Organizers were encouraged to see about 100 people attend Red Dress Day activities at City Hall Park on Thursday morning.
Red Dresses were hanging in the park’s trees for the ceremony to symbolize the many missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and to pay respect to their grieving families.
“It’s going to take all of us. We all need to be change-makers. None of us are going to do this by ourselves. We didn’t get here by ourselves, and we all need to work together,” said Melanie Omeniho, president of Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak / Women of the Métis Nation who spoke at the ceremony.
“I’m really honoured that this many people came out today to be a part of that change.”
She said it’s really important to share with Canadians what happened to Indigenous women and girls, and Red Dress Day provides that opportunity.
“There has been some awareness, but we need action. Governments need to work together with the Indigenous communities and help create action.”
She added there are flaws in the justice system preventing families from getting justice, including the need to establish harsher penalties for people who commit these crimes.
Mayor Ken Johnston said the dresses that hang in the park, and the red dress lapel badges worn by people at the ceremony, recognize the women and girls honoured on Red Dress Day and say, “we care and we miss you and we know that you are with us.”
“These lives were important. They were daughters and mothers and aunts and cousins and friends,” Johnston said.
And the families and friends left behind who don’t get closure can’t grieve and can’t really heal, he said.
Tammy Rogers, with Shining Mountains Living Community Services, said people must stand together to make a difference.
“It’s our time to rise up. It’s our time to be together. It’s our time to say no more. No more treating Indigenous people, whether they are First Nations, Métis or Inuit, as other. We all deserve the same respect and honour no matter what the colour of our skin,” Rogers said.
Alberta RCMP also recognized Red Dress Day on Thursday.
“Today and every day we stand with our Indigenous communities in honouring the many women and girls we have lost,” said Insp. Kim Mueller, officer in charge of Alberta RCMP Indigenous Policing, in a statement.
“We will continue to raise awareness of the over-representation of violence and crimes committed against this vulnerable group and are dedicated to bringing justice to these women – to ensure their voices are heard, even if they can no longer speak for themselves.”
Alberta RCMP have created the document “Honouring, Empowering, and Protecting Indigenous Women” to be transparent about the work being done in regards to MMIWG files in Alberta.