May 27th, 2024

Canada, Manitoba to develop Red Dress Alert for missing Indigenous women and girls

By Alessia Passafiume, The Canadian Press on May 3, 2024.

Canada and Manitoba are partnering to launch an Indigenous-led alert system that would inform the public when an Indigenous woman or girl goes missing, they announced today in Winnipeg. A red dress is hangs on a light fixture on National Day of Awareness for the prevention of violence against Indigenous women, also known as the Red Dress Day in Ottawa, Friday, May 5, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby

OTTAWA – Canada and Manitoba are partnering to launch an alert system that would inform the public when an Indigenous woman or girl goes missing, they announced Friday in Winnipeg, ahead of a national day to mark the crisis.

The long-awaited Red Dress Alert system is a bid to prevent deaths and increase safe reunions with loved ones.

Statistics Canada concluded in a report last year that the homicide rate for Indigenous women and girls was six times higher than the rate for their non-Indigenous counterparts.

A national inquiry concluded five years ago that they are 12 times more likely to go missing or murdered.

“In the lead-up to Red Dress Day, we keep those who have been stolen from their communities and this world in our thoughts, and we centre them in our action,” said Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Gary Anandasangaree.

“Today, as we announce this partnership to co-develop a Red Dress Alert system with Indigenous partners, we take the next steps toward bringing more Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit and gender-diverse people home.”

The Manitoba pilot is to be designed with and led by Indigenous Peoples, and is expected to help inform an eventual national alert system.

It will be funded through moneys set aside in this year’s federal and provincial budgets.

Nahanni Fontaine, Manitoba’s minister for women and gender equity, said she has heard from community members who believe the alert system could help put Indigenous women and girls at less risk.

“We look forward to working inclusively with Indigenous partners in Manitoba to find the best path forward as we build this pilot project.”

NDP MP Leah Gazan, whose efforts on the file led a House of Commons committee to study the prospect for a national alert system, called the announcement a small but significant step.

Gazan’s fellow MPs unanimously backed her motion in the House of Commons last year declaring the deaths and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls a Canada-wide emergency.

The motion also called on the federal government to fund a new alert system similar to Amber Alerts.

Other North American jurisdictions already have similar alert systems, including Washington state’s Missing Indigenous Person system.

The national inquiry’s 2019 final report found deliberate rights violations were at the heart of violence against Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people.

With the final report came 231 calls to justice directed toward governments, social service providers, industry and Canadians, but relatively little progress has been made to date.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2024.

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