Thousands of Canadians, many waving signs and wearing pointy-eared pink hats, gathered in cities and towns across the country Saturday to show solidarity with the massive Women’s March in Washington.
A day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as U.S. president, large cheering crowds of women, men and children turned out at the dozens of Canadian events organized in support of women’s rights and human rights.
Many of the protesters said they wanted to send a message to politicians on both sides of the border that Trump-style politics, which they see as misogynist and divisive, are not welcome in Canada.
In Montreal, many wore pink hats with ears, painted whiskers on their faces and carried signs with messages such as “our rights aren’t up for grabs,” — a reference to Trump’s remarks about grabbing women that were captured on tape and surfaced during the election campaign.
New York City native Ellen Goldfinch, who wore a pink baseball cap that read “no going back,” said she was worried about the erosion of women’s reproductive rights and access to health care under a Trump presidency.
“I’m very concerned that my provincial and federal governments know that we will not allow those kinds of values to filter north of the border,” said Goldfinch, who now lives in the Eastern Townships region just outside Montreal.
Outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto, Cleo Corcoran, 87, held up a sign reading: “I did the 50s, we are not going back.”
“Women are half the population and yet we are so often pushed to the back of the crowd. Now we’ve got to come in front,” said Corcoran, a former nurse.
Marchers moved at a snail’s pace down a major Toronto street as they went from the legislature to city hall. Streetcars sat still at intersections, unable to pass through the crowd. Toronto police said the crowd was at least 6,000.
Police in Ottawa estimated that between 6,000 and 8,000 people attended a massive demonstration in that city that started at the human rights monument at the corner of Lisgar and Elgin streets.
In city after city, speakers criticized Trump’s stances on abortion, climate change, and immigration, and stressed the importance of including people of diverse genders, races, backgrounds and abilities in the protests.
There was a sea of pink in downtown Halifax as hundreds of protesters carrying signs of every creed turned out in a show of solidarity with their neighbours to the south.
The diverse lineup included musical performance, a Mi’kmaq smudging ceremony and a spoken word tribute to women-led resistance from former Halifax poet laureate El Jones.
While demonstrators were kept off the streets of St. John’s, N.L., due to blizzard conditions, organizers held a “virtual” rally on social media featuring live-streamed speeches and protest sign selfies.
“We may be the only place in the world that is snowed out of our own rally, but we won’t let a bit of weather stop us,” organizers wrote in a Facebook post.
Officials in Washington estimated that at least 500,000 turned out for the march in the U.S. capital.
Roughly 600 Canadian travellers, most of them women, also made the overnight trek on chartered buses from Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Windsor, Ont., to join that march.
There are also hundreds of protest marches organized in more than 30 other countries.
During last year’s presidential campaign there were accusations of sexual misconduct against President Donald Trump, while he also came under attack from those who felt some of his comments toward women in general were disrespectful.
Despite being separated by a border, Canadians can’t afford to get complacent about what happens in the U.S., said one woman who attended the protest in Edmonton dressed as the Statue of Liberty.
“I think that (Trump) has inspired a lot more vocal sexism and racism, and I have experienced that personally,” Lori Webber said.
Another Edmonton protester, Shane Halfyard, noted that Canada often follows trends in the U.S.
“If it’s happening there, there’s a large chance it will happen here,” Halfyard said.
With files from Nicole Thompson in Toronto, Adina Bresge in Halifax and Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton.