'We're all equal': Red Dress Day honoured in southern Alberta

A gathering to mark Red Dress Day was held at the Lethbridge Public Library on Thursday.

Community members in Lethbridge gathered at the Lethbridge Public Library on Thursday to honour national Red Dress Day.

It’s a day that's marked across the country, bringing awareness and calls on all Canadians to speak out on violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people. The day is especially important for Marilyn Contois, a technician and Indigenous services worker at the library, as she almost feel victim herself.

“What happened here today, wouldn’t have happened maybe 20 years ago, and (things are) taking time, two steps forward, one step back sometimes,” said Contois.

“I was approached when I was seven years old and I could've went missing along the Highway of Tears, but thank God that my Grade 3 teacher taught us kids, they really did a good job about teaching us about strangers,” she said.

Contois said she was excited to bring events to the library to mark the day, which included a round dance, honour song and different events throughout the week.

Artist Debbie Kelman taught a beading class, while also having her painting called ‘Her Hands: a tribute to Anna Mae Pictou Aquash' symbolizing the red dress hung in the library.

“After I did the painting, I stood back and I looked at it and I knew once I seen it that now I have to make the dress. And, so it was very powerful, spiritual experience making the dress,” said Kelman.

The dresses are empty to representing the women and girls who should be wearing them.

It’s not exactly known how many Indigenous females have been murdered or have disappeared, but the Native Women's Association of Canada believes it's at least 4,000.

Kelman says her grandmother always told her to think of everyone as equal.

“We’re all equal no matter what the situation in our life is, we’re all equal and that everybody has human dignity and for everyone to treat every person with human dignity,” said Kelman.

Those in attendance on Thursday say the event should be more than just one day.

“Everyday could a be a day that we remember the murdered and missing Indigenous women and two spirit as well as men and also being an ally,” said Contois.