Two red dresses have gone missing from their display by Highway 4.
The disappearance was noticed today by Jennifer Touchie, as she and her partner checked on the location of the dresses 15 to 20 kilometres east of the Highway 4 junction to Tofino and Ucluelet. The discovery was disturbing, as the pieces were hung about 50 feet apart to recognize two women who are among the countless Indigenous females who have gone missing or were murdered. The dresses were hung on April 25, said Touchie.
“My partner Colin and I hung them in the trees and we squeezed them tight to make sure,” said the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ member. “Today I just went for a drive just to see if they were still hanging - for some reason, I don’t know what made me go there but I did - and they were gone. One hanger was broken.”
In recent weeks red dresses have been appearing along highway corridors and roads across Canada to honour those lost in the national phenomenon. According to Canada’s Department of Justice, Aboriginal females fall victim to homicide at a rate of almost six times that of the non-Indigenous population, an ongoing crisis that prompted the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Those lost will be recognized Wednesday, May 5 on Red Dress Day.
Touchie plans to involve the police, but wants the municipalities of Ucluelet and Tofino to take the incident seriously.
“They need to understand the significance of the red dresses,” she said. “We just want to make a stand that our lives matter. There’s a lot of people and we need to acknowledge those that have passed or are still missing.”
Touchie and others involved in the May event are also hanging blue dress shirts to mark the tragic passing of Indigenous men as well. Her cousin was James Williams, who died in July 2020 in a Duncan shelter on the day he was released from police custody. B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office recently released report indicating that police did not have a role in his death, but the incidents or any people who caused the 52-year-old’s passing have not been concluded by authorities.