‘Ensure that our peoples’ voices are being heard’: Red Dress Day in the Maritimes

Dozens of people walked through the rain and cold in downtown Sydney, NS, Thursday to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), also called Red Dress Day.

“I’m here to honor all missing and murdered aboriginal children, but I’m also here for my own,” said Mona Bernard.

Her daughter, Cassidy Bernard, was found dead inside her home on We’koqma’q First Nation more than three years ago.

She was 22-years-old and gave birth to twins a few months earlier.

Her ex-boyfriend, the father of her children, was later charged with second-degree murder.

“My daughter, Cassidy, she was taken,” said Bernard. “The babies were left there to die. I saved the babies. I feel like the babies saved me.”

Like Bernard, Dolena Poulette made the hour-long drive from We’koqma’q to take part in Thursday’s walk.

She carried an orange sign acknowledging the Indigenous lives lost in the Canadian residential school system.

“Because this was all part of it,” said Poulette. “Missing and murdered Indigenous women. These women were children one time too, and they were mothers. Mothers that lost their children.”

The walk was organized by the Jane Paul Centre, a not-for-profit community organization that tries to help Indigenous women living in the city.

Organizer Heidi Marshall says many in the community deal with homelessness, violence, poverty and addiction, and more help is needed.

“All our services and programs are made and developed from a colonial perspective,” said Marshall.

“We need to ensure that our peoples’ voices are being heard in any type of service that we’re providing these women, girls and our people as well.”

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