Hundreds attend the Whitehorse March in honor of MMIWG2S + on Red Dress Day

Michele Thompson never had a chance to meet her aunt, Barbara Jack.

Jack was 14 when she disappeared after she ran away from her foster home in Whitehorse, where she was also forced to go to school.

It was 1974.

Her remains were found on Gray Mountain a year later.

“She was really young when she disappeared and I don’t know if anyone was looking for her … It’s just a heartbreaking story,” Thompson said in a May 5 interview.

“She was only 14 … So that’s why I’m walking, because she was my aunt.”

Participants in the march in honor of the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and people of 2-Spirit walk the Millennium Trail in Whitehorse on May 5th. (Jackie Hong / CBC)

In memory of Jack, Thompson has organized a march in Whitehorse on Red Dress Day for two years in a row, also known as the National Day of Awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Although she described the 2021 march as “very informal”, Thompson said she had teamed up with local groups this year including the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle and the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council to formalize the event.

Accompanied by the sound of singers and drums, hundreds of people walked from Whitehorse General Hospital to the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Center late Thursday morning, where a festive fire was lit.

42 red dresses were hung on tree branches along part of the route, 41 of which symbolize indigenous women and girls who went missing or were killed in the Yukon and northern British Columbia, and the last dress represents future victims.

Participants in the march in honor of the missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and 2-Spirited people are walking the Millennium Trail in Whitehorse on May 5th. (Jackie Hong / CBC)

Thompson said she was “very honored” and “extremely humiliated” by the response to the march.

“People are now aware of MMIWG2S + and we can talk about murdered and missing women,” she said.

“We want justice. We want to see closure. We want to see a solution, we want reconciliation – we want all things for our wives, for our sisters, our mothers, our grandmothers, our nephews, our aunts, our daughters. We want all this for them. ”

People gather around a festive fire in front of the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Center on May 5th. (Jackie Hong / CBC)

Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Executive Director Natalie Taylor also welcomed the number of people attending the march and ceremony on Thursday.

“More and more people are learning about (the issue of) missing and murdered indigenous women and people with 2 spirits and as a result, you know, they want to help, they want to be a part of it, they want to testify,” she said.

“They want to come together and learn and support the community, and that’s great.”

People tie red ribbons symbolizing missing and murdered indigenous women to staff in front of the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Center on May 5th. (Jackie Hong / CBC)

In a speech after lighting the ceremonial fire, Jeanie McLean, the Yukon minister responsible for the Directorate for Women and Gender Equality, stressed that both men and boys must be part of the talks and solutions.

“You have an important role here – you are our ally, you are our protectors, you have a really specific role and I want to keep you,” she said.

“(I want you) to think about your daughters, your nieces, your wives, your aunts, all the women in your life … Please know that you are part of this and that you are part of what we do in the Yukon and across Canada and setting a course for the rest of the world. ”

In 2020, the Yukon became the first jurisdiction in Canada to publish a strategy in response to the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The Accountability Forum will be held on 18 and 19 May to provide information on progress.

An RCMP Yukon official ties a red ribbon symbolizing missing and murdered indigenous women to staff in front of the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Center on May 5th. (Jackie Hong / CBC)

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