Red Dresses: Families and survivors gather for missing and murdered Indigenous women awareness day

People held pictures of their missing and murdered family members in front of Winnipeg’s City Hall on Thursday, to raise their voices for the people they love who are no longer here. Mark Neufeld reports.

By Mark Neufeld

Red dresses hang as a powerful symbol and visual reminder of the tragic issues surrounding missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ2S+ peoples in Canada

Outside Winnipeg City Hall, red dresses hung from the trees as a ceremony took place to mark this year’s National Day of Awareness. A day for families, survivors, and those who have lost loved ones to remember and to grieve.

red dress

Red dress hung outside Winnipeg City Hall. (Photo: Mark Neufeld, CityNews)

“So, it is a national issue. Specifically, to Manitoba, our rates are higher, and in terms of urban populations we have one of the highest urban populations in Winnipeg for indigenous people,” said Jessica Paley, MMIWG2S+ project and initiatives coordinator.

Paley says every province in Canada needs to advance the calls for justice aimed at ending this genocide and tackling the root causes of violence.

“It’s time for action.”

In 2020, the homicide rate for Indigenous women was more than five times that of non-Indigenous women according to Statistics Canada.

“We’re here to represent and honor my sister Jennifer Mcpherson, she was murdered on April 29, 2013,” said Jerri Pangman.

“We’re also here for my Aunty Jennifer Johnson,” said Kim Mcpherson.


Sisters, Pangman and Mcpherson want their daughters, granddaughters, and future generations to be spared the pain they have dealt with as a result of losing multiple women in their family to violence. For the sisters, it’s important to never stop being a voice for the women who were killed or disappeared.

“They were beautiful humans, they were someone, they were a sister, a mother, a grandmother, and it’s just to keep their spirit alive,” said Pangman.

Traditional knowledge keeper Carolyn Moar is worried that more Indigenous women will be killed and go missing in the coming months and years as pandemic job losses increase rates of poverty… which she says is linked to rising rates of violence.

“With the poverty getting worse it’s going to be a lot more crime, a lot more stress, a lot more problems, and when that happens the vulnerable and the lesser gets the brunt end of things,” explained Moar. “I pray for our sisters that have gone to the spirit world but I mostly pray for the families.”

Statistics Canada shows in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, homicide rates shot up dramatically FROM 2020 hitting the highest number on record in NEARLY 30 years.

Provincially homicide rates were the highest in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

If you are affected or in distress and require emotional assistance, you can contact the national 24/7 MMIWG2S+ crisis line at 1-844-413-6649.

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