MNBC COMMEMORATES RED DRESS DAY AND COMMITS TO MÉTIS SPECIFIC CALLS FOR JUSTICE

Red dresses adorn the trees along the Trans Canada Hwy through the town of Ladysmith on Vancouver Island. Photo: Anne Duex

On May 5, 2021, Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) and Métis Women British Columbia (MWBC) commemorate Red Dress Day, the national day of awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirits (MMIWG2S). MWBC and MNBC pledge to honour the day by advocating for MMIWG2S and committing to the 231 Calls for Justice and the 29 Métis-Specific Calls for Justice.

The REDress Project began in 2010 when artist Jaime Black put up installations of red dresses in Manitoba to represent the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. The project continues to commemorate missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two spirits from First Nations, Inuit, Métis and Native American communities by hanging empty dresses.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls started in the spring of 2015 with final findings published in June 2019. The report contains 231 Calls for Justice to be taken up by Canadians and governing bodies to end the deadly violence and injustices against MMIWG2S. These calls for justice came from over 2,300 testimonies, including some from Métis women and girls. Métis witnesses who testified emphasized the need for greater awareness of Métis issues, distinct realities, and the need for practical supports for Métis families.

How to participate and raise awareness for MMIWG2S and Red Dress Day:

  1. Read through the 29 Métis-Specific Calls for Justice and commit to supporting one of the calls (see Jana Schulz’s quote below for an example).
  2. Wear red on May 5 and post a photo on social media with the hashtag #RedDressDay along with your commitment.
  3. Host a virtual community event, prayer circle, or candlelight vigil. For example, host a virtual beading workshop for your community.
  4. Post a list of names of missing or murdered from your community.
  5. Create a living memorial to honour those lost.

It is important to keep the conversation and awareness alive regarding ongoing experience of violence for Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGTBBQQIA+. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this experience as women suffer the greatest impact in job losses, challenges in accessing childcare and a sharp increase in domestic violence in the home.

Join Métis Women BC and Métis Nation BC by showing your commitment to keep awareness and dialogue about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGTBBQQIA+ going.

“Beginning May 5, Red Dress Awareness Day, and for the whole month of May, Métis Women BC will elevate their commitment to ending violence against Métis women and their commitment to increasing connections with Métis women in their communities through various culturally relevant activities. Métis women in BC have already shared with us activities like delivering Three Sister Totes, creating and gifting ribbons skirts and sashes, standing in solidarity with sisters who were part of the MMIWG2S Inquiry, and connecting to vital services like food, medicine, and education,” said Dr. Kate Elliott, Provincial Women’s Chair, Métis Women BC.

Right: Jana Schulz, Region 4 Women’s Representative for MWBC

“I am committed to women by continuously advocating for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGTBQQIA+ people, and for the implementation of the 231 Calls for Justice. I strive to stand up to injustice, racism, inequities, inequality, and discrimination. I use my voice daily to challenge systems that continue to increase risk and harm to our women, girls and 2SLGTBBQQIA+ people,” said Jana Schulz, Region 4 Women’s Representative for Métis Women BC.

If you or someone you know is in crisis:

24-hour Métis Crisis Line toll free 1-833-638-4722

BC Health 211 https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/te7721

VictimLink toll free 1-800-563-0808

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/justice/criminal-justice/victims-of-crime/victimlinkbc

Learn the Signal for Help: https://canadianwomen.org/signal-for-help/

To learn more about Métis Women British Columbia, contact Dr. Kate Elliott, Métis Women BC Chair at kelliott@mnbc.ca.

Métis-Specific Calls for Justice

(extracted from the complete Final Report of the National Inquiry into MMIWG)

Read the Métis-Specific Call for Justice in PDF form here.

The Calls for Justice in this report must be interpreted and implemented in a distinctions-based manner, taking into account the unique history, culture and reality of Métis communities and people. This includes the way that Métis people and their issues have been ignored by levels of government, which has resulted in barriers to safety for Métis women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people. The diversity of the experiences of Métis women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, both among themselves, and as between other Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, must be fully recognized and understood.

All actions taken to ensure the safety and well-being of Métis women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people must include their participation, including those with lived experience. In addition, the recognition and protection of, and compliance with, the human rights and Indigenous rights of Métis women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people on a substantively equal basis is a legal imperative.

Métis witnesses who testified at the National Inquiry, and Parties with Standing’s closing submissions, emphasized the need for greater awareness of Métis issues and distinctive realities, and practical supports for Métis families. They also focused on guiding principles such as: Métis self-determination, and the need for culturally-specific solutions; respect for human rights; prevention in relation to violence and child welfare, and substantively equal governmental support for Métis children and families; and, inclusion of all Métis perspectives in decision making, including 2SLGBTQQIA people and youth.

17.1     We call upon the federal government to uphold its constitutional responsibility to Métis people and to non-Status people in the provision of all programs and services that fall under its responsibility.

17.2     We call upon the federal government to pursue the collection and dissemination of disaggregated data concerning violence against Métis women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, including barriers they face in accessing their rights to safety, informed by Métis knowledge and experiences. We also call upon the federal government to support and fund research that highlights distinctive Métis experiences, including the gathering of more stories specific to Métis perspectives on violence.

