Despite the freezing weather, hundreds of Torontonians attended the Women’s March this past Saturday. Many were there to challenge Ontario premier Doug Ford and his policies.
The annual Women’s March took place at Nathan Phillips Square in Downtown Toronto. The international movement, which brought out tens of thousands of people out to march globally, happened the same day.
The first Women’s March was in 2017 in Washington D.C, shortly after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. The movement has quickly become a symbol in demanding the advancement of women’s rights and protecting other vulnerable groups.
This year, Mia Santos, 21, self-proclaimed feminist and third-year student at Ryerson University, braved the sub-freezing temperatures to show her stance against Ford’s policies.
“I attended the women’s march to show my support for the women who have, for far too long, been oppressed by male power. I had to at least make an effort to claim my rights back from Doug Ford and from anybody who threatens my rights as a woman.” she says.
The premier, who is known for his documented history of misogyny, has introduced policies that have gained backlash from several advocacy groups in Toronto.
These policies include cancelling the minimum wage increase to $15 and equal pay protections. His latest policy, which makes major changes to post-secondary education tuition and funding, was also an issue raised during the march.
“We were making some progress in closing the wage gap, but he ruined that. His policies clearly speak for him as a person and politician. He thinks very little of women and for people who don’t have money.” Santos says.
As a city councillor, Ford was allegedly known to show hostile behaviour to female coworkers and reporters. His government also relies on the support of anti-choice conservatives, which remains a concerning issue for women’s rights advocates.
“Taking away a woman’s rights to her body, including limiting access to abortion is extremely dangerous to the woman’s physical health and especially her mental health, which the government is cutting funds for as well.” says Santos
Daniela Bazzano, a University of Toronto Bachelor of Arts graduate, who also specialized in gender studies, says, “Women are sick and tired of not being valued. Women of colour are sick and tired of not being valued. Trans women are sick are tired of not being valued. Now that some of biggest leaders of the free world are open misogynists, it’s time to start fighting back.”
One promise Ford made during his campaign in 2018 included the removal of the LGBTQ-positive sex-ed curriculum introduced by Kathleen Wynne and the previous Liberal government.
Ford has since replaced the curriculum with the previous one that was last updated in 1998, he plans to keep it in place until his government can come up with a more “age-appropriate” curriculum.
“It [curriculum change] hurts women who don’t openly identify as women yet. Not all women have the same genitalia and I think it’s important that young people grow up learning to accept one another for our differences. Removing this from curriculum is going to stop the inclusion of children who might feel different from their classmates,” Bazzano says.
Ford’s government has yet to release the new curriculum, which they say they are working on with parents. The current curriculum does not include information about same-sex relationships and cyber safety.
According to Bazzano, there are still various challenges that the fight for gender equality faces and it is important to remember the fight for gender equality benefits both men and women.
“There is still an opposition that it [gender inequality] doesn’t exist. Gender equality fights for all genders on the spectrum and challenges they both face.”
She is also encouraging young people to participate in social movements, and to advocate for equal rights any way they can.
“I think it’s important for events like the Women’s March to happen because it lets everyone know they aren’t alone in their struggle. There is an entire community ready to march and protest for their rights. Participating in these movements gets you involved in your own community and to help make change.”