Groups to create interactive map of cases of missing and murdered Indigenous victims in Quebec

·3 min read
Ten red dresses were seen hanging in Cabot Square in Downtown Montreal on Friday.               (Charles Contant/CBC - image credit)
Ten red dresses were seen hanging in Cabot Square in Downtown Montreal on Friday. (Charles Contant/CBC - image credit)

A moment of silence was held as 10 red dresses hung from trees and chairs around Cabot Square in downtown Montreal on Friday, including one dress small enough to fit a child.

There were several people standing on a stage who have had loved ones either killed or who have disappeared in recent years.

In hopes of putting an end to a cycle of violence and grief, community groups announced their plan to try to put names, faces and stories to the long list of cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people in Quebec — a reality in the province that often gets downplayed, they say.

Charles Contant/CBC
Charles Contant/CBC

The Iskweu Project, which aims to provide assistance to the families of people who are missing, and Quebec Native Women are the groups behind the plan to gather data and create an interactive map of those cases. Audrey Rousseau, a sociology professor at the Université du Quebec en Outaouais (UQO), is also involved.

Since 2010, May 5 has been observed as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit people, also known as Red Dress Day.

The map would help create an accurate portrait of the situation in Quebec and any geographical pattern could help determine the kind of support services that are needed in a certain area, organizers say.

The project will also include consultations with victims' families.

Charles Contant/CBC
Charles Contant/CBC

When asked how the interactive map could help those families, Janis Qavavauq-Bibeau, the co-ordinator of the Iskweu Project, said it could help them heal.

"We've all suffered intergenerational trauma. We've all suffered the same violence, loss, grief," she said.

"There's really a healing aspect for all us to be together today and also to know that they matter. Their stories matter to us and they should matter to the media also."

Johnny Wylde, who is from the Anishinaabe community of Pikogan near Val-d'Or, Que., was one of the speakers at Friday's event. His daughter disappeared nine years ago.

"We don't know what happened. We don't know if she's dead or alive, but we're still hopeful," said Wylde, who has gotten involved in projects related to the cases of missing and murdered women since he last saw his daughter.

"I try to help other families because there are many of us in Quebec.... We have to talk about it to better deal with these things."

Charles Contant/CBC
Charles Contant/CBC

The groups expect to gather data for the interactive map over three years and hope to present data within two. They also want to highlight some of the challenges with documenting the cases, such as accessing data and how law enforcement identifies some victims.

"I feel like indigenous people had their stories taken from them for such a long time, focusing on being like a sex worker or having addiction issues and that's not important," said Qavavauq-Bibeau.

"It takes away humanity. And I want to give back to the families. I want them to reclaim their stories."