Why Do We March?

Of the 120,000 people who attended the Women’s March in Canada, 10,000 marched in Alberta and 3,500 marched in Calgary.

They were repeatedly asked, “Why do you march?”

They replied they were concerned about equal pay, violence against women, protecting human rights, and ensuring the ugliness of Trumpism doesn’t seep into Canadian politics.

Ashley Bristowe, Calgary March spokesperson, was even more specific.  She said the focus of the Calgary March was “creating space [and] building community around the issues that we think are important here in Alberta…[and creating] the opportunity for marginalized and disenfranchised voices to be heard.”


Women’s March Calgary 2018

NDP, Liberal and Alberta Party politicians put aside their differences to march under the Women’s March banner–one of the clearest examples of common purpose was NDP MLA Sandra Jansen’s tweet of a photo of herself and AP leadership candidate Rick Fraser with the caption “This guy can march with me any day.”

The only political party that skipped the Woman’s March was…you guessed it…the UCP.

Why don’t they march?

Instead of asking us why we march, we should be asking the UCP why they don’t march.

UCP leader Jason Kenney has nothing to say on this topic, but comments of the UCP communications chair, Sonia Kont, and others list various objections to the Women’s March which may explain why UCP politicians decided to pass on the Woman’s March in Calgary and Edmonton.

Here’s what they said.

Objection #1:  There are better ways to empower women than playing identity politics in a march 

This makes absolutely no sense.  Identity politics refers to politics based on the interests of a specific group which is identified by traits such as nationality, culture, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual preference, etc.  If UCP politicians attended the Women’s March they would quickly realize the female, male, non-binary, young, old, gay, straight, white, First Nations, Muslim, racially, culturally and politically diverse marchers do not represent a specific group pushing an identity-based agenda.  They’re marching for a multi-faceted vision of humanity.

Objection #2:  We all have the same rights in society 

Indeed we do; unfortunately the fact our rights are enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act does not stop racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, or transphobic nutbars and the political parties they gravitate to from trying to take our rights away from us.

Objection #3:  The march lacks clarity 

This complaint appears to be based on the fact that marchers carry signs advocating for various causes, all of which can be characterized as demanding equal rights in one form or another.  Why is this a bad thing?  Is there a UCP rule that says you can only march for same-sex marriage on Pride Day and a woman’s right to choose on…oh I don’t know…a day when someone decides to picket an abortion clinic?

Objection #4:  You should be marching for the rights of women in the Middle East not here in Alberta

Two points come to mind here: (1) If the rights of women are not adequately protected in Alberta, we need to march for them in Alberta and (2) the fact we march to protect women’s rights in Alberta does not preclude us from marching to protect women’s rights elsewhere.  The fight for women’s rights (indeed all human rights) here and abroad isn’t an either/or proposition, we can fight for both at the same time.

Objection #5:  We don’t need to march because we’re well represented by female Conservative politicians like Michelle Rempel and Rona Ambrose who are holding Justin Trudeau accountable 

What?  Trudeau is a feminist who appointed the first gender-balanced federal cabinet in history.  His position on women’s rights, including abortion, is well know.  Is the UCP seriously suggesting women should give Rona Ambrose a pat on the back for supporting a Conservative motion that would have resurrected the abortion debate or Michelle Rempel credit when the Conservative party finally decided to recognize same-sex marriage 12 years after the Supreme Court of Canada declared it was legal?

Why we march

Rachel Notley is keenly aware of “social issues” and works hard to address them.  She appointed the first gender-balanced cabinet ever in Alberta.  Her government passed many laws aimed at improving the lives of women and minorities.

It passed laws that allowed students to create gay-straight alliances in schools and protected them from being outed by their teachers.  It increased protections for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence; it protected people from the distribution of intimate images without their consent.  It updated labour and employment standards that hadn’t been reviewed for decades and increased the minimum wage to $15/hour.  It accessed federal funding to set up a $25-a-day day care centres.

Jason Kenney, on the other hand, says he has no time for “social issues” and promises to rip up every law Notley enacted.

So why do we march?

As transgender activist Marni Panas put it, we march because “we are just one election away from losing the rights and freedoms we spent decades fighting for.”

The real question isn’t why we do march;  it’s why do you not.    

This entry was posted in Celebrations, Feminism, Politics and Government, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Why Do We March?

  1. Farmer Dave says:

    I wonder if Jason Kenney and his UCP members didn’t do the women’s march because they are preparing to march in the Gay Pride parades happening in Calgary and Edmonton. I’m thinking this may be their excuse.

