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Red Flags

by Hannah Nashman 

While walking along a beautiful trail called the Beltline in Toronto earlier in October, I came across a display of art that sent chills through my body. The path came to a bridge over Yonge Street that from a distance looked festive, with hundreds of red ribbons that were tied to the rails and dancing in the wind. As I came closer, I noticed laminated white tags attached to the ribbons. Intrigued with curiosity, I approached the first ribbon for a closer look and realized the tag was equipped with a photo and story. Each tag represented a different photo and story of a missing or murdered Indigenous woman or girl.

There was no artist name or organization taking responsibility for this display, which seemed rather befitting. The bridge became a scene of the unknown and a beckoning to take action. The passersby were drawn to the ribbons billowing in the wind - appearing as if they were reaching out to each and every one of us. As a woman, it made me feel that it was my responsibility to stop and pay tribute to honour these lost souls and appreciate the pain and agony their families must still be experiencing. The beautiful sunny autumn day turned cloudy with emotion while I walked along the bridge.

October 4th, 2017 is now an annual day to honour and commemorate the lives of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) created by the Native Women’s Association of Canada. This organization encourages the organization of vigils on this day, manifesting itself in the forms of a community feast, a moment of silence, or as street art - as is the case of the Toronto Beltline bridge. I have since learned that multiple bridges across the country have also been illuminated with ribbons.

I captured some images of the ribbons and stories along the bridge that day, and I encourage you to read them. These women and girls deserve the full attention of our nation to take action to prevent these tragedies from continuing.

For more information on ways you can get involved to advocate for national action or to provide support, please visit the Native Woman’s Association of Canada website: https://www.nwac.ca/.

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