Manitoba

Manitobans honour missing and murdered indigenous women with ribbons on Winnipeg's Midtown Bridge

At least a dozen people braved the chill Monday night to hang ribbons on the Midtown Bridge in Winnipeg in a colourful tribute to missing and murdered indigenous women.

The initiative, which began in Manitoba's The Pas by four women, is happening around Canada and the U.S.

Rhonda Head, Paulene McGillivary, Janet Head and Jennifer Flett hung ribbons to honour missing and murdered women on the Bignell Bridge in The Pas, Manitoba, kick-starting dozens of other ribbon campaigns across Canada and the U.S. (Tyson Guiboche)

At least a dozen people braved the chill Monday night to hang ribbons on the Midtown Bridge in Winnipeg in a colourful tribute to missing and murdered indigenous women.

The initiative, which began in Manitoba's The Pas by four women on Dec. 13, was picked up in Winnipeg and has now been happening on bridges across Canada and the United States.

By Monday night, 11 bridges across the city were adorned with red ribbons marked with 'MMIW' and a heart. Several of the Winnipeg campaigns have been led by Althea Guiboche, otherwise known as the bannock lady, who credits the women from The Pas for the idea.

Doreen Merasty came out Monday night to hang ribbons in honour of her sister, Emily North Ballantyne, who went missing more than 25 years ago from Thompson, Man.
Doreen Merasty braved the chill Monday night to hang ribbons on the Midtown Bridge in Winnipeg in a colourful tribute to missing and murdered indigenous women. Her sister, Emily North Ballantyne, went missing more than 25 years ago from Thompson, Man. 1:01


"She's got five beautiful daughters that didn't grow up with their mother; they were robbed of their mother," she said, adding her sister's disappearance is now a cold case.

"She's our sister, she's our mother, she's our grandmother. We'd like to bring her home," she said.

Merasty says she tries to come out to initiatives that honour the missing and murdered women in support of their families. She hopes too that in some way, her involvement leads to answers for her own family.

"Give us a lead to find her. Bring her home," she said.

Heather Baril lives in Winnipeg, and although she's not indigenous and has not been personally affected by someone going missing or murdered, she sees value in bringing awareness to what she calls a "Canadian issue."

"I think it's something that should be of concern to everyone, regardless of your race or gender," she said.

"When people are going missing and being murdered at the rate that is going on for the indigenous population, I think it's a sign of a severe problem in this country and it's something that needs to be addressed at a higher level than it has been so far."

One young political science student from B.C. was visiting family in Winnipeg, and wanted to show his support after reading of the campaign online.  

"A lot of the men and women that are here today have really faced down tragedy on their own and I think it's incredibly courageous what they're trying to do, raising awareness about the issues," said Dylan Thiessen.

"And our country is facing a national tragedy, and only now is awareness being brought up more," he said.

"I've been a proponent of a national inquiry, I don't know exactly what that would resolve, but I don't know if it would necessarily solve anything but I think it would help point us in the right direction and shed some light on the issues."

The group lined both sides of the bridge with ribbons, and closed the night with smudging and prayer.

They plan to meet at the Kingston underpass Tuesday night at 7 p.m. to decorate the St. Vital Bridge next.