International Women’s Day 2011

Posted: January 4, 2011 in Uncategorized
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International Woman’s Day:

International Woman’s Day:

Woman’s Day History:

International Woman’s Day is held every year on March 8th. In 1977 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on member states to proclaim a day for woman’s rights and international peace. Canada chose March 8th as International Woman’s Day. Every year, Canadians celebrate progress toward equality for women and their full participation, reflect on the challenges and barriers that remain and consider future steps towards achieving equality for all women, in all aspects of their lives. We must promote gender equality and peace and work towards eliminating all violence against women (physical, sexual, emotional, institutional). We must fight for equality, justice, freedom and peace for all women. Nobody should be discriminated against because of their gender.

This year (2011) in Winnipeg, an event called The REDress Project is taking place beginning on March 7th. Here is the link to the Facebook event (

Beginning in January 2011, the Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies (IWGS) at the University of Winnipeg will be partnering with local Métis artist Jaime Black on an interdisciplinary on-campus art & education project. The REDress Project is a public art installation that aims to raise awareness surrounding the murder and disappearance of over 500 Aboriginal women across Canada. The aim of the project is to collect, by community donation, 500 RED dresses to later install and display in public spaces in an effort to draw attention to this often overlooked national issue.

The campus-wide installation of the REDress Project will take place during International Women’s Week, from March 7-12, 2011. Along with the installation of 300+ dresses, we will be coordinating tours of the installation, educational materials, a movie screening, as well as a panel of speakers. It is our intention to provide an environment for students, staff, faculty and the general public to learn through engagement with the art, and to provide opportunities for conversation about the serious impact of this gendered and racialized violence on all of the peoples of Canada.

It is our hope that faculty and staff throughout the University, as well as community and government partners, will join with us in the weeks and months before the installation to create space in classrooms, in offices, and in workplaces to engage and educate students, staff and the wider public about this crucial issue.

How can you get involved with the REDress Project at the University of Winnipeg?

– Join us for the launch of the REDress project on campus on Tuesday, January 18th from 12:30 to 1:30 pm in room 2M70! We intend this launch to be an opportunity for folks to learn about the project, and pick up some educational materials about the issue that can be shared in the classroom, workplace, or home. We also hope that this will be a forum for brainstorming and idea-sharing on how our partners both on, and off, campus may be able to support, and continue, the educational and artistic goals of the REDress project.

Donate! Collect new or gently used RED dresses of any size, length and style for donation OR offer your workplace as a donation drop-off location. The project will also gratefully accept cash donations for dress purchases or to offset the costs of installation.

Educate! Start conversations in your classroom, your workplace, your communities, and your home on the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. If you need reading materials and other educational supports we will have resource kits available beginning in January 2011, however the Native Women’s Association of Canada has incredible resources available through their Sisters in Spirit project at

Volunteer! We’ll need support installing the project, handing out educational materials and talking to folks about the project, as well as support at the various events during the week.

Attend! Bring your friends and family to the REDress project on campus and then go home and have conversations with folks about what you’ve learned, and what you’re thinking about.

To support the REDress project please contact us directly in one of the following ways. We appreciate your support, and welcome your ideas and feedback.

Kim Hunter (IWGS Projects and Events Coordinator) or 204.786.9921
Jaime Black (Artist + creator of the REDress project)

Please visit the REDress Project’s Facebook page

Amnesty Canada – Stolen Sisters; discrimination and violence against Indigenous women in Canada:

Aboriginal women across Canada are being discriminated against and are experiencing gendered and racialized violence. This is completely unacceptable. Women are not inferior to men and are not objects of sexual gratification. We are strong, empowered and equal!

Helen Betty Osborne was a 19-year-old Cree student from northern Manitoba. She dreamed of becoming a teacher. On November 12, 1971, four white men abducted her from the streets of The Pas. She was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered. A judge said later:

… the men who abducted Osborne believed that young Aboriginal women were objects with no human value beyond sexual gratification … Betty Osborne would be alive today had she not been an Aboriginal woman.

The murder of Helen Betty Osborne – and her family’s long search for justice – is one of the nine stories of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls told in Stolen Sisters: Discrimination and Violence against Indigenous Women in Canada, a report by Amnesty International.

These stories represent just part of the terror and suffering that has been inflicted on Indigenous or Aboriginal women and their families across Canada.

This violence can be stopped. But only if Canadian officials take concerted action to protect the lives of First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls.

