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"We need to create the system that we want to see.”

By: 
Carolyn Egan

January 20, 2019

For the third year in a row, the women’s march was in the streets. Over 10,000 marched in a freezing snow storm in Toronto joining thousands of fellow demonstrators in Montreal, Saskatoon, St. Johns, Ottawa and other Canadian cities, as well as Washington DC, New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Seattle in support of women’s demands. Two years ago after the Trump inauguration the largest North American wide demonstrations in history took place organized by grass roots women’s organizations protesting the misogynist, racist, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant and homophobic policies of the newly elected president.

This is the third anniversary of that march and we have seen the resurgence of bigotry in both countries, and renewed attacks on services and workers’ rights. Right wing governments in the Philippines, Brazil, Hungary and other countries are ratcheting up oppression and exploitation. But we have also seen real successes, the women of Ireland throwing off the control of both the church and the state winning abortion rights, the recent general strike in India, the Los Angeles teachers walking out in support of their students, and the ‘yellow jackets’ in France, ordinary men and women going into the streets weekend after weekend no longer willing to accept the neo-liberal attacks of the Macron government.

Solidarity

We are engaged in the difficult work of building solidarity across lines of race, gender, ability and sexuality. We must recognize our diversity as we build an anti-racist women’s movement with a class perspective that welcomes every one willing to fight for change, whether this is their first demonstration or they have been activists for decades. This is an ongoing process and the 1% are doing everything they can to keep us divided one from another, scapegoating and fueling resentment. They are trying to keep the real enemy hidden from view, the corporations and governments that are attempting to grind us down day after day.

The marches across the US and Canada are showing a continued resurgence of a women’s movement still trying to find its way forward but making it clear that it will not accept these right wing policies. The tens of thousands in the streets represent millions more who are suffering every day in their homes, their campuses, their workplaces and their communities.

Speakers included Megan Whitfield, the first Black president of the Toronto local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers who spoke of their battle for workers across this country, the attack on the right to strike and need for solidarity. Melissa Graham, a founder of the annual Disability Pride March in Toronto thanked the organizers “for keeping this movement growing and strong…I’m here for women who couldn’t afford to be because they couldn’t leave their homes or couldn’t afford to get here.” The bio posted on the march website identified her as ‘a proud member of the International Socialists’.

Kristyn Wong Tam, a city councillor also spoke. She was the target of anti-Chinese, homophobic attacks by the far right in the recent municipal election. Talking to her she said this was by far the hardest of the three elections she has run because of the viciousness of the attacks. Faith Goldy who coddles up to neo-nazis won 25,000 votes in the mayoral election which shows the right is on the move.

A high school student also spoke about the fight back against the Ford government’s attack on a progressive sex ed curriculum. 40,000 marched out of their schools in the fall, saying no to this attempt to roll back the clock and keep sexism and homophobia alive. Dawn Maracle, from Tyendinaga First Nation, spoke out about missing and murdered Indigenous women and the need for action. Farrah Khan raised the issues of violence and consent. Sandy Hudson from Black Lives Matters reminded us that “It’s not enough just to come together in protest. It never was. We need to make demands. We need to create the system that we want to see.”

At the provincial legislature Melissa Bayon from the Ontario Federation of Labour told the thousands assembled that not only has the $15 minimum wage and other gains been rolled back, but the Ford agenda is continuing with Bill 66 attacking climate justice, workers rights, unions and much more with the provincial budget still to come. We must continue to build the movements for change to not only push back the attacks but to win the demands that we so desperately need.

All of the speakers called for unity and the need to build an ongoing resistance. Diverse women’s voices were loud, strong and militant and called out for everyone present to continue local organizing and come out again for International Women’s Day rally and march on Saturday, March 9th. The struggle continues!

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