Hundreds gathered on Parliament Hill Saturday morning for the third Ottawa Women’s March, braving blisteringly cold temperatures to show their support for women’s issues.
In fact, Ottawa was the coldest capital in the world Saturday at -24 C, but the weather didn’t stop people from showing up and the march from kicking off at 11 a.m. as scheduled.
A host of speakers – including Indigenous women, represented by the Native Women’s Association of Canada – addressed a packed crowd of people on the Hill before the march began. Just before the march kicked off, Bay Ward councillor Theresa Kavanagh took to the microphone and officially proclaimed the day “Women’s March Ottawa Day.”
“I’m here with elected representatives from all levels of government. We have to work together to make this better, and I thank them for coming out today,” Kavanagh said.
A big goal of this year’s event was to bring awareness to pressing women’s issues, including gender-based violence and issues facing Indigenous women.
“We’re really trying to focus on giving Indigenous women space and a platform to talk about the issues that matter to them,” said Cecille Soberano, communications for the Women’s March Canada: Ottawa Chapter.
Participants travelled from Parliament Hill, down Bank Street and all the way to Aberdeen Pavilion in Lansdowne.
Last year’s march was significantly shorter, starting on the Hill and ending at the Bronson Centre – a 20-minute walk at most.
Soberano said the longer march this year is due to a number of reasons.
“It works out really well as part of our protest, as part of our demonstration. I think it’s a lot more significant that we’ll be disrupting the city I think a lot more than we did last year,” she said. “I think in terms of reach and visibility, we’re going to have a lot more of that this year than we did last year.”
Aberdeen Pavilion is also a more accessible venue than the Bronson Centre, Soberano said. This means more people had a chance to enter the venue and see the speakers and performers capping off the end of the march.
Speakers at Parliament Hill included Bridget Tolley, the daughter of an Indigenous women who was killed by a police car in 2001, and Barâa Arar, a recent Carleton University graduate and community organizer. Performers at Aberdeen Pavilion included local musician Crystalena Paquette and an Ottawa “activist choir,” Just Voices.
Moyra McWiliam was one of the hundreds of people who showed up at Parliament Hill for the event and said this was her first time attending the Women’s March.
“I think it’s important for everyone – women and men – to acknowledge when half the population’s rights are abused, violated, then none of us can succeed,” she said. “I think [it’s a] strong showing, in spite of the bitter cold.”
Soberano said there will definitely be another women’s march next year.
“The march is growing, more people are interested and willing to participate and collaborate with us,” she said.