17.3     We call upon all governments to ensure equitable representation of Métis voices in policy development, funding, and service delivery, and to include Métis voices and perspectives in decision-making, including Métis 2SLGBTQQIA people and youth, and to implement self-determined and culturally specific solutions for Métis people.

17.4     We call upon all governments to fund and support Métis-specific programs and services that meet the needs of Métis people in an equitable manner, and dedicated Métis advocacy bodies and institutions, including but not limited to Métis health authorities and Métis child welfare agencies.

17.5     We call upon all governments to eliminate barriers to accessing programming and services for Métis, including but not limited to barriers facing Métis who do not reside in their home province.

17.6     We call upon all governments to pursue the implementation of a distinctions based approach that takes into account the unique history of Métis communities and people, including the way that many issues have been largely ignored by levels of government and now present barriers to safety.

17.7     We call upon all governments to fund and to support culturally appropriate programs and services for Métis people living in urban centres, including those that respect the internal diversity of Métis communities with regards to spirituality, gender identity, and cultural identity.

17.8     We call upon all governments, in partnership with Métis communities, organizations, and individuals, to design mandatory, ongoing cultural competency training for public servants (including staff working in policing, justice, education, health care, social work, and government) in areas such as trauma-informed care, cultural safety training, antiracism training, and understanding of Métis culture and history.

17.9     We call upon all governments to provide safe transportation options, particularly in rural, remote, and northern communities, including “safe rides” programs, and to monitor high recruitment areas where Métis women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA individuals may be more likely to be targeted.

17.10    We call upon all governments to respect Métis rights and individuals’ self-identification as Métis.

17.11    We call upon all governments to support and fund dialogue and relationships between Métis and First Nations communities.

17.12    We call upon police services to build partnerships with Métis communities, organizations, and people to ensure culturally safe access to police services.

17.13    We call upon police services to engage in education about the unique history and needs of Métis communities.

17.14    We call upon police services to establish better communication with Métis communities and populations through representative advisory boards that involve Métis communities and address their needs.

17.15    We call upon all governments to fund the expansion of community-based security models that include Métis perspectives and people, such as local peacekeeper officers or programs such as the Bear Clan Patrol.

17.16    We call upon all governments to provide support for self-determined and culturally specific needs-based child welfare services for Métis families that are focused on prevention and maintenance of family unity. These services will also focus on: avoiding the need for foster care; restoring family unity and providing support for parents trying to reunite with children; healing for parents; and developing survivor-led programs to improve family safety. These services include culturally grounded parenting education and interventions that support the whole family, such as substance abuse treatment programs that accommodate parents with children and that are specifically suited to Métis needs and realities. We also call upon all governments to provide long-term stable funding for wraparound services and exceptional programs aimed at keeping Métis families together.

17.17    We call upon all governments to provide more funding and support for Métis child welfare agencies and for child placements in Métis homes.

17.18    We call upon all governments to establish and maintain funding for cultural programming for Métis children in foster care, especially when they are placed in non- Indigenous or non-Métis families.

17.19    We call upon all governments to address Métis unemployment and poverty as a way to prevent child apprehension.

17.20    We call upon all governments to fund and support programs for Métis women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, including more access to traditional healing programs, treatment centres for youth, family support and violence prevention funding and initiatives for Métis, and the creation of no-barrier safe spaces, including spaces for Métis mothers and families in need.

17.21    We call upon the federal government to recognize and fulfill its obligations to the Métis people in all areas, especially in health, and further call upon all governments for services such as those under FNIHB to be provided to Métis and non-Status First Nations Peoples in an equitable manner consistent with substantive human rights standards.

17.22    We call upon all governments to respect and to uphold the full implementation of Jordan’s Principle with reference to the Métis.

17.23    We call upon all governments to provide Métis-specific programs and services that address emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual dimensions of well-being, including coordinated or co-located services to offer holistic wraparound care, as well as increased mental health and healing and cultural supports.

17.24    We call upon all governments and educators to fund and establish Métis-led programs and initiatives to address a lack of knowledge about the Métis people and culture within Canadian society, including education and advocacy that highlights the positive history and achievements of Métis people and increases the visibility, understanding, and appreciation of Métis people.

17.25    We call upon all governments to fund programs and initiatives that create greater access to cultural knowledge and foster a positive sense of cultural identity among Métis communities. These include initiatives that facilitate connections with family, land, community, and culture; culturally specific programming for Métis 2SLGBTQQIA people and youth; events that bring Métis Elders, Knowledge Keepers and youth together; and mentorship programs that celebrate and highlight Métis role models.

17.26    We call upon all governments to fund and support cultural programming that helps to revitalize the practise of Métis culture, including integrating Métis history and Métis languages into elementary and secondary school curricula, and programs and initiatives to help Métis people explore their family heritage and identity and reconnect with the land.

17.27    We call upon all governments to pursue the development of restorative justice and rehabilitation programs, including within correctional facilities, specific to Métis needs and cultural realities, to help address root causes of violence and reduce recidivism, and to support healing for victims, offenders, and their families and communities.

17.28    We call upon all governments to provide increased victim support services specific to Métis needs to help Métis victims and families navigate the legal system and to support their healing and well-being throughout the process of seeking justice.

17.29    We call upon all actors within the justice system to engage in education and training regarding the history and contemporary realities of Métis experiences.