By Paula E. Kirman, Windspeaker.com Contributor
Edmonton's annual Red Dress Day was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but made a return yesterday, May 5, of this year.
The event took place despite the tightening of pandemic restrictions and regulations announced the evening before by Premier Jason Kenney after the province suffered several days of the highest numbers of cases during the pandemic’s three waves. The province is leading North America in per capita infection rates. One such restriction was for outdoor gatherings to be limited to five people and a maximum of two household cohorts.
However, at least 400 people gathered in Sir Winston Churchill Square and marched down Jasper Avenue to commemorate, honour, and call for justice for missing and murdered Indigenous people. Marchers were in cohort groups with distance between them, and most participants wore masks.
The march ended in Amiskwaskahegan—Beaver Hills House Park—where family members shared stories of their missing and murdered loved ones. Red dresses hung from tree branches throughout the park. There was an open closet for anyone wishing to take clothing, and food hampers were available to those in need.
May 5 is the National Day of Awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous people.
“Red is known to be the only colour spirits see,” read the explanation on the event's Facebook page. “It is hoped that by wearing red, we can call back the missing spirits of our brothers and sisters so we can honour them in a good way.”
Edmonton's Red Dress Day was organized by Bear Clan Patrol Edmonton Beaver Hills House, a community-based initiative that undertakes street patrols in the inner city, providing culturally-sensitive, non-judgemental and non-violent support. The event was also supported by Water Warriors YEG, a group of volunteers bringing water, food, and supplies to people living on the streets.