  2. Mohamed Mahdi says:

    I do not get why people like Kont and that PAC one of the PACs that supports the UCP think these marches are useless if people do not care about what is happening to women in the Middle East or other countries that are way worse than Canada in terms of women rights. Like one of the march organizers said these types of comments are tone deaf. I get their disagreement but the way they phrased it is just awful. Women still do not feel equal in Canada and the rest of the western world in terms of rights. We should be continuing to fight for more equal rights for women in the western world along with women in countries were they are less fortunate. It’s also pathetic how high profile people in the UCP and UCP members continue to go after Sandra Jansen. She may piss people off because she acts more like a fighter and doesn’t let people push her around but the UCP and their members definitely need a reality check on how they act to women like Sandra Jansen. The UCP and their members can say they support women in their party but in reality the UCP contnues to prove how toxic they are as a party to women that do not worship their ideology at all.

  3. Mohamed you’ve brought up a very important point here by pointing out the stark contrast between the UCP communications chair’s comments (and all the other objections raised above) and the way the UCP, particularly Kenney’s supporters, treated Sandra Jansen during the PC leadership race and after she joined the NDP. Seems to me if they didn’t want her in the UCP they should have been happy to see her leave, but they just wouldn’t leave her alone. Tells you something about how vindictive and hypocritical they are.

    • Mohamed Mahdi says:

      They are definitely obsessed with Sandra Jansen. Sandra Jansen may not be liked by a lot of people but there are definitely some UCP members that she ditched the PC’s and moved to the governing party who they think is accidental.Kont kinda fits this group. These people constantly obsess over every little move Jansen makes. If I were the UCP I would chuck out every UCP member or anyone high up in the UCP that has encouraged hostile behavior to women like Sandra Jansen. The UCP will never do that and instead the UCP and their PACs will cry about how intolerate the left is of certain types of women while people high up in the UCP continue to be intolerant to women who do not support the UCP or are open about their hatred of the UCP.

  4. All good answers Susan, thank you for the explanation for those who don’t understand.

  5. J.E. Molnar says:

    One has to constantly exhibit an enormous amount of bewilderment and awe when assessing the daily, ongoing actions of the United Conservative Party of Alberta. Always a day late and a dollar short when it comes to social and human rights issues, their continued rejection and denials over women’s rights, human rights, climate change, GSAs and other mainstream justice issues always leaves me perplexed. How can a political movement that boasts and claims to be a “big tent” party ignore what’s going on around them, as the world evolves and finally begins to remedy past injustices?

    Sadly, Jason Kenney and many of the people who support him and his party remain political outliers in Alberta. Their most recent spate of bozo-eruptions, validated by mainstream media accounts, adds credence to claims of social and political ineptitude. Clearly, the UCP has positioned itself as the party of Ralph Klein — not the party of Peter Lougheed (insert head shaking here).

    • Harce says:

      The party of Ralph Klein is exactly the party that we need to balance the budget immediately. Watch for a repeat of 1993-1997 but with deeper cuts, the cuts that we need and the cuts that we need now.

    • I agree J.E.
      Kenney is trying to foreclose any discussion of “social issues” telling his supporters that it’s all about the economy. This is bad for democracy.
      But even if we focus solely on “economic issues”, the UCP’s logic makes no sense. Simple example: the UCP says returning to Ralph Klein’s 10% flat tax will bring back the Alberta Advantage. How? It does nothing for people making $126,625 or less because they’re already at the 10% tax rate, it does however give a huge tax break to the upper 10% of the population and the 1% making more than $303,900 get a massive windfall. It also cuts the revenue line by at least $700 million (higher when you factor in the cut to the small business tax). Someone needs to ask Kenney why ordinary Albertans should accept reduced services to benefit the rich. (BTW: I keep harping on this point because the UCP supporters haven’t figured it out yet…amazing).

      • Harce says:

        Very easily. By cutting deeply now we will avoid interest payments on the debt that can go towards more front line services. The folly of debt already is costing us interest almost enough to build a new south Calgary hospital every year. Rather live within our means instead of making rich bondholders outside the province even richer.

      • Harce: The $1.4B in interest payments services the entire $45B debt (about $500M of this debt servicing is the result of NDP borrowing and $900M of this is the result of PC borrowing). The only way to get rid of the $1.4B interest payment is to pay off the entire debt. What services and capital projects are you prepared to cut to repay the $45B? If you don’t want to repay the entire debt, how much would you repay and which services and capital projects (new? repairs and maintenance?) would you cut? Once you tell me that, then you can tell me how your life would improve by “cutting deeply now”.

