Thousands rally at Women's March in Ottawa, demand a 'better world'

Saturday's rally marks the anniversary of last year's march in Washington, D.C., but women at this year's demonstration say the #MeToo movement has clearly shown their struggle for equality is far from over.

Ottawa police say between 6,000 and 8,000 people took part in Saturday's demonstration

Thousands gathered at Parliament Hill as part of the 2018 Women's March in Ottawa, before marching through the streets of downtown. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

Thousands of women and their supporters rallied through downtown Ottawa Saturday as part of this year's Women's March.

The event marks the anniversary of last year's march in Washington, D.C., but women at this year's demonstration say the #MeToo movement has clearly shown their struggle for equality is far from over.

"We've been fighting this fight for a long time and we're not ready to stop now," said Laura Allerdyce.

"There's a long way to go, especially for people of colour [and] people of different sexual orientations."

'A better world for my daughter'

Ottawa police say between 6,000 and 8,000 people took part in this year's march, which left Parliament Hill around 1 p.m. before winding its way through downtown Ottawa.

Among the marchers were Margaret Cameron-Ameen and her seven-year-old daughter, Iyabo.

"I want a better world for my daughter," Cameron-Ameen said. "I want her to feel like she's equal and that she has the same rights as her brother ... to be able stand up and say that the way that people of colour are treated in our society just isn't good enough."

Laura Allerdyce took part in last year's Women's March. She says there's a greater awareness this year of the discrimination and harassment that women face. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

'You should be afraid — not us'

While last year's march focused intensely on U.S. President Donald Trump, many of the marchers this year said they were more concerned with what they could do here at home.

Ally Freedman, a Métis woman from Ottawa, said Canada has its own problems to address, including missing and murdered Indigenous women, a lack of women in politics, as well as broader discrimination on the basis of race, gender and sexual orientation.

"If you are someone who is trying to shut our voices out, you should be afraid — not us," she said. "We're coming and we will not stop until we have equality."

Iyabo Ameen, 7, holds up a placard at Ottawa's 2018 Women's March on Saturday. Her mother, Margaret Cameron-Ameen, says she wants her daughter to learn to speak up for her rights. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

Conversations needed about consent

After missing last year's march, Cat Kelly was determined to hit the streets this time around. The Carleton University student said feminism has been important to her since high school, when she first remembers experiencing sexism. 

If society is to have any hope of eliminating sexual harassment and violence, Kelly said, it's critical that young men learn early on what consent really means.

"These are conversations we're not having in the high school gym class," she said. "You might know how to put a condom on, but you don't know what consent looks like."

Chantal Houser, Sarah Singh and Zoe West march along Laurier Avenue W. as part of this year's Women's March. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

Although the #MeToo movement helped bring these issues to the forefront online, Kelly said it's important for people to show up in person and engage in sometimes difficult conversations.

"There's still so much work to do in order for us to find equality and equal opportunity," she said. "We will always need someone to stand up and fight for us."

Demonstrators at this year's march say it's just a first step in tackling sexual harassment and violence in 2018. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)