As Canada marks Red Dress Day, this woman wants to see more engagement with Indigenous communities
Amberley John says awareness campaigns like Red Dress Day are extremely important, but she's urging Canadians to engage more frequently with local Indigenous communities.
John, the cultural resource co-ordinator at Windsor, Ont.'s Can-Am Indian Friendship Centre, said it can be overwhelming when the public only reaches out on designated days — or leading up to them — when Indigenous communities are impacted year round.
"What we're looking for is for the public to read those calls for justice that have been put together," said John.
"We just really need people to take that initiative and responsibility to educate themselves and have those difficult conversations so that they can take action."
In 2021, the federal government released its action plan in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls' (MMIWG) findings and its numerous recommendations.
Red Dress Day, first observed in 2010, happens every May 5, and is meant to honour missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
"Today is a day for us to sector our loved ones and relatives who are still missing or who have been murdered — also sector their families and come together as a community to care for one another, and at times to try and bring a lot of awareness to this day," said John.
Windsor's Can-Am Indian Friendship Centre held a sacred fire Friday to mark Red Dress Day, and John said it was nice for Indigenous community members to be with and support one another to honour this day, "whatever that looks like for each individual."
Jaycene Whiteye and her daughter Clara Balyo attended Friday's gathering at the friendship centre.
Whiteye said it can sometimes be "very scary" to be an Indigenous woman in North America.
"Knowing that if I were to go missing, or my sisters or cousins or aunties — you know, it seems like it can get slipped under the rug a lot," said Whiteye.
"Having this day right now, to bring awareness is really good … Make sure it's safe for a younger generation."
Whiteye encourages people to educate themselves on the inquiry surrounding missing and murdered Indigenous women.