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: Horace seems to think that strong cutbacks are needed to get Alberta into a good fiscal situation. We are still paying for the last rounds of cuts from the Alberta PCs. Other than Lougheed’s government, the Alberta PCs were fiscally reckless. All they were capable of dping was the costliest scandals, repeatedly, pilfering the Heritage Fund, getting bad oil royalty rates for our oil. The flat tax was a big failure. So much money was lost from this. I cannot see the UCP being different.

  6. Kelly D says:

    I saw UCP MLA Mike Ellis at the march.

    • Kelly D, I didn’t see anything on his twitter feed or facebook page indicating he was there but that’s good to know.

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: That’s a complete surprise to me. The UCP certainly does not take women’s rights too seriously, by the looks of things. A misogynistic joke from one of their members (when he was in the WRP), another MLA helped to get a single woman fired for reporting harassment to her employer, abuse hurled at Sandra Jansen and Rachel Notley, etc. Then, we see “so called media” outlets like the Rebel, fanning the flames, with their inexcusable conduct towards female MLAs and MPs. If you went on YouTube, I don’t think it would be good. The Rebel group would hurl abuse. They think the march was an NDP march. It wasn’t.

      • Dwayne, I agree with everything you’ve said here. The latest example of UCP saying one thing and doing the other is Jason Kenney’s promise to “raise the bar” and demonstrate “civility and respect for our democratic institutions — including our opponents,” while in the next breath calling for Notley to stop the “anger machine” that’s “coarsened” debate in the province. This is more than a little hypocritical given it’s Kenney and his supporters who continually attack Notley and Jansen, not the other way around.

    • carlosbeca says:

      HMMM another one bites the dust. 🙂
      The emperor will take care of him

  7. Morgan D. says:

    Why don’t I march? Because the march is more about pushing a socialist, left wing political agenda than it is about equality of women. Look at all of the false accusations against men – for which the law does not protect them. People like Sonia Kont ought to be commended for standing up to this tyrannical agenda!

    • Morgan, I don’t follow your argument. The Women’s March started as a protest against the election of a misogynist to the White House, that’s a women’s equality issue, not a socialist leftist political issue.
      Your reference to the “false accusations against men” is not supported by the facts. If you’re referring to sexual assault claims under the Criminal Code, Stats Can says the rate of sex assaults reported in 2014 is unchanged from 2004 (BTW 636,000 cases were reported in 2014, this is .018% of the population). People accused of sexual assault have the full protection of the law and it’s effective. Between 2009 – 2014 only 12% of the cases that went to court resulted in a criminal conviction and of these only 7% resulted in jail time.
      If you’re referring to accusations under the #MeToo movement, the fellow has civil law remedies like suing his accuser for defamation. I’m not aware of any man named in the #MeToo movement bringing a lawsuit saying the woman is lying.

      • Harce says:

        Because being a lawyer yourself you would know that a) defamation suits take a long time; b) they are expensive, and few can afford to hire a lawyer, and c) they often bring more attention to the very accusation that is complained of. Many men are losing their jobs over baseless accusations. Just because someone makes an accusation doesn’t mean it’s true.

      • Harce, it’s true, lawsuits take time and cost money, but many wealthy men like Trump, Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey have the money to launch a defamation action but haven’t done so, perhaps because one of the defences to a defamation suit is “justification” (also known as the truth). Do you have any backup for your claim that many men (how many) are losing their jobs (which jobs) over baseless accusations (why are they baseless). The reason I ask is just because someone can’t afford to launch a defamation action doesn’t make the accusation false.

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: What socialist left wing, political agenda? I can’t see that. False accusations against men? We have seen how male politicians and other men have behaved against female politicians. That’s just in the political sphere. I don’t know where Morgan got their ideas from. It is wrong.

  8. Linda says:

    Hurray! Bravo! Great post!!!

  9. midgelambert says:

    With reaction to the official UCP Comms person labelling the non-partisan Women’s March as ‘ideological’, UCs once again successfully introduced another wedge issue into Alberta politics which is more divisive every day. A very smart classic Kenney move we need to be aware of.
    President Obama is warning his country about the same danger. “Obama: “If you have to win a campaign by dividing people, you’re not going to be able to govern them. You won’t be able to unite them later” “

    • Great quote Midge. I’m reading a book by Michael Adams called “Can it happen here?” He says Trumpism won’t seep into Canada because we embrace equality and immigration, HOWEVER, he and other writers have noted that Alberta is a bit of an outlier. A recent Forum poll showed that 26% of Albertans (and 37% of Conservatives across the country) still think Trump is doing a good job, which gets back to your point about the importance of keeping a close eye on Kenney’s wedge politics.

