Awareness has been achieved; now it is time for action.
This was the dominant message of the REDress Campus Campaign at Durham College (DC), a week-long series of events focused on the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirited People (MMIWG2S).
Led by the First Peoples Indigenous Centre (FPIC) at DC and Indigenous Education and Cultural Services at Ontario Tech University, the campaign also brought together community partners including the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, Carea Community Health Centre, The Nourish and Develop Foundation and DC Students Inc.
The week began with the reveal of an installation of red dresses across the college and university’s shared Oshawa campus, each dress symbolizing someone taken by the MMIWG2S crisis. In addition to the dress installation, events were held each day from February 10 to 14, culminating with a memorial march and closing ceremony feast on Friday afternoon.
The campaign was inspired by Métis artist Jaime Black’s The REDress Project, an aesthetic response to the MMIWG2S crisis, which is now a permanent exhibit in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Much like Black’s project, the red dresses installed across DC and Ontario Tech’s shared campus, Ontario Tech’s downtown Oshawa location, and DC’s Whitby campus and Pickering Learning Site, served as a visual reminder of the staggering number of MMIWG2S.
The REDress Campus Campaign included an opening ceremony featuring guest speaker Suzanne Smoke of Alderville First Nation, who is a Women’s Traditional Dancer, speaker, and facilitator, as well as an Anishinaabe Water Walker. On February 11, Kim Wheatley, an Anishinaabe Ojibway Grandmother from Shawanaga First Nation spoke about the connection between violence against women and violence against the land that is causing climate change.
On February 12, the First Peoples Indigenous Centre hosted an arts open house where participants could make a tile necklace to both commemorate MMIWG2S and celebrate the strength and future of Indigenous women, and take part in a traditional beading workshop.
One of the many highlights of the week included the special Global Class conversation held on February 13 between Jaime Black and Cree scholar Karyn Recollet. An associate professor with the University of Toronto’s Women & Gender Studies Institute, Professor Recollet brought the original REDress Project to her university’s downtown campus in 2017. The conversation between the women focused on their work in connection with the crisis of MMIWG2S. A group from the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation also provided a big drum performance to open and close the event.