We need a Red Dress Alert to save lives


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The crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people (MMIWG2S) is a national emergency. That’s why I’m calling for the federal government to establish a nation-wide Red Dress Alert program that notifies the public when Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit individuals are reported missing. Lives are at stake, and we can’t afford to wait any longer.

A Red Dress Alert would function in a similar way to amber alerts work, where the public is notified of the suspected abduction of children who are in immediate danger. People would receive notifications on their cell phones when a woman, girl or two-spirit individual is reported missing. This would increase the likelihood that someone who goes missing is found.

Early alert programs like amber alerts have been proven to help locate missing individuals. According to Ontario police, more than 90 per cent of amber alerts lead to the safe recovery of children. A similar emergency alert could also be used when an Indigenous woman, girl or two-spirit person is reported missing. The idea of a Red Dress Alert is not new. Survivors, families and advocates have been calling for one for years because it will support the safety and security of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.

File photo

Leah Gazan, NDP MP for Winnipeg Centre spoke last month at a press conference at the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, calling on the Liberal government to create a Red Dress Alert program.

The call for a Red Dress Alert is even more urgent now given how rates of gender-based violence have significantly increased since the pandemic. We have seen tragic examples of this violence recently in our community, with the murders of Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, Rebecca Contois and Buffalo Woman by an alleged serial killer in Winnipeg. The prime minister himself has acknowledged that the crisis of MMIWG2S constitutes a genocide.

Despite this acknowledgment, progress on implementing the 231 Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry into MMIWG has been painfully slow. At the time of writing, the Liberal government has only spent five per cent of a $724.1 million fund that was announced in fall 2020 to prevent violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people. Not a single shelter or transitional home has been built since this funding was allocated.

This is unacceptable. Every moment that we wait to implement life-saving measures, another woman, girl or two-spirit person goes missing or is murdered. Creating a Red Dress Alert is a practical step the federal government can take to protect Indigenous lives. Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people deserve care and justice. They deserve, and need, a Red Dress Alert now.

Leah Gazan

Leah Gazan
Winnipeg Centre constituency report

Leah Gazan is the NDP Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre.

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