National billboard campaign honours missing and murdered Indigenous women

Over the course of the week, Indigenous artists’ work dedicated to raising awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is going up on billboards in cities across Canada.

The campaign, which was launched by Artists Against Racism, started Monday and runs until June 24.

“We’re trying to reach the hearts of people,” said campaign director Lisa Cherry.

“Hopefully, it will strike that chord of compassion and empathy in more people.”

The campaign features the work of 11 Indigenous artists on 12 billboards in cities like Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Halifax. Anishnaabe artist Frank Polson’s painting Sisters can be seen on the digital billboard at the corner of Rene-Levesque Boulevard and Lorimier Avenue in Montreal.

“I wanted to show my concern,” said Polson, who is from the Algonquin Long Point First Nation in Quebec.

“I think my artwork shows that we have to make some changes to protect our sisters because our sisters are all sacred. Instead of talking about it, we have to put something in action to make some changes.”

For Polson, the billboard campaign is one of those actions.

“I’m honoured to be able to present something that will hopefully go toward stopping what’s happening with Aboriginal women and girls in this country,” he said.

The billboards are in the following cities:

  • HALIFAX: 132 Main St. east of Gordon Avenue.
  • MONCTON: Paul Street north of Kennedy Street.
  • MONTREAL: Rene Levesque Boulevard and Lorimier Avenue.
  • OTTAWA: Regional Road 174 Orleans west of Trim Road.
  • TORONTO: Gardiner Expressway east of Islington Avenue.
  • THUNDER BAY: Memorial Avenue north of Harbour Expressway.
  • WINNIPEG: St. Mary’s Road north of Vivian Avenue.
  • SASKATOON: Idylwyld Drive N REGINA: Victoria Avenue west of Park Street.
  • EDMONTON 50 Street south of Sherwood Park Freeway.
  • VANCOUVER: Scott Road south of Larson Road.
  • KAMLOOPS: Highway 5 south of Halston Avenue.

Keeping the conversation going

The campaign aims to both honour the memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and to keep the conversation going following the national inquiry’s final report.

“We want to keep the issue in the limelight for Canadians so that the report is actually listened to, and [people] follow its recommendations,” said Cherry.

The final report had more than 200 Calls for Justice, steps the commissioners feel need to be taken by governments and Canadians. Cherry hopes the billboards will serve as a reminder of the work needed to be done.

“If they don’t read the news much or care about Indigenous issues, it’s getting in their face and reminds them what’s important and going on in their country,” she said.

“The more that people will see this issue, the more they’ll realize it’s one of the most important issues in Canada.”

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