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.”
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.