The communications chair of the United Conservative Party is drawing criticism for a controversial series of tweets in which she questioned the purpose of Women's Marches that occurred around the world this weekend.
About half an hour before Women's Marches got underway in Edmonton and Calgary on Saturday afternoon, Sonia Kont, the UCP's communications chair, tweeted what she acknowledged could be an "unpopular opinion."
Kont asserted "ideological marches like the one in Washington does not empower women. Last time I checked, we all had the same rights in society."
That was followed by another tweet from Kont: "I"m all for democratic protests, but this one has no clarity of purpose."
Stephanie McLean, the Minister for the Status of Women and Service Alberta, attended the Calgary march and responded later in the day to a third tweet from Kont which suggested the march was "playing identity politics."
Today the UCP ridiculed the strength of women marching together in solidarity & using their voices fighting for equality “Sonia Kont, the communications chair for UCP said, "There are better ways to empower women instead of playing identity politics in a march." #WomensMarchYYC— @NDPStephanie
"Today the UCP ridiculed the strength of women marching together in solidarity & using their voices fighting for equality," McLean wrote in part.
McLean was one of many to take aim at Kont's online remarks. But while McLean's sentiments were broadly reflected in other tweets, there were some in support of Kont.
UCP board member Bettina Pierre-Gilles tweeted her agreement, adding the marches send "a message that only the loudest few can be heard, while nothing is advocated on policies."
March organizers disagree
Alison Poste, one of the organizers of the Edmonton Women's March, which was attended by approximately 1,000 people, was disappointed to read Kont's tweet.
"In a time where we still have half of all women in Canada reporting at least one incident of sexual violence since the age of 16, where we have almost 3,500 women every night spending the night in shelters because it's not safe to go home, where Indigenous women are killed at six times the rate of non-Indigenous women — I could go on and on," Poste said. "To suggest that we have equal rights so we have no reason to march is just blatantly tone deaf."
The Women's March in Calgary drew an even larger crowd of about 3,500 people.
Ashley Bristowe, one of the organizers of the Calgary event, was also critical of Kont's tweets.
"I would say that anybody who attended any of the marches would never make a comment like that," she said.
"To be in a huge group of people like that, everyone marching together in solidarity for women's rights and human rights, no one would say that wasn't empowering."
Bristowe said she suggests Kont — who is also based in Calgary — attend the next Women's March meeting.
"She can come and help us improve the march for next year so she feels it's better representative of how she thinks women can contribute to society," she said. "As someone in a position of political authority, I think that she has a lot to add positively to the conversation."
Marches were held in at least 38 Canadian cities and dozens of others around the world in protest of Donald Trump's inauguration as U.S. president one year ago. Organizers said they're fighting for basic rights for women, immigrants and others who are under attack.