Students hung red dresses outside St. Joseph's College School to honour the 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada on Oct. 4. Photo courtesy of St. Joseph's College School.

St. Joseph's College students take part in Red Dress day

By  Salina Diaz, Youth Speak News
  • October 13, 2017
A collection of simple red dresses has delivered a powerful message for students at Toronto’s St. Joseph’s College School.


On Oct. 4, the school held its second Red Dress Day to create awareness for the 1,200 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

Red dresses were hung outside the school with small messages for people to read as they walked by. Inside, special guests Aaron Bell (The Ojibway Storyteller) and the White Pine Dancers performed and spoke to students at the assembly.

“Women have the power of words,” said Bell. “Women are treated like objects and have been for so many years. Women should be treated with respect and should be honoured.”

Bell told the more than 850 students of the all-girls school about his people and the importance of women.

In Indigenous culture, Bell said, women are known as life givers and are treated as if they were goddesses. The fact that more than a thousand of these women are missing and murdered is horrifying to the their community, he said.

“As a teacher at an all-girls school, I was shocked to hear about this; it was quite upsetting,” said Paul Sabyan, visual arts teacher at St. Joseph’s College School.

Sabyan started Red Dress Day at the school last year when he had his art students create some artwork to show their respect to the Indigenous women and children whose lives were lost.

The idea is an extension of the initiative begun by Jamie Black, a Métis woman, who started the REDress project in 2008. Red dresses began to appear around the University of Toronto campuses and near various lakes and rivers across Ontario.

“Words are pretty powerful, but visuals are even more powerful,” Sabyan said. “We aren’t trying to solve the problem, we are trying to let people know that this is happening and it’s not right, that we have to do something.”

The colour red represents life and blood to the various Indigenous groups, including the Métis and the Mohawk clans, said Sabyan.

“This presentation made me feel a lot better about myself as a young women and I hope that one day, society may do the same,” said Grade 9 student Kylie Dias-Soares.

St. Joseph’s College School is hoping to make Red Dress Day an annual tradition to share the story of respect and honour for all women.

(Dias, 16, is a Grade 11 student at St. Joseph’s College School in Toronto.)

Comments (1)

  1. JR

Wonderful article about the school's involvement in such an important topic Salina! Keep up the great work!

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