by Paula E. Kirman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – A community of family members, survivors, allies, and advocates gathered in Edmonton on June 6 to mark the first annual Blue Jean Jacket Day. The day is intended to become an annual event to honour missing, murdered, and exploited Indigenous men and boys (MMEIMB), comparable to Red Dress Day.
The small but passionate group gathered in downtown Edmonton to listen to family members and do a short march to Okîsikow (Angel) Way at 97 Street and 101A Avenue. Okîsikow Way honours women and gender diverse people who have experienced violence.
Blue Jean Jacket Day was organized by a grassroots group, including April Eve Wiberg of the Stolen Sisters and Brothers Action Movement and Stephanie Harpe, a local musician and activist who created the Indigenous Men and Boys Support Group of Edmonton.
“There are over 700 murdered and missing Indigenous men and boys in this province no one is talking about about it,” said Harpe, who also noted a gap in funding and opportunities for Indigenous men and boys.
Harpe explained that Indigenous men and boys are at risk of human trafficking and labour trafficking, where Indigenous men are hired at lower rates and put in dangerous situations. She also discussed how Indigenous men can be victims of “starlight tours” where they are picked up by the RCMP or police and dropped off outside of the city in the middle of the winter.
“April and I go everywhere to do this work and see all of our women and girls and it’s wonderful, but we go home to broken men, to broken boys, who need all of this love, all of this teaching, all of this attention, and more resources and funding opportunities,” says Harpe.
The organizers hope that Blue Jean Jacket Day, like Red Dress Day, will become a national movement.