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New West residents invited to commemorate Red Dress Day on May 5

New Westminster and Spirit of the Children Society teaming up on community event on May 5 and month-long campaign.
The City of New Westminster created a display in Queen's Park in 2021 for Red Dress Day. A Red Dress Day event is planned for May 5, 2024. photo Theresa McManus

New West residents are invited to commemorate Red Dress Day on May 5.

The City of New Westminster, in partnership with the Spirit of the Children Society, is hosting a Red Dress Day event in Hyack Square on Sunday, May 5 from 1 to 3 p.m. It includes: a red dress display; a ceremony hosted by Spirit of the Children Society; free red dress pins (available while supplies last); family-friendly activities; and free snacks and beverages (while supplies last).

A notice about the event invites community members to come together and honour the memory and lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people across Canada and the USA.

“Started in 2010 by Métis artist Jaime Black, the movement educates, creates awareness, and calls for systemic change,” said the notice. “Red Dress Day will be recognized throughout May via displays, learning opportunities, and community events. Come together, wear red and show your support in honour of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2-Spirit+ people.”

The City of New Westminster has proclaimed May 5 as Red Dress Day in the city.

Coun. Nadine Nakagawa said the day is important as it commemorates missing and murdered Indigenous women. She invites all community members to attend the event.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls released its 1,200-page report, Reclaiming Power and Place, in June 2019. It included 231 actions, or “calls for justice,” for governments and Canadians.

“There are calls for justice in that report – they are not calls for action, they are calls for justice, targeted at all levels of government,” Nakagawa said. “I want to remind us that that report was written with the blood and tears, literally, of Indigenous women and girls.”

While it’s important to remember the violence that’s taken place against Indigenous women and girls, Nakagawa said it’s critical that those calls for justice be met – something that has yet to happen.

At its April 22 meeting, Coun. Daniel Fontaine thanked Nakagawa for pulling the Red Dress Day proclamation from council’s consent agenda. (Items are only discussed if they’re “pulled” from the consent agenda for discussion by a member of council).

“I want to also recognize – as a Métis person myself, the only indigenous person on council – that it was Métis artist Jaime Black that helped inspire the Red Dess movement itself,” he said. “And that's something that is both a subject of pride and of great sadness in terms of the impact of so many Indigenous women across, not only British Columbia but across Canada.”

The City of New Westminster’s Red Dress Day proclamation states that non-Indigenous people have a role to play in the fight for justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people in Canada. The city and the Spirit of the Children Society are organizing a Red Dress campaign in New West from May 1 to 31.

“Indigenous women and girls are five times more likely to experience violence than any other population in Canada,” said the proclamation. “This is a national crisis that requires urgent, informed and collaborative action.”