Red dresses blew in the breeze in Hope’s Memorial Park Wednesday morning, in remembrance of lives lost.
May 5 every year is National Day of Awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in Canada, and in Hope a gathering was set up in the park to honour the day.
There were tears, and prayers and names to remember from Hope and beyond.
Shawnee Inyallie. April Parisian. Tina Fontaine. Even Emma Charlie Dixon, who went missing from Union Bar Reserve, where she lived, in 1964.
“In saying these names I’m hoping, along with April and this lady here (Emma), to raise more awareness,” said Margaret Peters, the MMIWG coordinator for Fraser and Salish region. “I pray for Emma and April to be found.”
The group started out with about 15 people, but by the end of the event the crowd had grown to about 40, all listening carefully while physically distancing and wearing masks. Many of the speakers have family members who have been murdered or are still missing.
Winnie Peters spoke about the loss of two husbands in her life. Both men were murdered, she said. The event chose to honour both men and women, and they even hung blue shirts to complement the red dresses.
A cousin of Parisian was in attendance, and spoke to the crowd.
The dresses were left in the trees until early afternoon.
Many speakers brought up the need for society, and men in particular, to become better at looking out for the women and girls in their lives.
The Assembly of First Nations says Indigenous women and girls are five times more likely to experience violence than any other population in Canada and that this violence tends to result in more serious harm.
Indigenous women make up 16 per cent of all female homicide victims, and 11 per cent of missing women, even though Indigenous people make up 4.3 per cent of the population of Canada.
Throughout Hope, dresses were hung in shop windows to draw awareness to the harms Indigenous women face. At the Twin Rivers Education Centre, students created a display of paintings they created, and also hung a red dress in awareness.
April Still Missing
April Parisian has now been missing for one year. She is described by police as an Indigenous female with blonde hair and blue eyes, 5 feet 7 inches tall, and weighing 280 pounds. Anyone with information should call the IHIT information line at 1-877-551-4448, or by email at email@example.com. Should you wish to remain anonymous, please contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
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