A red dress hangs on the side of the highway near Campbell River. Groups on Vancouver Island are hanging red dresses at prominent locations to raise awareness about Missing/Murdered Indigenous women on the island. (Photo by Binny Paul/Campbell River Mirror)

A red dress hangs on the side of the highway near Campbell River. Groups on Vancouver Island are hanging red dresses at prominent locations to raise awareness about Missing/Murdered Indigenous women on the island. (Photo by Binny Paul/Campbell River Mirror)

Volunteer groups hang red dresses across Vancouver Island to keep the MMIWG conversation going

Activitsts and Indigenous experts say Island’s statistics on Murdered/Missing Women & Girls may be higher than reported

On Sunday, Feb. 7, five women from Gold River hung a red dress by the side of the road that leads into town.

Terra Mather came across the idea by a Campbell River Woman – Stephanie Elickus-Rivers – who is in the process of hanging over 100 dresses from Port Hardy to Victoria along the highway.

Mather connected with her Gold River community members on social media and they decided to hang a red dress up in their community too.

Supporting the cause was Evangeline James a member of Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation (MMFN) whose friend and sister – 26-year-old Christine Thomas and 16-year-old Helena Howard – were murdered between Campbell River and Gold River on Highway 28 in 1979.

For James, the red dress hung up in their community is a great way to honour the sisters and also an expression of solidarity to the cause of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) by members of Gold River – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

“In our community it’s something that we have acknowledged to have had young women go missing, but things such as the red dress project was never something that took off here,” said another MMFN member, Barb Wilson, who has a red dress in her patio in memory of her friend Norma (also missing from Gold River).

In addition to hanging dresses, North Island groups are also organizing an annual edition of the Women’s Memorial March – an event that originated in Vancouver 28 years ago. The march began as a commitment to end violence that Indigenous women in Canada face on a daily basis.

On Feb.14 in Campbell River, members from various organizations will come together for the Campbell River Stolen Sisters Memorial March to be held downtown.

The Red Dress Project took off in 2010 after Métis artist Jamie Black put up installations of red dresses in Manitoba to represent Indigenous women/girls lost to violent crimes.

Over the years, the project evolved into a powerful awareness tool and a conversation starter about missing or murdered Aboriginal women in most communities across the country.

Seeing a red dress is a sombre feeling for many, some find it creepy and there are yet some who do not know what it is, said Elickus-Rivers, which is why the awareness drive continues.

According to Elickus-Rivers, who lost her niece and best friend to violent deaths, red dresses hung up in communities is also a way of sending a message to predators who “prey on vulnerable women.”

“They will know that people are watching and looking for these women, and men and children in their communities,” she said.

Elickus-Rivers also intends to compile data and videos to submit to the government as she feels there is a huge gap in the statistics and data of MMIWG from Vancouver Island and B.C. in general.

The data is “murky” because a lot of cases were never reported and many of the reported missing cases are not taken seriously, especially if they’re associated with people with addictions, said Elickus-Rivers.

In 2019 the report by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls stated that there was no “reliable estimate of the numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA persons in Canada,” partly because Canada did not maintain a database for missing people until 2010.

The estimates for Vancouver Island may be far more than reported, according to Marcia Turner, an Indigenous relations expert who organized the 2016 provincial gathering for the families of MMIWG on behalf of Indigenous leaders and the BC Government.

Based on the number of Island families that participated in the provincial gathering, Turner gathered that it was significantly higher than the numbers associated with the Highway of Tears.

“How we understand MMIWG in this province, in this country, looks different, and the circumstances are very different. But there’s a common theme,that we’ve echoed consistently – its linkage to the impact of colonization. That broader policy piece has to be addressed in order for change to happen,” said Turner.

Indigenousvancouverisland

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greg Janicki (left), owner of Dogwood Pet Mart rasied $410 this year for the Campbell River SPCA’s Loonies for Love fundraiser which he presented to Stephanie Arkwright, branch manager of the BCSPCA – Campbell River Community Animal Centre. Photo contributed
Pandemic doesn’t stop annual Loonies for Love SPCA fundraiser

Fundraising has been a bit challenging over the past year, but the… Continue reading

NIC Engineering student Johnny Marshall lowers a prototype oyster grow-out system into the ocean for testing in Campbell River. Photo courtesy NIC
NIC partners with Cortes shellfish company on oyster research

Study and testing hoping to mitigate the impacts of warming oceans on oyster mortality

The intersection at Dogwood Street and 13th Avenue, next to the No. 1 Firehall, will see some improvements over the next six weeks or so, according to the city. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Intersection improvements coming to Dogwood and 13th Avenue

Expect delays for up to six weeks once work begins, city says

Oyster River fire has responded to 56 calls so far in 2021. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Department
Oyster River Fire averaged one call per day in busy February

One weekend saw 12 calls for service from crew

The students in the Timberline Musical Theatre program are rehearsing this year’s production, Once Upon a Mattress, three days per week after school in preparation for their upcoming virtual performances. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Timberline Musical Theatre hoping for last minute ticket surge

Popular annual run of shows costs $7,000-$8,000 to put on. They’ve sold $750 in tickets

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Some Canadians are finding butter harder than usual, resulting in an avalanche of social media controversy around #buttergate. (Brett Williams/The Observer)
#Buttergate: Concerns around hard butter hit small B.C. towns and beyond

Canadians find their butter was getting harder, blame palm oil in part one of this series

Construction takes place on Bamfield Main in early February 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY CTV NEWS)
Ongoing Bamfield roadwork unrelated to planned $30M fix

Construction by Mosaic unrelated to $30M upgrade ordered in wake of fatal bus crash

B.C. research reveals how pandemic has changed attitudes towards sex, health services

CDC survey shows that 35 per cent of people were worried about being judged

The Regional District of Nanaimo’s board is forwarding a motion on illegal dumping to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities’ upcoming annual general meeting. (Kane Blake photo)
Island communities asked to join forces in seeking help fighting illegal dumping

RDN resolution to be forwarded to Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends deadline for tourism, small business COVID-19 grants

Business owners expect months more of lost revenues

Protestors against old growth logging gather in front of the courthouse in Victoria on Thursday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Protesters gather at Victoria courthouse to oppose Port Renfrew logging

Logging company seeks injunction to remove blockades near its Port Renfrew operation

Mid day at the Vancouver Port Intersection blockade on March 3, organized by the Braided Warriors. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
Anti-pipeline blockade at Vancouver intersection broken up by police

Demonstraters were demanding the release of a fellow anti-TMX protester

Most Read