New Brunswick

Red dresses stark reminder of missing, murdered Aboriginal women

About 30 red dresses are hanging from the pergola on the St. Thomas University campus in Fredericton this week. Each dress is a powerful symbol. The dresses are part of the REDress Project, created in 2010 by Jaime Black, a Metis artist based in Winnipeg.

Artist Jaime Black's moving REDress Project comes to Fredericton

St. Thomas University hosts the REDress exhibit. 2:03

About 30 red dresses are hanging from the pergola on the St. Thomas University campus in Fredericton this week.

Each dress is a powerful symbol.

The dresses are part of the REDress Project, created in 2010 by Jaime Black, a Metis artist based in Winnipeg.

Jaime Black brings her REDress Project to the St. Thomas campus. (Joe McDonald/CBC)

"The idea is to use an empty red dress as a representation of all of the women who are no longer with us," says Black, whose work has been exhibited across Canada and internationally. 

It's very emotional.- Sharlene Paul, Tobique First Nation

Black says she started the project as a response to the more than 1,000 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

"I'm really interested in using artwork as a vehicle to get people thinking about some of the issues we're dealing with as a community.

"There is a large silence in the public around missing and murdered indigenous women and it's starting to become more public, and I think the first step toward healing is educating people … how we can work together to end this violence."
 
On Tuesday, Black was hanging the dresses with help from a number of people, including Sharlene Paul.

Paul is from Tobique First Nation and is president of the Indigenous Women's Association of the Maliseet and Mi'kmaq territory.

Ashley Julian and Sharlene Paul help set up the REDress Project on the St. Thomas University campus in Fredericton. (Joe McDonald/CBC)

"I feel like Native women across Canada are not valued. That's why there hasn't been an inquiry [into missing and murdered women]," she says. 

Of the red dresses, hanging mute in the campus courtyard, Paul says, "It's wonderful. It's very emotional."

Ashley Julian is a graduate student from Indian Brook, Nova Scotia. She, too, came to help set up the REDress Project. 

"Even though these women have been murdered and their bodies have not been found, their spirits are still here and the dresses signify that."

 

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