Port Alberni, BC – It was at 10 a.m. that the color red, along with posters of missing and murdered loved ones, began to fill the parking lot at n̓aasn̓aasʔaqsa totem pole, near the Victoria Quay.
May 5th marks National Red Dress Day, where, in Port Alberni, Nuu-chah-nulth-aht and community members gathered to raise awareness of MMIWG2S+ and remember their missing and murdered loved ones.
“We’re gathered here today in remembrance of our family members,” said Irene Robinson, of Tseshaht, one of the opening speakers. “Who we will always miss, who we will always love, who we will always think about and remember.”
“We gathered here to support the families of these loved ones, the families who walk, always, with the memories of their loved ones,” she continued.
The walk was led by Tla-o-qui-aht along Victoria Quay, River Road, and ending at Maht Mah’s where families and friends would speak the names of their loved ones to the crowd and share a meal together.
For Nuu-chah-nulth there are 53 women who have been murdered or died under suspicious circumstances, while two remain missing.
Lisa Watts, NTC MMIWG2S+ support worker, added two more names to that list.
Watts said that she regrets not asking the crowd of people who had been affected by MMIWG2S+. She predicted that the entire room of over 200 people would have stood.
“Our communities are so close knit,” said Watts.
Among those that are missing is Lisa Marie Young of Tla-o-qui-aht who went missing in 2002 from Nanaimo. May 5 is the date of her birthday, while this year marks twenty-one years since her disappearance; the same age she was when she went missing.
“We had people express exactly the needs and the calls to action from the Nuu-chah-nulth people,” said Watts. “Everybody's getting their voices back.”
Watts said that Tla-o-qui-aht challenged Nuu-chah-nulth to make their own list and calls to action.
According to a statement from Jagmeet Singh, leader of the federal NDP party since 2017, a total of 247 Indigenous women were murdered in Canada.
“Despite promising to act, the rate of homicide against Indigenous women has not decreased under the current government’s watch,” reads the statement.
“Every day the government delays the implementation of the 231 Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is a day families risk losing a loved one,” the statement continued.
“I want, so bad, to get to a world where we don't have to do this,” said Watts.