'I think in a year a lot has changed': Winnipeg Women's March will be smaller but no less vocal
Justice for Serena McKay group participating in 11 a.m. rally at City Hall
Just a day short of a year after thousands of Winnipeggers turned out for a march through downtown Winnipeg in solidarity with the Women's March on Washington, a more subdued event is planned in the city this year.
The Winnipeg Women's March will be held Saturday and this year's event will focus more on local issues affecting women, says organizer Basia Sokal.
"I think last year's march was something that was pretty extreme considering the political atmosphere down in the U.S. — it was basically to un-celebrate Trump's inauguration," explained Sokal, who is also president of the Winnipeg Labour Council. "We do have our own struggles here and we want to get the message out that... inequality exists here in Canada.
"We're going to have a conversation, we're going to have speakers educate us and share with us some stories and basically get the word out."
Sokal says the Winnipeg Women's March's smaller feel this year comes after the original organizers backed out, leaving her and the other organizers scrambling to pull the event together.
She's hoping this year's rally and march will draw attention to the ongoing issue of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, as well as access to child care, access to reproductive rights, equal rights, gender equality and equal pay.
The rally gets underway at Winnipeg City Hall starting at 11 a.m. Speakers will go until 1 p.m. when a small march is planned around the City Hall buildings.
Justice for Serena McKay
Several speakers have been invited, including the mother of Serena McKay, the 19-year-old who was beaten to death in Sagkeeng First Nation in April.
Two teenage girls have pleaded guilty in connection with McKay's death.
One of the girls, who was 17 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in late December.
On Jan. 10 the second accused, who was 16, pleaded guilty to manslaughter. The Crown is asking for an adult sentence for her.
A group supporting McKay's friends and family called Justice for Serena McKay is also taking to the streets Saturday and will walk with the Winnipeg Women's March.
"The issues arising from Serena McKay's case reflect exactly what we rally and march for internationally in multiple cities, provinces and states around the world: victims' rights and women's rights," reads a statement from the Justice for Serena McKay Facebook group. "This is a continuous cycle that must end if we want an end of the murdering of our Indigenous women and children.
"Not only are we demanding Justice for Serena McKay, we are also demanding safety for our Winnipeg women."
Sokal says last year's march started a movement of change around the world, and this time around, what's important is the opportunity to expand the conversation around women's rights beyond what's happening in the U.S.
"I think in a year a lot has changed," she said. "We've got the #MeToo movement — I don't know that that actually would have happened had it not been for massive amounts of women across the globe standing up and saying 'we have to do something and we have to speak up and we have to speak out.'
"I think this last year has made a huge difference and we're just going to continue."