Nova Scotia

'We can be a force': women's marches return to Nova Scotia

Today, people across the province are coming together for a second year to celebrate women's rights and push for change.

Events in Halifax, Sydney and Sandy Cove to focus on diversity, sharing survivors' stories

The 2018 Women's March at Halifax's Grand Parade. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

One year later, Gwen Wilson is still getting letters, emails and Facebook messages about the small women's march in rural Nova Scotia.

She was one of about a dozen protesters who walked the quiet streets of Sandy Cove, a community of just 65 permanent residents, last January.

Today, the small protest's numbers doubled to 32 people, including a toddler.

A year after U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration and the March on Washington, people took to the streets for a second time to affirm women's and LGBTQ rights.

"I think people were surprised that in a very small, isolated rural community that we were concerned enough about what was going on in the world … that we felt it was important enough to make a stand," said Wilson.

This year, she said the group was able to plan in advance and "feel supported."

Doesn't end with the march

She said it's still important to make a stand, but she also knows the work can't end there. 

After last year's rally, residents in Sandy Cove held a series of talks about issues that included patriarchy and misogyny, spurred on by what they were seeing south of the border. 

"The march was one thing but then to get them to step out and sit down in a room with other people whom they knew and talk about these very weighty subjects, was I think quite an accomplishment," Wilson said.

"I think it's fair to say this is a very conservative community and we feel we've opened a few eyes and ears."

Thirty two people, including a toddler, marched Saturday in Sandy Cove, N.S. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Helen Morrison, an organizer of the march in Sydney, said the #MeToo movement opened many people's eyes to what women, regardless of background, are experiencing. 

"That's why it's so important for us to be out there, and supporting ... and showing our anger if that's what we want to show, or sharing our joy that we've got these people coming together who really want to march with us and talk about this," said Morrison, who's also executive director of Cape Breton Transition House. 

Morrison was encouraging anyone who wanted to share their stories to speak up during an open mic portion of the Sydney event.

'No one should be threatened'

Rana Zaman told CBC's Information Morning that the event in Halifax, which brought hundreds to the city's downtown last year, is more of a celebration this time around. 

She said the event is about standing up for the rights of women of colour, transgender women and members of the LGBTQ community. 

"We should all be in the same tent, as people and fellow beings we should be supportive of one another just like the men should not be doing what they're doing to the women, and this is what the march is about: the injustices against women," she said. 

The 2018 Women's March at Halifax's Grand Parade. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

But the Halifax event has also faced backlash.

Jade Byard Peek, a black and Mi'kmaw transgender woman and activist, has said she won't attend out of safety concerns. Zaman said it started with "horrific" comments on the event's Facebook page.

"Together, we can be a force but divided we cannot, and everyone has a right to their voices and their opinion and no one should be threatened," she said.

The 2018 Women's March at Halifax's Grand Parade. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

With files from CBC's Information Morning and Marina von Stackelberg