B.C. is marking Red Dress Day and the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People. Inspired by Métis artist Jaime Black’s REDress Project, the red dress has come to symbolize loss, grief and injustice over the murder and ongoing violence against Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit and gender-diverse people in Canada.

“The day serves as a steadfast reminder and a rallying point in communities across the country to end violence against Indigenous and gender-diverse people,” says Kelli Paddon, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity. “To the women, girls and families who have been harmed, have faced loss and grief, and who may be at risk, please know you are not alone.

“To everyone today who holds a red dress as a symbol of sorrow, outrage and action against the murder and harm of Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit and non-binary people, I stand with you as a voice in our government, alongside so many others in our communities. I am also here to give space to other voices so the issue of gender-based violence and femicide continue to be heard.”

Safe Passage, which is an initiative created by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, is an important place for Indigenous people and family members to share information about missing indigenous women and gender-diverse cases and unsafe experiences — and to raise awareness and increase safety for Indigenous communities.

“Just last month, the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability released data on women killed in our country,” says Paddon. “Last year, we lost 184 women and girls to femicide. At least one in five were Indigenous women or girls. In many cases, they died at the hands of someone they knew.

“Harm against women, girls, Two-Spirit and non-binary people is preventable. Ending this violence means confronting biases and stereotypes. It means speaking up when someone is being treated badly. It means offering help and support when someone is unsafe or is at risk.

“It also means taking leadership on solutions. This includes transition houses and safe homes for women and children facing violence. Additionally, funding for culturally responsive sexual assault services will continue to support survivors and communities throughout the province.

“In response to the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls to Justice, our government implemented the Path Forward that includes a Path Forward Community Fund to sponsor Indigenous-led, anti-violence projects that expand safety-planning capacity for communities.”

The BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres was selected to administer the fund and, in January 2023, announced the first round of projects that will receive funding. Work is also underway on an action plan to address gender-based violence.

“While we are making progress, we also know there is still much more work to be done.

“We have lost far too many women, girls, Two-Spirit and gender-diverse people to gender-based violence. We will continue to raise awareness, support survivors and families — and tackle the root causes of this violence in our communities.”

Those in immediate danger, or think someone else is, can call 911. The VictimLink BC through its toll-free 24/7 confidential, multilingual telephone service can be call, email or text at 1 800 563-0808 or: VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca

VictimLink’s staff are there to provide immediate crisis support and information and referral services.