Symbolic red dresses being rehung in Ladysmith after men filmed taking them down

The Ladysmith community, along with residents from across Vancouver Island, are coming together in support of the Lil' Red Dress Project after two men were caught on camera taking several dresses down.

Shawn Magnus of Sidney took the day off work and drove to Ladysmith on Friday morning to hang red dresses in the same location that the others were taken down.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” says Magnus when he saw the video. “What they did was abhorrent and it is wrong and (this is) something that I could do to try and correct it.”

The red dresses have become a symbol in raising awareness of missing murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) and can be seen along highways up and down Vancouver Island.

On Saturday morning, the Stz’uminus First Nation & Council and the Town of Ladysmith will be getting together to hang new red dresses in the same location.

“We want to educate and make sure everyone knows what those dresses really mean and how we can move forward in a good way,” says Chief Roxanne Harris, Stz’uminus First Nation.

They are also asking people to donate and drop off red dresses at Ladysmith City Hall, located at 12 Roberts St.

The dresses will then be hung along the stretch of highway starting at Coronation Mall in south Ladysmith going north to the Husky Gas Station, which is Stz’uminus First Nation territory.

They hope to paint the highway with red dresses before May 5, which is Red Dress Day, a national day of awareness towards MMIWG.

According to the Lil' Red Dress Project website, the awareness campaign was started after Indigenous people noticed that missing persons signs and billboards were being set up on island highways for a non-Indigenous person. Activists believe that many Indigenous people cannot afford to rent high-profile spaces, like billboards, to highlight missing persons, so red dresses are used to draw attention to all MMIWG.