On March 25, 2003 – three decades after the murder of Helen Betty Osborne – her 16-year-old cousin, Felicia Solomon, went missing in Winnipeg. The first posters seeking information on her disappearance were distributed by her family, not the police. Parts of her body were found three months later.

Lives at risk

According to a Canadian government statistic, young Indigenous women are five times more likely than other women of the same age to die as the result of violence.

Indigenous women have long struggled to draw attention to violence within their own families and communities. Canadian police and public officials have also long been aware of a pattern of racist violence against Indigenous women in Canadian cities – but have done little to prevent it.

The pattern looks like this:

  • Racist and sexist stereotypes deny the dignity and worth of Indigenous women, encouraging some men to feel they can get away with acts of hatred against them.
  • Decades of government policy have impoverished and broken apart Indigenous families and communities, leaving many Indigenous women and girls extremely vulnerable to exploitation and attack.
  • Many police forces have failed to institute necessary measures – such as training, protocols and accountability mechanisms – to ensure that officers understand and respect the Indigenous communities they serve. Without such measures, police too often fail to do all they can to ensure the safety of Indigenous women and girls whose lives are in danger.

No excuse for government inaction

There is no excuse for government inaction. In fact, many of the steps needed to ensure the safety and well-being of Indigenous women have already been identified by government inquiries – including the inquiry into the murder of Helen Betty Osborne.

All levels of government should work closely with Indigenous women’s organizations to develop a comprehensive and coordinated programme of action to stop violence against Indigenous women. Immediate action should be taken to implement a number of long overdue reforms, including:

  • Institute measures to ensure that police thoroughly investigate all reports of missing women and girls
  • Provide adequate, stable funding to the frontline organizations that provide culturally-appropriate services such as shelter, support and counselling to help Indigenous women and girls escape from harm’s way

“When will the Canadian government finally recognize the real dangers faced by Indigenous women?” asks Darlene Osborne, a relative of Felicia Solomon and Helen Betty Osborne. “Families like mine all over Canada are wondering how many more sisters and daughters we have to lose before real government action is taken.”

Stolen Sisters; profiles of violence and discrimination against Indigenous women in Canada:

No one knows exactly how many Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing in Canada over the past three decades. Because of gaps and inconsistencies in the way that the identities of victims of crime are recorded and made public in Canada, that question simply cannot be answered. However, we do know with certainty that the marginalization of Indigenous women in Canadian society has led to an extremely high risk of violence.

According to a 1996 Canadian government statistic, Indigenous women between the ages of 25 and 44 with status under the federal Indian Act are five times more likely than other women of the same age to die as the result of violence. [1] In the process of preparing the Stolen Sisters report, and in the three years that have followed its release, Amnesty International has spoken with countless Indigenous activists, frontline service provides, police officers, court workers and family and friends of missing and murdered women. All have confirmed that in their own experience Indigenous women in Canada face a greatly increased risk of violence in their daily lives.

Deep rooted patterns of racism and discrimination in Canadian society have contributed to this violence in a number of ways. These include pushing Indigenous women into situations of increased vulnerability to violence, denying many Indigenous women adequate protection of police and the justice system, and sending a message to Indigenous and non-Indigenous men alike that they can likely get away with acts of violence against Indigenous women.

Amnesty International’s research has focused on one often overlooked dimension of Indigenous women’s experience of violence: the violence that takes place in urban settings or the lives of women moving between reserves and urban settings. The following stories of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada illustrate some of the common themes that have emerged in the course of this research.

In some instances, the women were targeted by strangers. In other cases, they were the victims of intimate acquaintances. In some cases, police failed to do everything they should have to ensure an immediate and thorough investigation. In others, family members praised police for their efforts. But in every instance, society as a whole could have and should have done more to recognize and reduce the risk of violence and to ensure that justice was done.

Some of these stories are of Indigenous women who have gone missing or been killed while working in the sex trade. There can be no doubt that all women in the sex trade face a greatly increased risk of violence. In the Stolen Sisters report we detail some of the economic pressures that have led to a large number of Indigenous women deciding to take this risk in order to provide for themselves and their families.

