Hundreds take to Winnipeg’s iconic intersection for Red Dress Day

Many at the event on Friday were people whose lives have been personally affected and altered due to violence against women.

Traffic was halted at the corner of Portage and Main on Friday, as hundreds gathered at the famous intersection to commemorate Red Dress Day, and remember and honour Indigenous women and girls who have fallen victim to violence, abuse, and murder.

May 5 is Red Dress Day in Canada, a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People (MMIWG2S+).

In downtown Winnipeg, a crowd that included many dressed in red gathered at Portage and Main and flooded onto the street around noon, to take part in a ceremony and Round Dance, while police briefly rerouted traffic.

Many at the event on Friday were people whose lives have been personally affected and altered due to violence against women, including Barbara Houle, whose daughter Cherisse Houle was only 17 years old when her body was discovered in a creek in the RM of Rosser in 2009.

Cambria Harris took part in a ceremony and Round Dance at Portage and Main in Winnipeg on Friday, May 5, 2023, to commemorate Red Dress Day. Harris is the daughter of Morgan Harris, who police say is a victim of murder, but whose remains have never been recovered. Dave Baxter/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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She said although many years have passed, she still struggles to cope with the loss of her daughter.

“It still feels like it was yesterday,” Houle said. “Every day is a struggle.”

She said she has been coming to Red Dress Day events and other events and ceremonies commemorating missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in the years since she lost Cherisse, and that going to those events helps her to deal with her ongoing grief.

“It’s amazing that we have all this support, not only my family, but other families have so much support,” Houle said.

“It warms my heart to see this every year, and to see that these women are not forgotten.”

Also taking part in Friday’s ceremony was Cambria Harris, the daughter of Morgan Harris, one of several women who police believe was murdered by alleged serial killer Jeremy Skibicki.

Harris said the crowd that gathered on Friday was also there to remind all Indigenous and non-Indigenous people that the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is one that she said “can no longer be ignored.”

“I see strength in numbers,” Harris said while looking out at the crowd. “This is a national emergency, and Winnipeg is the epicenter of this emergency.

“With community gatherings, we can mourn together but also show strength and give voice to all those women who have had their voices stripped from them time and time again.”

More needs to be done to keep Indigenous women, girls safe

As Canada marked Red Dress Day, a Manitoba Grand Chief called on all levels of government to do more to keep Indigenous women and girls safe in Manitoba, and across Canada. Read more.

Jeannie White Bird, one of the co-chairs of the Manitoba MMIWG Coalition, said she hopes images shared from the gathering show all Winnipeggers and all Canadians that there is a lot more work that needs to be done to keep Indigenous women and girls safe.

“We need this awareness, and that is why we are here in solidarity,” White Bird said. “Nobody asked for this attention, nobody wants to have to gather for reasons like this, but this was forced upon us.”

After the Round Dance, many of those who took part then marched down Main Street to The Forks, where another gathering and ceremony took place Friday afternoon at the Oodenna Celebration Circle.

Organizers wrapped up the day with a march from The Forks to the Legislature Friday evening.

This story was originally published in The Winnipeg SunIt is republished under a Creative Commons license as part of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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