Juanita Murphy. Kate Quinn
It was a sun-kissed day, a breeze fluttering red streamers, red dresses dancing among the trees of Beaver Hills House (Amiskwaskahegan) Park. Posters with pictures of young women and the dates they were last seen were placed around the park, a tangible reminder of the pain their families continue to bear. One young woman, Christine Cardinal, was reported missing October 13, 2016 near Saddle Lake. RCMP found and identified her remains May 1, 2018.
Across North America, people gathered to remember the countless Indigenous girls and women who are among those missing or murdered. Judith Ann Gale, one of the local organizers, is an artist and activist. She worked with April Eve Wiberg, of Stolen Sisters and Brothers movement, and Lloyd Cardinal of Nehiyawak (The People) Singers, to organize Edmonton’s first May 5 event. Judith is a woman of action who was compelled to create this space where the vibrant red in the park prompted those passing by to stop and ask, “what is this about?”
April Eve and her young family gave their whole day to set up, support the event, and pack up at the end. April wants family members to know they are not alone and that the community will not forget them. She is a strong advocate to remind us that boys and men are among the missing and murdered as well.
Lloyd lifted his voice in an Honour Song as he drummed. A young girl around 8 years of age, cloaked in a red shawl over a red dress, let her moccasined feet move her to the beat of the drum while a two year old girl, also clad in red, danced to her own rhythm.
Juanita Murphy from CEASE said, “We need to keep the conversation alive, it’s about the next generation. It gives me hope to gather like this and to keep our sisters and brothers from being invisible. If you are invisible, you can be forgotten. “
On May 1, Premier Rachel Notley declared May to be Sexual Violence Awareness Month. While the May 5 Red Dress Day is broader than Alberta, it adds meaning that it is situated in May and was marked in Edmonton.
Kate Quinn is the Executive Director of the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE).