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NDP MP urges feds to create ‘Red Dress Alert’ for missing Indigenous women

An NDP member of Parliament is asking the federal government to establish a system that would send the public a phone notification when an Indigenous woman goes missing.
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NDP MP Leah Gazan rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, June 21, 2021. Gazan is requesting the federal government establish a system where the public receives a phone notification when Indigenous women go missing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

An NDP member of Parliament is asking the federal government to establish a system that would send the public a phone notification when an Indigenous woman goes missing.

Leah Gazan penned a letter to Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino on Friday urging the government to fund what she and other advocates call a “Red Dress Alert” program.

Gazan says it would be similar to the Amber Alert, which is an emergency notification people receive on their phones when a child in their region has been abducted or is believed to be in danger.

“We shouldn’t have to beg for our safety,” Gazan said in an interview Wednesday.

“In Canada, we are still begging for safety and to live in dignity as Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.”

The Winnipeg MP said that if the public is better informed when Indigenous women and girls disappear, it will increase the likelihood that they are found.

Gazan said that for years, advocates and the families of missing and murdered women and girls have said there needs to be a faster response by police and other authorities in their cases.

It’s “almost as if our disappearances (have) become so normalized that nobody looks for us,” she added.

Because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recognized the crisis in missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls as a genocide, he must act urgently to better protect them, Gazan said.

Setting up a specialized alert system, she said, “acknowledges the urgency.”

In her letter, she pointed to the disappearances and deaths of at least four First Nations women who Winnipeg police believe were murdered by the same man.

Jeremy Skibicki has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran, Rebecca Contois and an unidentified woman whom local Indigenous leaders have been referring to as Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman.

—Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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