Red dress Mother’s Day display, a poignant reminder of a national tragedy
Tim Brody - Associate editor
A Sioux Lookout woman is bringing attention to the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, through several red dresses hung at the St. Andrew’s United Church peace park.
Susan Barclay was quick to point out the REDress Project is not her idea, but was something that came to mind recently.
“I was involved in going down to Toronto and doing the initial training for the Family Information Liaison Unit, for the provincial section for the Ministry of the Attorney General,” she explained.
“The Ministry of the Attorney General for Ontario has an Indigenous unit. They’re working on murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. We do have a worker here in town. Her name’s Shauna Pitawanakwat.
“So, being involved with that training got me thinking, because St. Andrew’s is sharing the ministry among many of us, I happened to be responsible for the service on Sunday, Mother’s Day. That kind of got me thinking of all the mothers that are missing. Those were the sparks that got it going,” she said.
The REDress campaign, Barclay said, started in Winnipeg with Metis artist Jaime Black in 2010.
“Her hope was to collect 500 dresses to display as reminders of the lost grandmothers, mothers, aunties, sisters, daughters, and friends. Through her work thousands of dresses have been sent to her, so many that she has stopped collecting,” Barclay informed, using a poster as part of the display.
“It was to stage a visual conversation starter for people in this community because we are affected,” Barclay said of the display.
“It was just an idea to bring a little bit more focus to the issue as we move forward with the preparations for the national inquiry, which hopefully will get off the ground very soon,” she added.
“The data that is known in Ontario right now is… 232 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. We know there are more than that. But of those 232, over 90 of them are from Northwestern Ontario. So there are a lot of people affected,” she concluded.