Toronto women march on despite severe weather

Third-annual march demands change on a number of issues

The Toronto Women March On event on Jan. 19 began at Nathan Phillips Square before moving on to Queen’s Park. Monique Thompson/Toronto Observer

Hundreds of women braved the freezing temperatures in downtown Toronto on Jan. 19 to show their discontent with the provincial government.

Women’s march participants (Monique Thompson/Toronto Observer)

The third-annual Women March On event demanded change on a number of issues, including Ontario’s sexual education curriculum and gender-based violence.

Participants voiced their complaints against recent policy changes by the Progressive Conservative government under Premier Doug Ford.

Speakers were only allowed a few minutes for their speeches due to the weather conditions, but they managed to address a wide range of issues.

KAIROS member Dawn Maracle, a Mohawk from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Southern Ontario, opened the rally with encouraging words and a prayer for safety, guidance and protection of the land. KAIROS is an organization that unites Canadian churches and religious organizations to work together for ecological justice and human rights.

Maracle also addressed Bill C-262, a private members bill, that calls on the Canadian government to respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which KAIROS has endorsed. The House of Commons passed the bill in 2018 and is currently being reviewed by the Senate.

Ward 13 Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam also attended the rally and spoke about the the city’s housing crisis.

However as the weather steadily grew worse, the number of listeners declined as people moved to the City Hall atrium to find shelter from the frigid winds.

Womens march petition table

A booth at Nathan Phillip’s square (Monique Thompson/Toronto Observer)

Andrea Cascone, an LGBTQ activist who joined the march for the second year, protested changes to the sex-ed curriculum by the Ford government.

The government made the choice to revert the curriculum to the 1998 version, which doesn’t include topics such as same sex and online safety, scrapping the version introduced by the former Liberal government in 2015.

Cascone said she’s concerned about government cuts that disregard the rights and protections for the vulnerable, including cutbacks to after-school programs for youth, funding for specialized schools, funding for the Ontario College of Midwives, and changes to OSAP funding for low income families, among others.

She said the changes are “inherently transphobic and homophobic.”

Cascone compared the premier and his policy choices to U.S. President Donald Trump, dubbing Ford the “Canadian Trump.”

“Certainly his motives, his connections, the people that his policies are crafted to protect and build up even further, it is a frightening parallel,” she said.

Although the weather worsened by the minute, the march eventually started. The route began at Nathan Phillips Square and ended at Queen’s Park.

The route of the Women’s March: Nathan Phillips Square to Queen’s Park

Some of the other issues raised at the march:

  • The Ontario government’s decision to not increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour
  • Gender based violence in the workplace
  • Replacement of the Ontario Ministry of Status of Women, with women’s issues shuffled to another portfolio.
  • Changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), which provides eligible students with various types of assistance based on financial need.

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Posted: Jan 20 2019 2:27 pm
Filed under: News