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CHATTER: REDress Project inspires local solidarity (July 2018)

July 18th, 2018 · No Comments

Jaime Black’s REDress Project has inspired three churches along Bloor Street to show their solidarity with those seeking redress for Canada’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

In 2014, the Métis artist created an art installation at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg that featured red dresses as symbols of the missing and murdered women. Since then, the installation has grown, and Black is collecting 600 dresses by community donation that will later be installed in public spaces across Winnipeg and Canada to symbolize the “staggering number of women who are no longer with us”, according to her website, redressproject.org.

Her project has inspired many collaborators across Canada, including an art display last year at the University of Toronto’s St. George campus, and now Bloor Street United Church, Church of the Redeemer, and Trinity-St. Paul’s Church. All three have hung red dresses around their exteriors.

“As members of the church and community I think we have a duty to raise awareness on serious societal issues like this,” said Randi Helmers, who helped with the display. She’s a long-time member of the Bloor Street United Church and a theatre and visual artist.

“The 60s and 70s were the awakening of the feminist movement in the church. Part of our duty is to raise consciousness and teach people the challenges faced by urban and reserve Indigenous people. Hopefully this starts a conversation and makes people act and look to help,” said Pamela Thomson, a member of the Church of the Redeemer.

She’s a leader of the Indigenous Solidarity Working Group and the Indigenous Justice Coalition, and was influential in the collaboration between the churches.

“The idea is to raise awareness, and a basic part of any work in this area is to listen to Indigenous people and take our lead from them because we have this long history of giving solutions which were not appropriate,” said Dianne Johnson, a member of the Bloor Street United Church, who’s also a representative of the church’s Social Justice Committee and the Indigenous Rights Group.

“It is very powerful, effective, and a political statement in an artistic form,” said Helmers.

The displays started on June 4 and will most likely run till further notice. St. Paul’s Bloor Street is set to join the other three churches and add a display in August.

For more information on the National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, please visit mmiwg-ffada.ca.

—Annemarie Brissenden with files from Temi Dada/Gleaner News

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