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

Five properties have been added to the Lake Country fire protection zone, after council moved to expand the local service area Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Google Maps)
Lake Country expands fire protection zone, covering 5 exposed properties

The properties petitioned to join the local service area after being left out ‘for reasons unknown’

The Vernon Vipers defeated the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3-1 to secure the top spot in the BC Hockey League Vernon pod Friday, May 7, 2021. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
VIDEO: Vipers beat Salmon Arm, clinch top spot in BCHL Vernon pod

Goaltender James Porter Jr. was a wall for the Vipers, who outscored the Silverbacks 3-1 Friday

VSAR’s Air Rescue One unit assisted in a rescue in West Kelowna May 3, 2021. (VSAR screenshot)
VIDEO: VSAR’s Air Rescue One team assists in West Kelowna Rescue

The Vernon Search and Rescue helicopter team pulled off a successful rescue Monday

A proposed development would see two four-storey affordable housing complexes erected on Adair Street in Armstrong, next to the Nor-Val Arena. (Google Maps)
Local tenants to be prioritized for Armstrong affordable housing project

Staff have drafted an expression of interest to find a developer to move forward with on the project

Cops for Kids riders will be spinning 30 feet in the air on scissor lifts at SaveOn Foods locations in Kelowna, Lake Country and West Kelowna Saturday, May 8, 2021. (File photo)
Cops reach new heights for Okanagan kids

Nor-Val Rentals is doing the heavy lifting Saturday in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Peachland resident and cleanup volunteer Lloyd Stinson Sotas holds up a discarded TV riddled with bullet holes. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
PHOTOS: Peachland residents clean up community watershed

More than 70 people gave back to Mother Earth by assisting with the cleanup

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Kelowna OK Tire closed due to COVID-19 exposure

The business will remain closed until May 11

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Most Read