'My heart is with the families': Ceremonies held in Vancouver, Langley for Red Dress Day

Red dresses were hung in the rain outside Vancouver City Hall Thursday in a somber memorial for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The Pacific Association of First Nations Women set up tents for speeches, prayers and songs, joined by Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Coun. Jean Swanson. Gul-Giit-Jaad of St’langng Jaanas/Laanas clan in Haida Gwaii was among those who helped hang the dresses in the trees.

“I’m wearing red in memory of my mother and my three sisters who were murdered in the Downtown Eastside,” she said. “(Hanging the dresses) was very profound for us because when you’re hanging them it’s just reflecting again, and my heart is with the families all across Canada.”

Ceremonies were held across the country to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, also known as Red Dress Day.

Another tent outside Vancouver City Hall was dedicated to young Indigenous woman Shaylanna Brown, who went missing from Haida Gwaii two years ago, at just 24 years old. Her aunt, Sylvia Williams, wore a T-shirt saying “Bring Shaylanna Home.”

“Each days it’s a hard day going through knowing a loved one is missing,” Williams said. “We keep our hopes up and keep praying that they get home safely – that each and every Indigenous woman be found.”

Dozens also marched through the rain in Langley as part of a ceremony organized by the Lower Fraser Valley Aboriginal Society.

Red Dress Day is commemorated annually on May 5, which grew out of the REDress Project, created by Métis artist Jaime Black in 2010.