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Montreal women march towards social justice

by Candice Pye January 23, 2018
Montreal women march towards social justice

Montrealers join forces in support of inclusive, intersectional feminism

Hundreds of Montrealers gathered outside Place-des-Arts at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 20 for the second annual Montreal Women’s March. Organizations like the Centre des Femmes de l’UQÀM, a feminist group from the Université du Québec à Montréal, helped organize the event alongside many diverse groups and volunteers.

People from all across the city joined dozens of other marches taking place across the country, and more throughout the United States, demonstrating for much more than just gender equality. Demonstrators and representatives from various organizations showed their support for several social justice issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBTQ+ community.

Claire McLeish (left) and Samantha Skallar hold up their signs at the Montreal Women’s March on Sunday. Photo by Alex Hutchins

At the rally, women from all backgrounds cheered loudly, wore pink “pussyhats” and brandished poster-board signs that featured phrases like, “We love, support and fight for our trans friends,” “Talk to boys about toxic masculinity” and “Respect existence or expect resistance.”

The largest sign, held up on the steps at the Esplanade, read the hashtag of the day, “#ÇaPassePu,” which roughly translates to, “This doesn’t work for us anymore.”

The march took place exactly one year after Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States and the first Women’s March on Washington, when hundreds of thousands gathered in their respective cities to protest his proposed policies.

A demonstrator brandishes a poster-board sign that reads, “GIRL POWER.” Photo by Alex Hutchins

One year later, the rally was now about much more, specifically amplifying the voices of marginalized communities, including sex workers, transgender people, those with disabilities and victims of sexual assault.

Many of the women who spoke at the rally highlighted the #MeToo movement, which has become internationally popular for denouncing sexual violence and harassment, as well as voicing support for survivors. Several speakers in Montreal shared their personal stories of sexual assault and harassment.

Those attending the Montreal rally demanded inclusivity and intersectionality. One speaker announced to the crowd: “If we do not have an intersectional perspective, we will fail some of our sisters.”

The rally came to a deeply moving and emotional peak when one of the speakers instructed everyone in the crowd to hold hands and chant, “I am on fire, I am powerful,” in reference to Alicia Keys’ song “Girl On Fire” and her speech from last year’s Women’s March on Washington.

Another notable speech came from Nathalie Provost, one of the survivors of the December 1989 École Polytechnique massacre, where 14 women were killed in an anti-feminist mass shooting at the hands of gunman Marc Lépine. Provost survived the shooting after being shot in the forehead, both legs and a foot, according to Maclean’s.

In her speech, Provost looked back on the tragedy, telling the crowd about how, at the time, she had said she was not a feminist. She mentioned that her daughters were in attendance with her at the rally to support women’s rights.

Demonstrators Anastasia Katsoulis, 14, and Edgar Jose Becerra Granados, 16, told The Concordian they decided to attend this year’s rally because they believe everyone should have equal rights.

A man at the rally holds a sign that reads, “Men of quality do not fear equality.” Photo by Alex Hutchins

“That’s what feminism is. It isn’t just for women,” Katsoulis said. “It’s for the LGBTQ+ community, it’s for people of colour. It’s for everyone.”

Becerra Granados stressed the importance of actively demonstrating for movements you believe in.

“It’s important to go to these kinds of things if you consider yourself a feminist, especially nowadays with social media,” they said. “It’s easy to just say you support something, but you really have to go out and do stuff like this to show that you do.”


Photos by Alex Hutchins

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