A blessing and a formal opening of the REDress display took place Tuesday (Nov. 27) at Parksville city hall, where the 12 dresses hang in the atrium.
The red dresses are intended to be a visual reminder of the more than 1,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, whose cases remain unsolved. They will hang at city hall until Dec. 10 and coincide with the period of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence.
The project is organized by the Canadian Federation of University Women of Parksville-Qualicum, the displays are based on The REDress Project started by Winnipeg-based artist Jamie Black in 2011. Black designed the installations to be an aesthetic response to the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada. The artist’s intent is to draw attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Aboriginal women.
During the opening ceremony, Qualicum First Nation chief Michael Recalma blessed a sacred flame and all in attendance had a moment of silence for the missing an murdered women.
“We need to keep this reminder alive, we need to keep looking for reminders… it is a very sad situation,” said Parksville mayor Ed Mayne at the ceremony.
The project uses red dresses specifically because in Indigenous communities red is said to be a powerful and sacred colour —the colour of life and blood.
Oceanside RCMP Staff Sgt. Marc Pelletier said the number of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada is tragic.
“Each dress represents someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, so please keep them in your hearts and minds, not just for the week… but for the rest of the year,” he said. “This should never have happened and hopefully we’ve learned from it.”