CUASA Statement for National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People
May 4, 2023
Tomorrow, May 5th, is the annual National Day of Awareness and Action for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA (Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual) people. The day honours and brings awareness to the thousands of Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people who have experienced disproportionate amounts of violence in Canada and throughout Turtle Island. The day is also known as “Red Dress Day,” and gets its name from the “REDress Project” art installation by Jaime Black (Métis) in which she hung empty, red dresses in public spaces throughout Canada and the U.S. “as a visual reminder of the staggering number of women who are no longer with us.” Through this “marking of absence” Black “draws attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes” against Indigenous women.
During this time, we recognize the systemic injustices Indigenous women face. Joyce Echaquan, a 37 year old an Atikamekw woman, died in a hospital north of Montreal after staff degraded and insulted her, refusing care because they assumed she was an addict. As the coroner’s report concluded, her death was irrefutably due to systemic racism. Although Joyce’s case is more widely known due to her livestreaming her horrifying experience in the hospital, countless other Indigenous women who experience similar mistreatment go unreported. We also recognize that Indigenous women are now the most overrepresented people in Canada’s prison system (50% of the female prison population) where their lives are woefully undervalued through criminalization and the generally deplorable and often violent nature of Canada’s prisons.
We think of Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people in our own region who are missing or murdered. In particular we think of Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander who have been missing from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Nation since 2008. We think also of the gifted artist Annie Pootoogook whose 2016 death was originally dismissed by Ottawa police despite now being labeled ‘suspicious.’ For more information on Annie Pootoogook, see her biography and key works through the Art Canada Institute.
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has released a Final Report “comprised of the truths of more than 2,389 family members, survivors of violence, experts and Knowledge Keepers shared over two years of cross-country public hearings and evidence gatherings.” Within the document are 231 Calls for Justice, some of which are specific to certain industries such as government and education (among others), and some more more generalized for all Canadians. The report comes in two sections, the first of which serves as an introduction and analysis, and the second of which contains the Calls for Justice.
In addition to reading the National Inquiry, the Carleton community is encouraged to participate in an event “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit Folx Day” tomorrow, May 05, 2023 from 1:30 – 3:30 pm in the Teraanga Commons Conference Room 270. For more details, please see the following event listing.
For those who are affected and require immediate support, you can call the toll free National 24/7 MMIWG crisis line at 1-844-413-6649 to speak to a counsellor. Service is available in English, French, Cree, Anishnaabemowin (Ojibway) and Inuktitut. We would also like to uplift the work of the Minwaashin Lodge, an Indigenous women’s support centre in Ottawa that provides services and programs for First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and children (regardless of status) who are survivors of violence and/or are suffering the effects of the residential school system.