Held from Oct. 16-19, the Red Shawl Campaign at UNB aims to create awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous women in New Brunswick and across Canada.
In Indigenous communities, red shawls are presented to girls as a recognition of their growth into women; they are also a symbol of protection. Red represents the heart, the non-discriminating part of people that enables them to love everyone.
During the month of October, red shawls are hung around campus as a reminder of the missing women. Two important and recurring events of the campaign are the candlelight vigil and the healing walk, which was renamed as ‘walk a mile in her moccasins’ this year.
The candlelight vigil was held on Oct. 16 behind Marshall D’Avary hall, which is home to the Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey centre. Elder-in-residence and instructor, Imelda Perley, performed the ceremony in the tipi on campus. While preparing for the ritual, Perley explained to attendees the importance of each component involved. The ritual honours the spiritual male and female parts of all participants and recalls attention to the importance of a balanced way of living.
On Oct. 19, more than 50 advocates of the Red Shawl Campaign gathered at City Hall to participate in ceremony, prayer and speeches. The importance of community support was a constant theme through the speeches made by various leaders of Fredericton.
In 2015, the government of Canada set up a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
As part of the background on the inquiry, the government stated that “Indigenous women and girls in Canada are disproportionately affected by all forms of violence. Although Indigenous women make up 4 percent of Canada’s female population, 16 percent of all women murdered in Canada between 1980 and 2012 were Indigenous.”
Angela Acquin, a First Nations employee at Devon Middle School, accompanied about 15 students to the healing walk.