  10. David says:

    The UCP continue to lose Albertans who recognize that fairness and equal opportunity for all are not only good for society, they’re good for business!

    • Excellent point David. Too often we forget that fairness and equality is a business issue as well as a social issue. McKinsey published some research which found “companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians”. Conversely companies in the bottom quartile for these dimensions were less likely to achieve above-average returns. McKinsey points out that correlation is not causation, nevertheless when McKinsey speaks, companies listen. Here’s the link: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters

  11. Elaine Fleming says:

    Thank-you, Susan, for blogging on this topic. It made me think more deeply about all the issues that have created this new Women’s Movement, and to “distill’ for me why I felt compelled to participate in the March in Edmonton this last Saturday.

    Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party are the conduit to bring “Trumpism” to Alberta, and like their southern counterparts, are crossing their fingers the political “awakening” shown by the Women’s Marches doesn’t carry on to the ballot boxes in our next election.

    The UCP does not support the Women’s March because they don’t support the values and causes women are marching for, simple as that.

    Kenney’s big challenge will be to convince Alberta’s women that he gives a damn about anything they care about- whether it be pay equity, affordable day care, workers’ rights, reproductive rights, access to health and elder care, teacher-student ratios, tuition costs, law and order, protection for vulnerable people, the health of the environment and protection of species, or any of the other pressing societal issues we are facing.

    He has indicated his fealty to very wealthy individuals and powerful corporations by his trial balloons on flat taxes and private health care, hoping the average citizen won’t put two and two together and realize these kinds of policies will totally screw them over.

    Jason Kenney is counting on Albertans to vote against their own self-interests, as many citizens south of our border have done. As Midge said, the strategy for them is to turn people against each other, and divide and conquer, as it were.

    We must remain vigilant, and not be deceived by these tactics. We and our “regular-joe” fellow citizens, who all want and need the same things need to stand up for our kids and grandkids and their futures, for our communities, and a just society.

    That is why I marched.

    • Elaine, what a wonderful summary of all the issues at play. As you point out Kenney is using the same divisive tactics Trump used in the US. Ronald Inglehart, a social values researcher, said the Trump era reflects “a widespread and potent cultural backlash—especially prevalent among older, white, lower-educated males—to the postmaterialism of recent decades, and…heightened political attention to noneconomic issues, such as multiculturalism, LGBTQ+ rights, climate change and, most obviously, feminism.” Seems to me many Albertans are frightened by the way their world is changing and would rather follow a divisive leader into a mythical past (“the good old days”) than a caring leader with the intelligence necessary to lead them into the future.

  12. Carlos Beca says:

    Tell the UCP that you have a March against raising the minimum wage and they will be the first to get there.
    Like Elaine wrote in her post ‘The UCP does not support Women’s March because they don’t support the values and causes women are marching for, simple as that’.
    That is the reason and they do not support social causes because they do not believe in society. They believe in extreme individualism and competition without regulation – barbarism, that is what that means.
    I think Jason Kenney made a big mistake on this one. I hope he makes even more as we approach the next election. He was not able to hide his true ideology to get where he wants to go.
    Who knows if this is the turning point we need to keep sane.

  13. I agree Carlos. I suspect Kenney and his supporters will become even more extreme as Alberta’s economy continues to improve and the ND government unveils its next budget which will address the deficit in even greater detail. This will undermine Kenney’s premise that life is hell in Alberta. He’ll need to work harder at widening the social divides: conservative vs “socialist”, private vs public services, rural vs urban, pro-life vs pro-choice, the “common man” vs the educated elites, “common sense” policies vs evidence-based policies and all the other “us” vs “them” divisions he can think of.
    Before you know it we’ll be squaring off into cat people vs dog people. 🙂

  14. GoinFawr says:

    ” Rather live within our means instead of making rich bondholders outside the province even richer.”
    I agree with you here Harce, but how to do it? Your short-termed, short memory and ill conceived neoliberal sounding calls are always “cutz! cutz!cutz! (corporate welfare forever!) “, but instead can why not try saying “State Operated Enterprise” Eg.Statoil?

    Or if that it is too many for you, how about we chop that down a little, being reasonable, so it doesn’t stick in your (presumed) ideology’s throat so much: Alberta could move it’s oil royalty regime out from its longstanding role at the top of the ‘international laughingstock” list..

    Try to bear in mind, Harce, that the ONLY elected gov’t in all of North America to run seventeen (count ’em Harce: 17!) consecutive surplus budgets was T.Douglas and his CCF, the forerunner of the NDP, and they did that while introducing, rather than eviscerating, the idea of ‘universal’ health care.
    Now, you go figure.

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