A few hours before Toronto's Women's March began, I spoke with one of the organizers, Kavita Dogra. She said they were expecting a hopeful 10,000 people to come out. By afternoon, organizers estimated the turnout to be about 60,000. Crowds spanned entire city blocks, closed major intersections, and froze the whole city in time.
Dogra told VICE that the march would set it straight that Canadians are not only standing with the US, but also addressing the issues that women and marginalized communities experience here in Canada.
"It's not like Canada has gender equality; it's not like Canada doesn't have issues of racism and misogyny," Dogra told VICE. "This is an opportunity to send a message to our Canadian politicians that Trump-style politics that have worked in The US will not work here."
Though many tacked the Women's March as anti-Trump, Dogra said this wasn't the main objective. "Anti-Trump makes it sound angry and just about the US and it's not. This is so much bigger than Trump. In the end, our focus is here."
As I marched alongside thousands of diverse, bad-ass, inspiring people, I stopped to speak with some of them about why they were there.
VICE: Who are you marching for today?
Vivek: I'm here for women. Also for trans women of colour, it feels very important to me to be present today and support my sisters.
How did you feel when Trump was elected in November?
No words. I felt defeated and I still feel a lot of despair. Being here is trying to conjure a kind of hope and being around other women and other people that care about the kinds of social issues I care about.
Being a trans woman of colour, how have those issues affected you?
Regardless of Trump, I worry about my safety all the time. And now with the election of Trump, I worry about this granting permission for people to be transphobic, for people to be racist. In Canada, we tend to have a superiority complex where we think that we're better and we're definitely not.
VICE: What's it like to be here today?
Midori: Just seeing the generations of the people here speaking out and wanting to put forth that their voice can still be heard is so empowering. As a young female, it's extremely moving for me and I'm quite emotional even talking about it now.
You were up here chanting "Black Lives Matter," do you think it's important to represent women of colour?
I come from such an amazing background. But I think what we all need to recognize is that we are all of the same creed and colour, and I don't really like to specify myself as a [woman of colour]. I think that's what we have to move towards.
How have you experienced the effects of racism here in Canada?
I think growing up and being more aware of it as an issue definitely played a role for me. When I stepped outside of this country and saw racism in full and how tangible it could be, and how frightening it could be, that definitely put things into perspective. You know, we are privileged here, but people still turn a blind eye to it.
Rina, 40 (right)
VICE: So you say that you're standing up for inclusion, diversity and equality. How have these issues affected you?
Rina: In a huge way. I'm grateful to be working at an amazing company, but I was the only women there for a long time. And therefore the only woman of colour. And you feel your gender, you feel your race first. I was born in Montreal, raised in Canada, but I'm still viewed in so many ways as an immigrant. Yet when a white guy shows up, let's say from the UK, he's an expat. And that division with the way people identify with people of colour is really important. I am definitely here for that.
What do you think will come next?
More signatures, more movements, more leadership. Telling stories that haven't been told before. And facts. I think we're bombarded with a lot of raw media, which is good because it's instant, but to really get to the nitty gritty and find the root of systemic issues.
This is not being dubbed as an anti-Trump rally, but—
If it's the one thing he inspired, because he's not inspirational at all, it's this kind of movement and a revolution we haven't seen in years in Toronto.
How do you think Trump and his office will respond to these marches around the world?
It's not [about] his reaction. I think the people will speak and that's the most important thing.
VICE: Have you protested like this before?
Barry: I have. Not a lot, actually the only major one's I've been to before were the Iraq war protest and when Occupy Toronto started. This seems way bigger.
Have you seen the same social issues here Canada that are currently evident in the US?
Well, Rob Ford, I saw that. We're about to see other things happening with the Conservative leadership race in Canada. I don't believe that Canadians are at all immune to the success of the kind of politics that has happened in the US. It could happen here next week.
On that topic, what are your thoughts on Kevin O'Leary joining the race for Conservative leadership?
I'd like to think that Kevin O'Leary plays a character [on TV] and there's a bit more of a reasonable person there but I think everyone made the same mistake with Trump. So, I don't think we're ensured against anything. I think everyone has to be really vigilant and careful.
So you brought your son out with you today, how do you think this movement will affect him and future generations?
I wish I knew the answer to that. I'd like to think that it's a passing cloud and maybe these things are periodic. The world has seen this kind of movement before and it could happen again.
I think people who are of my age are lucky to be in a generation where we didn't see a lot of giant global conflict but there's a certain way where a lot of people got complacent. Now we're seeing the potential for really catastrophic political movements.
Why is it important for you to march today?
For me, it's very serious because I'm a woman of colour, I'm part of the equity seeking group. Whatever changes that are made that are going to be negative against anybody, it's going to impact me twice as hard as it would a white woman or man. I want to make sure that we send a message that people are not going to stand for this. And to see the diversity in the crowd, to see that it's not just women of colour, or just equity seeking groups and that there are a lot of men here, and a lot of white men here lending a hand, it's very heart-warming and encouraging.
You have two daughters; how do you hope this movement will benefit them in the future?
I want to make sure that the world doesn't go backwards and that it goes forward for my girls. We still have a long way to go. Women are still being paid 30 cents less on the dollar compared to men. There's still racism, there's still homophobia, there's still sexism. I want to make sure that I'm part of the fight. I just want a better future for my kids.
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