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Five Calls for Justice Municipalities Can Action This Red Dress Day

May 5 is Red Dress Day. Red Dress Day, also known as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit Peoples (MMIWG2S), is an important day to honour the lives of Indigenous women, who are disproportionately targeted by gendered and racialized violence. Inspired by a 2010 art installation by Metis artist Jaime Black, the red dress is a symbol of the ongoing MMIWG2S crisis and subsequent struggles for justice.

This Red Dress Day and every day, we reflect on the key role local governments play in addressing the Calls for Justice outlined in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Although approximately four years have passed since the initial release of the Inquiry’s Final Report, little progress has been made regarding the implementation of the Calls for Justice.

Local governments have an important role to play in the Calls for Justice. Here are five Calls that municipalities can take action on today:

Government Budgets

1.3 We call upon all governments, in meeting human and Indigenous rights obligations, to pursue prioritization and resourcing of the measures required to eliminate the social, economic, cultural, and political marginalization of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people when developing budgets and determining government activities and priorities.

As we’ve said before, the best way to understand the priorities of a City Council is to look at their budgets. Many municipalities fail to prioritize or adequately resource their stated commitments to justice for MMIWG2S. Without a concrete action plan to address the root causes of violence against Indigenous women, the crisis will continue. Municipal governments must invest in critical supports for MMIWG2S, including funding allocation to Indigenous-led organizations, affordable housing initiatives, harm reduction services, and culturally-affirming health care, including Indigenous-led healing lodges for Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ peoples.

Community Safety

3.5 We call upon all governments to establish culturally competent and responsive crisis response teams in all communities and regions, to meet the immediate needs of an Indigenous person, family, and/or community after a traumatic event (murder, accident, violent event, etc.), alongside ongoing support.

Police have not only failed to fulfill their investigative obligations and hold perpetrators of violence against Indigenous women accountable, but have routinely been instigators of violence themselves. As such, municipalities must co-create community and peer-led crisis management initiatives, non-police mental health interventions, and social support programs with and for Indigenous women. Municipalities must also resource existing Indigenous-serving organizations that provide critical frontline services to survivors of violence, many of which are underfunded yet exceeding service capacity.

Sex Work Support

4.3 We call upon all governments to support programs and services for Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people in the sex industry to promote their safety and security. These programs must be designed and delivered in partnership with people who have lived experience in the sex industry. We call for stable and long-term funding for these programs and services.

Criminalization and anti-sex work stigma have created a precarious work environment for Indigenous sex-working communities. To ensure that the agency and human rights of Indigenous sex workers are upheld, municipalities must meaningfully collaborate with sex workers and sex worker-serving organizations to create relevant, inclusive, and accessible services. These services may range from increased harm reduction supports (e.g. condoms, safe supply) to wrap-around services for survivors of violence (e.g. support navigating the criminal justice system and health care system, mental health supports, housing).


4.6 We call upon all governments to immediately commence the construction of new housing and the provision of repairs for existing housing to meet the housing needs of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people. This construction and provision of repairs must ensure that Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people have access to housing that is safe, appropriate to geographic and cultural needs, and available wherever they reside, whether in urban, rural, remote, or Indigenous communities.

Inadequate access to safe, affordable, dignified, and culturally affirming housing severely increases the risk of violence Indigenous women face. Municipalities must prioritize the development of both short-term and long-term housing options for Indigenous women, including transitional housing initiatives, shelters, affordable rental units, and homes. Access to housing is one of the most prevalent themes throughout the Calls for Justice.

Safe and affordable public transit

4.8 We call upon all governments to ensure that adequate plans and funding are put into place for safe and affordable transit and transportation services and infrastructure for Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people living in remote or rural communities. Transportation should be sufficient and readily available to Indigenous communities and in towns and cities located in all of the provinces and territories in Canada.

Without access to safe and adorable public transportation, Indigenous women are forced to rely on alternative, more dangerous forms of transportation (e.g. hitchhiking) when traveling. To mitigate this, municipalities must support increased transportation services––through policy, planning, and funding––particularly during late hours and in rural areas. Local governments must also lower or subsidize fare costs to ensure that income is not a barrier to accessing transportation services.

By effectively addressing these Calls for Justice, municipalities can help build an equitable city that is safe for Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit Peoples this Red Dress Day and beyond.


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