Montreal women's rally demands feminism be inclusive

A rally outside Place des Arts this morning called March On Montreal marked the first anniversary of the Women’s March and seeking to move the conversation forward around human rights issues in our society.

Indigenous women, sex workers, women with disabilities, black women, marginalized voices highlighted

Saturday's women's march in Montreal focused on including more voiced into the modern feminist movement. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

The March On Montreal outside Place des Arts Saturday brought together around 500 people to mark the first anniversary of the Women's March and bring modern feminism into a new year.

The event started at 11 a.m. as the sun started peaking through the clouds, treating the crowd to an unseasonably mild day. 

The first speaker stepped to the microphone saying, "If we don't have an intersectional perspective, we will fail our sisters."

The diverse crowd cheered.

"Have we already forgotten the Indigenous women of Val D'Or?" local Black Lives Matter leader Marlihan Lopez said into the microphone to applause. 

Attendee Lise Dagenais agreed that Indigenous women can't be forgotten and need more federal laws to protect them.

One of the goals of the rally was to bring marginalized voices to the centre of conversations about feminism and feminist movements like #MeToo —  where women shared stories of sexual harassment on social media.

Despite the impact of #MeToo, many women have felt excluded from it for safety reasons, said one of the event's organizers, Sandra Wesley — also the executive director of sex work organization Chez Stella. 

Nancy Brown, a member of the social justice group the Raging Grannies, said that in her 50 years of being a feminist she's seen the movement be misinterpreted before.

Nancy Brown, left, and Lise Bernier, right, are members of the social activist group the Raging Grannies. They wanted to make sure older women were represented at the rally. (Elysha Enos/CBC)

In the future, she wants to see more inclusiveness for black women and for men.

Mariette, five, and Audrey, three, attended the really with their mother, Émilie Gagnon.

Gagnon has started having conversations with her daughters about discrimination and how "some people have fewer choices than others."

Attending the rally is a way "to start to broach these topics," Gagnon said.

Keeping the movement going

Last year, thousands of demonstrators descended on Place des Festivals, in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration, in solidarity with the massive March on Washington where an estimated half a million people gathered.

This year's event was smaller and organized by the Centre des Femmes de l'UQÀM, a feminist group based at the Université du Québec à Montréal, Chez Stella, the local chapter of Black Lives Matter, and others advocacy groups.

For those attending, it proved an opportunity to show that people still care about the issues which triggered those rallies.

"It's important to keep the moment going," said Aysha White.

Aysha White said she thought it was important to attend and show 'that people still care.' (Elysha Enos/CBC)