Hundreds march in downtown Winnipeg to mark International Women's Day
'People really are paying attention to some of the issues,' Nellie McCLung Foundation president says
Today is International Women's Day and people in Winnipeg marked the day by celebrating the women's rights movement.
A series of events were held in the city Tuesday. Hundreds marched from Portage Place to the University of Winnipeg, many banging drums or waving flags along the way.
"We need to not lose that focus and still be able to come together year after year and day after day and talk about what's still missing."
Lila Goodspeed, president of the Nellie McCLung Foundation, said women's rights have continued to expand gradually in Canada in the 100 years since the suffragist movement won most women the right to vote in Manitoba.
"I think there's a consciousness that people really are paying attention to some of the issues and it goes in waves," Goodspeed said. "But there's always a need to look at social justice and to look at equality."
The foundation, established by a private members bill in 2003, sought to recognize the legacies of McClung in the building of a monument at the Legislative Building and to provide educational tools for people to learn about the history of the women's rights movement.
Goodspeed said the fact that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau considers himself a feminist speaks volumes and represents an important moment in history.
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"Just acknowledging it makes a huge difference. Words are powerful and they are expressed to other people and it gets people thinking," she said. "If it's our leader coming up with that emphasis, it really does make a difference."
Having the male leader of a nation associate himself with feminism helps convince others the movement is for everyone, she said.
On Tuesday in the House of Commons, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair accused the Trudeau government of breaking promises it made on the campaign trail to tackle the gender pay gap and address the "astronomical" costs of child care.
"It's almost always women who end up making sacrifices in their career when affordable childcare isn't there," Mulcair said. "The Liberals promised Canadians they would take action on a national childcare program within the first 100 days…. As we've seen, that is another broke promise!"
Trudeau fired back saying Canadians elected the Liberals based on a platform of investing $20 billion over the next decade on affordable child care, social and seniors housing, and that is "exactly" what they are putting forward in the coming budget.
"Right now, if [Mulcair] were in government he would be trying to figure out how to cut $18 billion of spending from this government so he could balance the books at every cost, which was the commitment the NDP made in the election," Trudeau said.
Goodspeed said she takes Trudeau at his word.
"I think you have to put your money where your mouth is — I think he will. He seems to be putting forward many of his initiatives and doing it in a timely way," she said. "But clearly the wage gap has to be looked at.
"I'm always encouraged when I hear people speak in such a positive way, and to do it in a changed attitude. And if you say it, others will hear. It catches on, one by one, so I think that will make a big difference — particularly if we see it [reflected] in the budget."