It started with an artist in Winnipeg.

But Paul Sabyan, a visual arts teacher at St. Joseph’s College School in Toronto, thought the girls in his school would have much to learn from the Red Dress Project, an initiative started by Jamie Black to raise awareness about Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women.

About three classes are involved, including the school’s Native arts and culture class, with a goal of eventually creating 3,000 red dresses — one for each of the identified missing or murdered women.

Sabyan says it’s a way for his students to learn about the issue and to express their feelings about it. “A lot of the missing and murdered are teenagers; their age,” he said. “So they can see that connection, make that connection.”

Plus, the more people who design and create a dress, the more people their message reaches.

The group started their project last October, coinciding with the official day to raise awareness. And in February, Sabyan’s students were asked to lead a procession down Yonge Street with their own banner for the Strawberry Ceremony, an event that honours the missing and murdered women of Ontario.

The experience meant so much to his students.

“It’s that they can have their voice heard. They realize that they can speak up about injustice,” he said. “It’s been a really good learning experience, for me as a teacher and for the students as well. I think it’s something they’ll remember for a long time as part of their school experience.”

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