NVIT had planned an event for Red Dress Day on May 5 in which a red dress, a symbol commemorating Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), would be unveiled at both the Merritt and Burnaby campuses. However, due to pandemic restrictions, the ceremonial unveiling cannot take place as planned.

“Of course, due to COVID 19 we decided that it wasn’t safe to do such an event at this time, but we didn’t want to let the day go by unrecognized,” said Lesley Manuel, Information Services and Support Officer.

“As BC’s only Indigenous public post-secondary institution we are affected by this crisis on a daily basis. We have students from all across BC and Canada, who know of the story of at least one of the victims at some point,” continued Manuel.

“With this unveiling, we were expecting to not only speak about this crisis, but to create awareness of the violence that is happening to our life-givers and women warriors, and that we need to come together to help the victims and their families, to be their voice. As an aboriginal institution, we feel the need to help wherever we can.”

Despite no official ceremony on May 5, NVIT will go ahead with placing the dresses at both campuses. At the Merritt campus, the cabinet in which the dress is displayed, will be positioned on the main floor at the entrance to the eatery, and will be a permanent fixture.

“This will help honour, and let our students know that we are not forgetting these missing and murdered women,” said Manuel.

When it is safe to do so, an official ceremony will take place at both the Burnaby and Merritt campus.

“The students will hopefully be back in the fall, and once our students come back and we can all gather, we’ll have a ceremony and have our unveiling on both campuses,” said Kris Billy, Community Education Assistant.

NVIT staff encourage people to help raise awareness for MMIWG, and the issues of gendered and racialized violence, by wearing red on May 5. Billy also hopes to see the people of Merritt hang red dresses from trees and fences on the day as well, to represent the “stolen sisters” who have had their lives cut short and will no longer return to their families.