Honouring Our Lost Sisters

Red Dress Project

This week the government of Canada launches a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Many wait with mixed feelings – we are good at inquires in Canada. Less proficient at implementation when it comes to complex issues that challenge systemic racism and misogyny. I read a tweet that said – let’s not let the good be obscured by our desire for the perfect. Maybe we are on the right track, maybe this time we’ll get it right.

Listening to CBC’s The Current, this morning, the podcast ended with a snippet of Amanda Rheaume’s song, Red Dress. I had to hear more. I write this post with her haunting words in my ears and tears in my eyes.

The song Red Dress is meant to honour the over 1180 Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada and raise awareness for this tragic and ongoing issue.

After hearing the song in it’s early stages, award-winning artist Chantal Kreviazuk was compelled to lend her voice to the song and the cause.

The title “Red Dress” and the concept for video were derived from artist Jaime Black’s REDress Project where 600 red dresses were donated and installed in public spaces throughout Winnipeg and across Canada as a visual reminder of the staggering number of women who are no longer with us. The hope for the installation was to draw attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Aboriginal women and to evoke a presence through the marking of absence.

red-drss-image - google images

You Tube link to Amanda Rheaume singing Red Dress. Please pop over and watch this video and then review the lyrics.

Red Dress

I see the line of all the broken hearts

Lining up to tell their side to an already one-sided story

Years of cycles in my mind

Seems to be the ones we love

Somewhere, I learned to say I’m sorry

Chorus: Take me down to the river

City lights are in my eyes

I have got my red dress on tonight


I never wanted to be a drifter

I am a woman with no worth

Somewhere I learned to say I was sorry

Every day I learn to say I’m sorry. I hope with all my heart this is the moment for the long-awaited justice that Indigenous women and girls cry out for – the justice that so many of us demand of ourselves, our policing community and our government. I want to believe this is the time to redress the wrongs.

I long to see all the beautiful sisters – free of all fear –  dancing in their red dresses.

Maranda - Dancing with Butterflies in Spirit

12 comments on “Honouring Our Lost Sisters

  1. noelleg44 says:

    The picture of the red dresses among the white birch trees is haunting. I love it. I hope all this brings attention to an issue that so needs it!

    • The symbolism of the red dress is, indeed, huge and gripping. I think of the name of the project – Redress – redressing wrongs and bringing much needed justice. Yes, let’s hope we are at the moment of real change.

  2. Debra says:

    Forgive me for an obviously naive comment, but HOW is this possible? I believe it was on your blog (or Bruce’s) last year that these numbers were mentioned. And in the year since then, I have never once heard a thing about it in my country. As “neighbors” we should share in this outrage. As women we should share it and as human beings, really. So that’s where my “HOW” comes from! The Red Dress Project is impressive for the way it grabs attention to the dramatic number represented in these lost women. I just Googled the project and was directed to a Huffington Post site that shared the photos of these beautiful women lost to their families. I cannot fathom!

    • Yes – how, indeed – a good question and no more naïve than many Canadians who ask the same. How could we let it come to this? Even when Amnesty International, in 2004, wrote a no-holds barred condemnation of the way Canada has handled this issue in a report entitled – No More Stolen Sisters. Even when ex-Vancouver police officer Lori Shenher has written a book entitled: That Lonely Section of Hell: The Botched Investigation of a Serial Killer Who Almost Got Away. This book takes a hard look at the way the police, due to issues of systemic racism, very nearly botched the case of serial killer Willy Pickton. Even when we had a provincial inquiry in 2012 led by former B.C. Attorney General, Wally Oppal, that outlined the factors behind the high rates of violence directed at Aboriginal women. An inquiry whose findings have been largely ignored. How, indeed?

      • Debra says:

        Thank you for sharing more information and reading I might do to even better understand. We in the U.S. certainly have our own blindness towards racism and no shortage of hiding abuses that should be headlines. But there’s something about this story and the fact that the “missing” are all young women that grabs my heart. xx

  3. Behind the Story says:

    I’m filled with questions: Why Indigenous women? Are they missing in much higher numbers that other women? If so, why? And why so many unsolved cases? Over what period of time? Have the police tried to solve these cases or have they been ignored?

    • Thank you for these thoughtful questions. I won’t get into a list of stats but please check out this website: http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/victim/rd3-rr3/p3.html

      When I think about why, I am filled with well-known phrases – the legacy of colonialism, Residential Schools, the 60’s sweep that took Aboriginal children from their homes, systemic racism, denial, misogyny. A judicial system and policing that comes out of all of the above. Poverty, women forced to the very edges of society due to victimization and abuse – hitchhiking the Highway of Tears, living on the fringes, alcohol and drug use, those forced into the sex trade. Vulnerable lifestyles. A historical lens that has turned Aboriginal women and girls into a commodity that has sat on a continuum ranging from exotic Indian Princess to Squaw. The Pocahontas Myth.

      None of these things seem adequate to hold so much injustice. All forming a pattern.

  4. Thank you so much for posting this and raising awareness in such a compelling way, Francis. There are so few people who know about this issue, or the many other injustices Indigenous people continue to face.

  5. nanacathy2 says:

    I heard about this issue on the BBC world news, so the problem is getting the attention it needs.

  6. P. C. Zick says:

    Tears in my eyes as I write this. Thank you for bringing awareness to this despicable situation. I hope continuing exposure makes a difference so those lives already lost will be honored.

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