It is also clear from these stories that all Indigenous women – whether or not they have ever had involvement with what police and politicians sometimes label “high risk lifestyles” – may be targeted for violence or denied protection from violence simply because they are Indigenous women. The 1991 Manitoba Justice Inquiry concluded that racism and sexism intersect in dangerous stereotypes of Indigenous women as sexually “available” to men. The Inquiry said of the murder of Helen Betty Osborne:

Her attackers seemed to be operating on the assumption that Aboriginal women were promiscuous and open to enticement through alcohol or violence. It is evident that the men who abducted Osborne believed that young Aboriginal women were objects with no human value beyond sexual gratification.[2]

Amnesty International believes the same objectification of Indigenous women has been a factor in the targeting of other women whose stories follow below, in the failure of police to respond adequately to their disappearance or in the silent complicity of members of the public who knew of the attacks but failed to come forward to police.

All of these dimensions of violence against Indigenous women give rise to serious human rights concerns. Governments in Canada have an obligation both to address the underlying factors of marginalization and impoverishment that place so many Indigenous women in harms way, as well as to take all reasonable measures to prevent and to prosecute attacks on women. The first story that follows, a murder that was carried out more than thirty years ago and which resulted in a provincial inquiry, is a stark reminder of the need for public pressure to hold governments accountable for meeting these obligations.

Stop Violence Against Women Campaign:

Stop Violence Against Indigenous Women:

The scale of violence experienced by Indigenous Women in Canada requires a comprehensive and coordinated response from the Canadian Government

“The committee…recommends that [Canada] develop a specific and integrated plan for addressing the particular conditions affecting Aboriginal women… including poverty, poor health, inadequate housing, low school-completion rates, low employment rates, low income and high rates of violence.” UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, November 2008.

Long-standing patterns of marginalization, impoverishment and discrimination are critical factors putting Indigenous women in Canada at risk of violence and exploitation. These same factors have also denied many Indigenous women full protection of the police and justice system.

According to a government statistic, young Indigenous women in Canada are five times more likely than other women of the same age to die as the result of violence. The Native Women’s Association of Canada has documented more than 520 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, most within the last three decades. Because of gaps in police and government reporting, the actual numbers may be much higher.

The Canadian government has condemned the violence and promised to take action. But efforts to date have fallen far short of the comprehensive, coordinated response needed to address such serious and pervasive human rights violations.


To: The Right Honorable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

The scale of violence faced by Indigenous women in Canada requires a comprehensive and coordinated response.

I welcome the recent commitment by Canadian officials to develop a national plan of action to ensure Indigenous women’s safety, economic security and well-being.

I urge your government to work with Indigenous women to develop a comprehensive strategy to:

  • Ensure Indigenous women’s access to justice, including effective and unbiased police response to all cases of missing and murdered women,
  • Improve public awareness and accountability through the consistent collection and publication of comprehensive national statistics on rates of violent crime against Indigenous women,
  • Eliminate discrimination in funding of government services for Indigenous women and families,
  • Address the root causes of violence against Indigenous women, including by closing the economic gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Stolen Sisters Petition:

Stolen Sisters; A human rights response to discrimination and violence against Indigenous women in Canada:

Petition to the House of Commons:

WHEREAS: The Native Women’s Association of Canada, as part of their Sisters in Spirit campaign, has identified 520 missing and murdered Aboriginal women whose cases go back to 1970; the equivalent in the whole Canadian population would be 18,000 missing or murdered women. This research has convinced the following Canadians that violence against Aboriginal women must be stopped and that we need to find the strategies, resources and tools to stop women from disappearing.

We, the undersigned, call upon the Parliament of Canada to: ensure NWAC receives sufficient funding to continue its important work protecting women through its Sisters in Spirit initiative and to invest in initiatives recommended by NWAC to help prevent more women from disappearing.

Canadian Women’s Foundation; Facts about violence against women:

Missing Native Women Manitoba:

Sisters in Spirit Winnipeg Chapter Facebook Group:

We must bring attention to the violence against Aboriginal women. Raise awareness!

The REDress Project Facebook Group:

A visual art installation project with strong ties to the community and broader public, The REDress Project is based on an aesthetic response to the more than 500 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada. Drawing attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Aboriginal women the installation seeks to evoke a presence through the marking of absence.
The installation here is a precis of a larger, outdoor work in which more than 500 red dresses will be installed in an accessible public site, in an effort at once to remind and incite, to witness and represent.


As the project is contingent upon community support donations of RED Dresses will be accepted to later be used in the public installation portion of the project.

Please drop off donations at:
Urban Shaman: Contemporary Aboriginal Art
290 Mcdermot Ave.(2nd Flr.)

INFO. for more information contact Jaime Black on facebook or email


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