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National Day of Awareness for MMIWG2S

Each year, May 5 marks the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQIA+ people (MMIWG2S). It raises awareness about the disproportionately high numbers of MMIWG2S who continue to face violence, abuse, and erasure in Canada – an enduring crisis which has led to tremendous human loss. Today, we hope to honour those lost by bringing awareness to the ongoing nature of this crisis and by continuing to forefront the victims.


This country's pattern of silencing, abusing, and erasing Indigenous populations and their histories has had palpable impacts on their wellbeing, freedoms, and livelihoods. Statistics show that Indigenous women are 12 times more likely to be murdered or missing than their non-Indigenous counterparts, and 16 times more likely to be murdered or missing than white women in Canada.


A sobering reality that can’t be ignored.


At the same time, it's critical to remember that these were human beings, not statistics, and their humanity is often forgotten in conversations which ought to centre them.


The subject of MMIWG2S extends well-beyond the issue of femicide and is a foreseeable symptom of pernicious colonial violence, political and individual complacency, and an accepted disregard for Indigenous lives. The 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's Calls to Action report identified 94 points of addressing the continuing impacts of residential schools in Canada; Call to Action Number 41 specifically centres the urgent need to address violence against Indigenous women and girls, advocating for the formation of a public inquiry into this crisis. Today, much remains to be done on the part of the powers that be to follow through on their responsibility to facilitate justice.


Days like this provide a much-needed moment of pause, to educate ourselves more deeply about not only gendered and racialized violence, but the ongoing erosion of Indigenous identities. There's much to learn not only about those who are missing, but those who are fighting to keep their memory alive. The official MMIWG website hosts a wealth of news, videos, and publications which keep this vital subject in the public consciousness. There are also a multiple artists and activists who are centring MMIWG2S in their work.


One of the most poignant symbols of this day, is the image of the empty red dress, hanging in plain sight. First conceptualized by Métis artist Jamie Black, The Red Dress Project is "an aesthetic response to this critical national issue." In years since, the project has been installed in a variety of public spaces, drawing attention to the staggering number of MMIWG2S who have been targeted, victimized, and failed by the systems purporting to protect them. If you ever get the chance to visit an exhibition, do it.


Today, as we observe this somber occasion, let's also reflect on the resilience of Indigenous communities and of the women, girls, and 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals who have pursued answers. We know that violence against Indigenous peoples is woven into the very fabric of this country, but we do not accept that their continued subjugation is a foregone conclusion. We vow to listen more and promise to always pursue and advocate for autonomy, truth, justice, and closure for those who are missing and those whose lives are incomplete without them.


"You were taken, but you are not forgotten; your lives, dreams, hopes and losses are now forever a part of Canada’s living history."Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

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