By Julia Magsombol
Local Journalism Initiative
“It’s sadness,” said Monica Fisher, the president of the Columbia Valley Metís Association, whenever she hears news about the murdered Indigenous women in different communities.
The first-ever Red Dress Day was held on May 5, 2010. This day raises awareness for the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada: https://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/indigenous-relations-office/red-dress-day
“It’s important that we are raising awareness and gaining understanding as to why Indigenous women and girls are disproportionately victims to abuse and violence,” Fisher said.
Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) created a database on murdered Indigenous women in 2010. The data shows NWAC has gathered information on about 582 confirmed deaths: 67 per cent are murder cases; 20 per cent are cases of missing women and girls; 4 per cent are cases of suspicious death; and 9 per cent are unknown cases
Based on a 2017 report of the Department of Justice Canada (DOJ), the number of murdered Indigenous women has increased. Between 1980 and 2014, police reported almost 7,000 female homicide cases —16 per cent were Indigenous women. The DOJ summarized how those homicide cases have grown or have remained relatively stable: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/jr/jf-pf/2017/july04.html
Last April, a 33-year-old First Nation woman, Linda Mary Beardy, was found dead at the Winnipeg landfill. Based on a CBC report, an autopsy confirmed that she had injuries on her body. The case is still being investigated. But the medical examiner suggested that “none of Beardy’s injuries suggested foul play and police are “satisfied that this is not a homicide.” Read the story at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/linda-beardy-family-statement-1.6803873
“There should be equity in regard to the same response that’s happening for non-Indigenous peoples,” said Fisher. “This should be the same response for Indigenous peoples.” She noted that “there could be more” done when it comes to the jobs of the officials.
Fisher believes that raising awareness is important, but it is also important to “support individuals who are struggling within communities . . . with violence and individuals who suffer from trauma.” She said that solutions to these problems could be steps for justice.
Commemorations for Red Dress Day are different in each community. But during this day, people wear red and hang red dresses on trees. For more background visit https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/red-dress-day
“Wearing red and understanding each of the movements are important,” Fisher said. “Without any action, there is no change. It is all our responsibilities to keep our women, our children, and our community safe.”
If you need help on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women or girls, call 1-844-413-6649 for assistance.
“I think being vulnerable and telling our stories is important,” Fisher said.