Hundreds of Montrealers took to the streets Saturday to stand in solidarity with women around the world who oppose military action in Iraq. The march was one of the many events held around the city to celebrate International Women’s Day.
“We are here today to say no to aggression, aggression in any form,” explained Amilia Khouri, a member of a multi-cultural women’s organization known as CLAIRE. “What [U.S. President] Bush wants to do is force aggression and that goes against everything that women’s day stands for, women’s day was created to stamp out aggression not only towards women but throughout the world.”
The crowd that gathered at Emilie-Gamelin Park, better known as Berri Square, was diverse, with many men and children participating in the afternoon’s events. Protesters marched along Ste. Catherine St. draped in white scarves to promote peace while the white ribbons pinned to many winter coats were meant to symbolize the eradication of violence against women.
The march started quietly along the sidewalk but quickly took to the street, stopping traffic and frustrating motorists and police who were ill-prepared for the crowd.
Although the main focus of the march was to propagate the anti-war message, there were many groups who participated in the day’s event to stand in solidarity with the anti-war movement but also to further other women’s causes.
Diane Provost is a member of a union representing people who run daycare centres from their homes. A majority of the union’s members are women.
“We are here because we are obliged to work at least 50 hours a week and the government pays us well below minimum wage,” she said. “We are saying yes to world peace, but also yes to remembering the women here, we are virtual prisoners in our own homes.”
Others like Monique Rocheleau simply came to participate in the event for the sake of tradition. “I have celebrated Women’s Day since 1974, I decided to come out today not only for tradition but also remember the revolutionary women who fought hard for our equality and our rights,” she explained. “I also think that it is important not to forget the poor women living in our country.”
One of the most visible groups of people at the march, gaining the most attention from the media and curious on-lookers , was a group of roughly a dozen women wearing feathered angel wings, masks and boas. They were there representing the Raelians, the Quebec based religious group who believe that humans were cloned from extra-terrestrials.
“We are Raelian women and for us today is about celebrating femininity, it is a quality that does not only belong to women but to men as well,” explained Sylvie, who did not want her name published. “We think that more men should adopt feminine qualities and not be ashamed of them. In our opinion femininity will save humanity.”
As the march came to an end, the crowd gathered in front of Dorchester Square, where they listened to speeches. The feeling among many protesters was that their demonstration might not change the course of action the Canadian government is likely to take, but at least they know they will have done something that would have made early feminist pioneers proud.