Branded collage, section of light red dress blown up in the air

Why brands should care about National Missing Indigenous Murdered Women, Girls and Two-Spirit Awareness Day

May 5th is National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit (MMWIG2S) Awareness Day, also known as Red Dress Day.  After a long-awaited action the government — along with Indigenous partners —  launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA.  On June 3, 2019, 231 Calls for Action for government, businesses and individuals were made out of this inquiry. Exactly two years later, on June 3, 2021, the Canadian government responded with the Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA National Action Plan that included 2.2 billion dollars to support programs, including Indigenous language, culture, health and policing. In June 2023, CBC tracked the government’s progress and concluded that only 2 of the 231 Calls for action have been taken after four years since the initial call.  

For brands, there is an explicit section in the 231 Calls for Action that directly addresses media and entertainment industries and how we can support them as brands: 

Calls for Industries, Institutions, Services, and Partnerships

As this report has demonstrated, so much of the violence shared in the truths of those who testified began with an encounter between a person and an institution or a service that could have ultimately contributed to wellness if it had occurred differently. In this section of our Calls for Justice, we identify important industries, institutions and services that are featured in testimony throughout this report. We include the idea of partnership, because so many of these services and institutions operated in partnership with governments at all levels; these Calls, therefore, while aimed at service providers, must be interpreted with an insistence on proper resourcing and interjurisdictional cooperation, in order to ensure safety for Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

Media and Social Influencers

  • We call upon all media, news corporations and outlets, and, in particular, government funded corporations and outlets; media unions, associations, and guilds; academic institutions teaching journalism or media courses; governments that fund such corporations, outlets, and academic institutions; and journalists, reporters, bloggers, film producers, writers, musicians, music producers, and, more generally, people working in the entertainment industry to take decolonizing approaches to their work and publications in order to educate all Canadians about Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people. More specifically, this includes the following:
    • Ensure authentic and appropriate representation of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, inclusive of diverse Indigenous cultural backgrounds, in order to address negative and discriminatory stereotypes.
    • Support Indigenous people sharing their stories, from their perspectives, free of bias, discrimination, and false assumptions, and in a trauma-informed and culturally sensitive way.
    • Increase the number of Indigenous people in broadcasting, television, and radio, and in journalist, reporter, producer, and executive positions in the entertainment industry, including, and not limited to, by:
      • providing educational and training opportunities aimed at Indigenous inclusion; and
      • providing scholarships and grants aimed at Indigenous inclusion in media, film, and music industry-related fields of study.
    • Take proactive steps to break down the stereotypes that hypersexualize and demean Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, and to end practices that perpetuate myths that Indigenous women are more sexually available and “less worthy” than non-Indigenous women because of their race or background.

The Business Imperative   

In a national survey commissioned by the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the statistics show that “7 in 10 Canadians are aware of the 231 Calls to Action” and  “8 in 10 believe the Government should end this national tragedy and take action”. It is clear that Canadians feel the support of this initiative is essential as we work towards justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-spirit individuals (MMWIG2S). 

Your customers care about your involvement in Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) work. As we have been advocating for years, and as stated in one of our recent posts,  7 out of 10 people agree that “businesses and brands have a responsibility to make society fair for everyone.”  JEDI work can’t happen without a specific, intentional, and active focus on truth, reconciliation, and decolonization. Your audience wants to see your brand authentically involved in these causes by genuinely supporting national crises like the National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirt Awareness Day.

What can you do as a brand to take action?

Before taking any public action or statements, look inward to your organization: 

  • What of the 231 Calls to Action listed above can you apply at your organization?
    • Are you and your team aware of the stereotypes that perpetuate and continue to harm Indigenous communities, including Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals? 
      • Are you taking proactive steps to end and disrupt any attitudes or practices that objectify and hypersexualize Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA women?
      • Are you taking proactive steps to end and disrupt any attitudes and practices that reinforce the notion that Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQIA+ people are less worthy than non-Indigenous folks?
    • Are you sharing stories from the Indigenous community without bias or discrimination? 
      • Is your approach trauma-informed and done in a culturally safe way?
    • How are you increasing Indigenous representation within your organization and connecting with Indigenous communities? 
      • Are you building meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities?
      • Do Indigenous people feel comfortable, safe, and valued within your organization? Are you actively addressing barriers Indigenous people experience to ensure equity and inclusion? 
      • Do Indigenous people and perspectives inform leadership within your organization? 
      • Are there educational and training opportunities aimed to include the Indigenous community? 
      • Do you have scholarships for Indigenous folks?
  • How can you educate yourself and others within your organization?
    Many opportunities are available and happening across Turtle Island (or North America) that your organization and team can take the time to invest in.
    • Spend a day learning about MMWIG2S.
    • Participate in a MMWIG2S Vigil in your local community.
    • Watch a film on the topic.
    • Host a discussion together.
    • Read through all 231 Calls to Action and the progress. 

After you’ve participated in internal education, implemented some of the calls to action within your organization, and committed to ongoing effort, it may be appropriate to share any initiatives you and your team have completed authentically. 

  • Provide a platform for the MMWIG2S community – As always recommended, can you offer your platform to the MMWIG2S community to share their message?  Do you have space for them to speak for themselves and garner more exposure? 

If you do not have the platform or resources, the last resort is to share an existing message from the community to help amplify Indigenous voices and perspectives.  As stated in the Call to Action, ensure you “Support Indigenous people sharing their stories, from their perspectives, free of bias, discrimination, and false assumptions.”

On this upcoming National Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirit Awareness Day, we invite brands to continue this never-ending learning journey and proactive work to support our greater community.  As stated in the Calls to Action, we contribute to these injustices through our work and are being called on to help dismantle and decolonize our work.  It is essential to recognize this and do our part in reconciliation and supporting Indigenous communities in the fight for justice for stolen sisters.

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