TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains mentions of violence and abuse towards Indigenous Women.
May 5 marks Canada’s National Day of Awareness for its Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). It is also known as Red Dress Day from the red dresses that are put into public view and used to acknowledge an Indigenous womxn who has been murdered, or who continues to be missing.
On this day, Ark would like to take you through a brief historical overview of how this day came to be a part of our Canadian identity.
We don’t know the number of missing and murdered Aboriginal womxn, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA persons because they have been grossly and historically improperly investigated or even unrecorded. These missing people are a part of a national crisis that this day of awareness acknowledges.
In 2010, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) attempted to create a database of the missing and murdered Aboriginal womxn and girls. Using the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police (SACP), they voiced that of the missing womxn and girls in Saskatchewan, 59% of them were of Aboriginal ancestry. Even more so is that 39% of the cases were from 2000-2010, 17% were from the 1990s and the oldest from this data source was from 1944. The NWAC believes that there are many more that have yet to be recorded.
The number of deaths has been tragically and disproportionality high – between 2000-2008 10% of all female homicides in Canada were Aborginal womxn, even though they account for approximately 3% of the entire Canadian female population. In 2010 red dresses started to be hung to acknowledge the womxn, girls, Trans and Two-Spirit people who were missing, or murdered.
It was in 2019 that a Canadian government sponsored report acknowledged the level of severity by using the word “genocide” even though government officials and Prime Minister Trudeau officially did not. Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls acknowledges what Indigenous communities have always known: they have endured extreme levels of violence in Canada for generations. This report also confirms the NWAC’s declaration that “no one knows the exact number” of missing and murdered Indigenous womxn and it is believed to be in the thousands.
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) continues to report that 16% of all female homicide victims are Indigenous as are 11% of missing women, even though they now only make up 4.3% of the total Canadian population. They are 5 times more likely to experience violence and have that violence result in serious harm.
While Canada has undertaken a formal inquiry into this systemic violence, its goal for June 2020 was to release an action plan based on the final report from the National Inquiry but it has not released its plan and claims that it is due to COVID-19. The government must continue to take action to protect Indigenous womxn, girls and 2SLGTBQQIA people from further violence. It must remain vigilant in its commitment to healing this national crime. A National Day just isn’t enough.
Please visit for recommendations on what you can do to help: www.nwac.ca/policy-areas/mmiwg/
“The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is committed to developing concrete actions to end the cycle of violence that affects Indigenous communities – particularly violence which may lead to the disappearance or death of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people.”