The REDress Project as platform to discuss Canada’s often ignored epidemic
When you walk around campus, whether it being inside the buildings or outside, you can see red dresses on hangers, with a new addition this year of also seeing red ties around campus. So, what are these dresses and red ties for you might ask?
The red dresses are for the REDress Project which is an art installation in remembrance of the missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada; a national epidemic.
This year, the Aboriginal society made a change to the project and they added ties for the missing and murdered Indigenous men as well.
This art project hopes to raise awareness for all the missing and murdered Indigenous women and men. This isn’t new. Aboriginal women and men in Canada and America have been disappearing at alarming rates for years, and while Canada did put forward a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), not a whole lot has changed; nothing for that matter.
1,017 women and girls who identify as indigenous were murdered between the years of 1980 and 2012, according to Stats Canada. Mind you, those are just the cases that we know about through official reporting. These numbers don’t necessarily reflect each individual who has been missing or murdered.
Indigenous women are 4.5 times more likely to be murdered than all other women in Canada. For indigenous women, the highway of tears is their nightmare. It’s Highway 16 from Prince George and Prince Rupert BC, where countless murders of Indigenous peoples have been committed.
This highway connects many towns, which all hold vital resources not found in each community. Often times, due to lack of transportation, women end up going on foot.
For an indigenous woman, to be on this strip of highway often means to be adding their name to the list of missing and murdered.
For indigenous men, many know the truth about ‘starlight tours’, where police in Saskatoon drive indigenous men out of the city limits under the guise of taking them home at night. They are then left to find their way home which, during the below zero temperatures in the winter, often leads to their death. These starlight tours happen far too often for mainly indigenous men, and it's costing them their lives at the hands of Canadian police.
If you’ve been keeping up to date with the news lately, you might have heard the names Tina Fontaine and Colten Boushie being repeated. These are the latest indigenous victims who's murderers were found not guilty in recent trials, leaving the families with no justice and no closure.
Tina Fontaine lived on the Sagkeeng First Nation. Tina was only 15 when she was murdered on August 10, 2014. Raymond Joseph Cormier was charged with her murder, taken to trial where he plead not guilty and, on February 22, 2018 he was released of all charges.
Colten Boushie is a First Nations man who lived on the Cree Red Pheasant First Nation. Colten was only 22 when he was murdered on August 9, 2016. Gerald Stanley was charged with his murder, it went to trail and, on February 9, 2018, Stanley’s charges were acquitted.
Those two stories sound awfully alike, don’t they? That’s what most trials for murdered indigenous people sound like; their murderers being set free, leaving their cases to go cold.
I wonder what the outcome would have been if Tina and Colten were white?
Tina and Colten were only children when they were killed, they were failed by society, the justice system, the police system, any system you can think of, and they were CHILDREN.
They had years ahead of them, experiences they’ll never know, hugs they’ll never receive, dreams they’ll never achieve.
So, when you’re walking around campus and see these dresses and ties, take some time to stop and think about Tina and Colten. Think about all the other indigenous peoples that have had this same reality, and for those who might succumb to this horrifying reality someday. For each dress or tie that you see on campus take the time to go home and research an indigenous person who has been killed, learn their story, learn about them, who they were.
I’m sorry, Tina and Colten. I’m sorry that you were given such a sour taste of this world. I’m sorry that your lives were disregarded as not being just as important as anyone else’s. I’m sorry that Canada is STILL having a hard time figuring out what to do with this epidemic. I’m sorry that the justice system didn’t fight harder for you; Creator knows how hard your loved ones wailed and fought for you.
Tina, I’m sorry that your father had the same reality as yours and I can only hope that you are among the stars together.
Mrs. Boushie, I’m sorry that the first thing the officer said to you after telling you about your son’s death was, “ma’am have you been drinking tonight?”.
Tina and Colten, these dresses and ties are for you.