DayOfMusic to feature 100-plus free virtual concerts May 15

‘Our colleagues across the province have figured out new ways to perform and connect,’ VSO boss says

Two passengers were recently fined thousands of dollars after they faked their pre-flight COVID-19 test results. (Paul Clarke/Black Press)
2 passengers in Canada fined thousands for faking pre-flight COVID-19 tests

The government issued a warning Thursday to others thinking of doing the same – do it and you’ll be ordered to pay

(File)
With revenge porn on the rise in 2021, B.C. seeks feedback for new legislation

New legislation could help victims take down images and receive compensation

Most Read