Red Dress Day, also known as the National Day for Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People, is taking place in many communities across the country.

Today’s focus is to recognize and raise awareness of the disproportionate violence directed towards Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people in Canada.

Lori Campbell, Associate Vice President of Indigenous Engagement at the University of Regina, said the day was originally inspired by a Métis artist in 2010. “It originally started with a project that an Indigenous artist named Jaime Black did where she gathered red dresses and was hanging them up for display. The importance of the red dress is to bring attention to people about the ongoing genocide that’s happening currently to Indigenous women and girls and two spirit people across the country and has been happening for a very long time, and just to bring a visual to the absence of those who are missing,” said Campbell.

Campbell explained that the colour red is very significant in many Indigenous cultures. “It is said in many of our Indigenous cultures that the spirits see the bright colours the best, with red being probably one of the brightest colours that we have. It is said that the spirits can see the red, and for those that are lost and haven’t been found yet, the red will help their spirits find their way home to their loved ones, where they will know that they’re missed, that they are loved, that they are cared for, and that we are wanting their spirits to be laid to rest,” Campbell said. “It has definitely grown; there is more public awareness now, and that’s been important. We do see more people that are aware; some of that has actually come about because of the recent public awareness around the gravesite discoveries at residential school sites and with the walks and things that are happening. It used to be that it was just Indigenous peoples who would come together, but we do see more public engagement in wanting to show their support and come out to events, and we encourage that because it’s not just an Indigenous issue; it should be an issue that every person in Canada wants to have changed.”

Those who want to demonstrate their support for Red Dress Day are encouraged to wear a piece of red clothing.