Study for Red Dress Alert starting at committee in Ottawa

Work is moving forward on the Red Dress Alert — an Amber Alert-like system for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

On Tuesday morning, the House of Commons’ status of women committee started a study looking into the proposal.

Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre Leah Gazan said the study will integrate themes from coast-to-coast community consultations that have been ongoing since December 2023.

“There was a very common sentiment that was expressed by some of the expert witnesses that the oversight of a Red Dress Alert needs to be done by the community, by organizations that have led the charge around addressing the crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls,” Gazan said.

“Although there was an indication that police need to have some sort of involvement, there is a growing call to have the community make decisions when a red dress should be issued.”

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A New Democratic Party of Canada press release said funding was secured for consultations in the 2023 federal budget, after Gazan first urged Ottawa to implement the program.

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Every province and territory has been consulted so far, Gazan said, but noted there are still efforts being made to meet with representatives in Nunavut.

During a press conference, the MP said communities on the East Coast and several organizations have already put together their own form of Red Dress Alert. Those have been consulted for best practices and lessons learned, she said.

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There has also been an opportunity to look at some of the technology around implementing a Red Dress Alert, she said.

The study will take place over the course of five status of women committee meetings, Gazan said, but there is no date for the program to be implemented.

“It’s important that it’s done right,” she said, adding the Red Dress Alert involves different considerations than Amber Alerts.

“When a child goes missing, of course, an Amber Alert is issued. But in the cases of, for example, women, sometimes people don’t want to be found. Women that are fleeing, for example, domestic violence that don’t want to be found by their perpetrator.

“We need to do this as quickly as possible in a way that is safe,” Gazan said. “(Even so,) I want to push the Liberals to get this moving.

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“We know that every day we wait, another woman, girl or two-spirit person goes missing. We cannot support that. We need action now. We need a Red Dress (Alert) now.

“I don’t want to wait forever. We are in an emergency. There needs to be a very clear deadline.”

In May 2023, The Canadian Press reported that the House of Commons unanimously supported a motion to declare the deaths and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls a Canada-wide emergency. That motion also supported a call for funding for the Red Dress Alert system.

In June 2023, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is “working to implement a Red Dress Alert.”

Global News reached out to Indigenous Services Canada for comment but has not heard back yet.

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Canada begins consultations on alert system for missing Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people

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