'We are not going to be silent': Canadian women join march on Washington, D.C.
Published Saturday, December 31, 2016 6:16PM EST
Marissa McTasney, left, and Kristi Honey are pictured in a coffee shop in Brooklin, Ont., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016. McTasney is helping organize a group of women planning to march on the U.S. capital the day after Donald Trump's inauguration. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)
Before this year's American election, Tina Woodland had never protested anything in her life. But when she heard that thousands of women were planning to march on the U.S. capital the day after Donald Trump's inauguration, the Yukon resident knew she had to join in.
Woodland, who owns a Ford dealership in Whitehorse with her best friend, spent her entire vacation budget for 2017 so that she could take part in the Women's March on Washington -- an event she believes will be "a turning point in North America."
Organizers say the event is meant to promote women's rights rather than oppose Trump, but for Woodland and others taking part, the president-elect -- who has come under fire for his comments about women -- is at the heart of the issue.
Woodland's family lived through the Second World War before immigrating to Canada, and the mother of two said she has seen similar extremist views emerge and take hold during the presidential campaign.
"The Trump administration doesn't have any respect for women or minorities," said Woodland, who hopes one of her adult daughters will join her for the rally.
"What I see happening is scary," she said. "I just think people need to speak out."
Many women across Canada are making plans to take part in the Jan. 21 demonstration near the U.S. Capitol.
Some, like Woodland, are flying down on their own. But hundreds more will be boarding buses chartered by a number of organizations specifically to shepherd women in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Windsor, Ont., and other cities to the rally. So far, 10 buses have been booked, organizers say, including six reserved by a Canadian committee affiliated with the march.
Meanwhile, others who can't make the trip are looking to participate in rallies to be held in solidarity in major Canadian cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
For many, it will be their first act of activism.
Anchal Bhatia, 25, said she grew up with parents who "don't tend to rock the boat very much," and shied away from getting involved in political causes even though she felt the need to speak out.
Bhatia, who came from India at the age of three and is now studying law in Windsor, Ont., said she was drawn to the Washington march because it encompasses all marginalized people and "you can come at it from any background."
"This election kind of shows us that maybe we haven't made that much progress at all" when it comes to fighting sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination, she said.
Trump has faced criticism for his comments and behaviour towards women, which included calling his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton a "nasty woman" during a debate and suggesting women who accused him of groping and other sexual misconduct were unattractive. The president-elect has denied all sexual assault allegations.
Some of his supporters wore T-shirts with derogatory slogans against Clinton.
"I think that we need this march as a way to really show that there's a lot of people who don't agree with these views and why these views are so harmful and negative and how many different people it affects," Bhatia said.
One of the women behind the Canadian effort is also a rookie activist.
Marissa McTasney, whose company Moxie Trades makes safety footwear for women, took on the massive task of co-ordinating the trip to Washington as a way to fight back against the "utter devastation" she felt after Trump's victory, she said.
McTasney hoped that offering transportation and logistical support would make participation less daunting for those who otherwise might hesitate, she said, and help everyone feel more connected.
Initially, she had only put up 100 tickets, but they sold out overnight, she said, adding roughly 200 more $150 tickets have now been sold.
The buses will leave the evening of Jan. 20 and arrive in Washington the following morning in time for the 10 a.m. march. They will leave the city that night, bringing the group back to Canada by morning.
Organizers on the U.S. side have obtained permits for the march and taken precautions to ensure the safety of participants.
And on both sides of the border, those behind the march say they have made efforts to include people of all ethnicities, backgrounds and income levels. McTasney said a number of seats have been offered free of charge to those who could not otherwise afford the trip.
Before moving to Ottawa this fall, Rehana Hashmi spent decades leading protests and fighting to help women in her native Pakistan. As a result of her work, she said she has been the target of threats, forcing her to stay on the move for the last three years.
But though she recognizes taking part in the march could put her further at risk, Hashmi, who received one of the sponsored spots on the buses, said she can't stand by idly.
"If I don't speak, this silence is also going to kill me," she said.
The march may be "symbolic," she said, but it's important to "show our strength and to say we are not going to be silent."
"After the civil rights movement, this will be the biggest one," she said.