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Cowichan Valley to mark National Day of Awareness

Community leaders will display red dresses on Duncan trees from May 5 to 8
Members of Cowichan Tribes and other residents of the Cowichan Valley gather on Saturday, May 9, 2020 to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

May 5 is the National Day of Awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and it will be marked in the Cowichan Valley by an event in downtown Duncan.

On May 5, leaders from across the Cowichan Valley region will arrive at the Station Street park to collect red dresses that they will display on trees in the community.

In addition to bringing attention to missing and murdered First Nations people, organizers also want to highlight the toxic drug supply that is causing record numbers of overdoses.

“This event is part of a continuance to reunite Cowichan Valley citizens and nations, together in solidarity of this cause, to remember and recognize this ongoing issue,” said Monica Patsy Jones, executive director of Cowichan Missing and Murdered Women, Men and Children, in her invitation to the leadership group. “We believe that ceremony together is relation building and important. The recent racism demonstrated in the community as well as the numerous deaths from bad drugs is a clear indicator that we have work to do and ground to cover to raise our community up.

“We believe that the root to our missing loved ones is linked directly to what is happening on our community streets.

“We believe people who are known veteran drug users, suddenly dying of a drug ‘overdose’ were actually poisoned by bad drugs. The language used around this situation needs to change from overdose to homicide. Our community needs a clean supply of drugs so we may stop our people from going missing and/or dying.”

The objective of the event, Jones, said, is to raise awareness with the general public and to ask the leadership team to work to encourage all levels of government to act against the toxic drug supply.

The dresses will be handed out between 10 a.m. and noon on May 5, and returned on May 8. Participants are strongly encouraged to follow COVID-19 protocol. Organizers are encouraging participants to display dresses in one of three locations: along Craig Street in downtown Duncan, in Charles Hoey Park near the train station, and along the Trans-Canada Highway.

READ MORE: Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

READ MORE: B.C. nears 500 fatal overdoses in 1st quarter of 2021; 158 deaths in March