How IKEA is helping tell the story of murdered and missing Indigenous women

Who: IKEA, with The Canadian Library.

What: In-store art installations to honour the thousands of murdered and missing Indigenous women girls and children in Canada.

When & Where: The installations will be up in every Canadian IKEA store from Sept. 30 until the end of the year.

Why: The Canadian Library project launched in 2021 after the confirmation of unmarked mass graves at former residential schools. The founders believe that art brings people together regardless of race, language or religion, and wanted to create living artistic memorials for all the women, girls and children who suffered abuse and violence.

Specifically they wanted to create a “community-engaged” art installation of more than 8,000 hard-cover books covered in Indigenous-inspired fabric, with the names of lives lost printed in gold letters on the spine. The stories of those women are then told at The Canadian Library website.

IKEA Canada, meanwhile, also established an indigenous reconciliation strategy in 2021 that is built around three key pillars: Learning and teaching, collaboration and amplification, and reciprocity with the Indigenous community.

That alignment led to IKEA working with The Canadian Library to create installations to create awareness and generate conversation about violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited people. “Launching this initiative on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and prior to Sisters in Spirit Day [Oct. 4] is an important step in our commitment to Indigenous reconciliation,” said John Williams, equality, diversity, and inclusion leader for IKEA Canada. “Our hope is that these installations spark meaningful change with our co-workers and customers.”

How: Every IKEA will have one of its Billy bookcases in-store filled with The Canadian Library books. Aside from the striking visual of the books covered in vibrant fabrics, each installation includes a QR code that directs people to the online catalogue or stories.

According to IKEA, the use of the Billy bookcase is more than just obvious product placement. The founders of The Canadian Library were gifted a Billy bookcase just as they were getting started, and when the woman donating the bookcase found out what they were doing, she explained that her mother survived the Shingwauk Residential School. “Her support, guidance, and donation of the first bookcase led The Canadian Library to IKEA and this beautiful collaboration,” explains IKEA at the section of its site introducing the project.

And we quote: “The impact of this partnership is profound—to be able to share with and educate thousands of Canadians is going to have a massive impact in helping to bring about true reconciliation.” —Shanta Sundarason, team lead, The Canadian Library

David Brown