Toronto’s 2020 women’s march draws smaller crowd, tries to stay true to big ideals

“Small but mighty” group marches in protest for women’s rights
Protestors gathered at Nathan Phillips Square before marching in heavy snow. 
KHATCHIG AINTEBLIAN/THE VARSITY
Protestors gathered at Nathan Phillips Square before marching in heavy snow. KHATCHIG AINTEBLIAN/THE VARSITY

Toronto’s fourth annual women’s march drew a much smaller crowd to its informal event on January 18. During a snowstorm, approximately 10 protestors met in Nathan Phillips Square before marching up University Avenue for a rally.

Petra Kassun-Mutch, the publisher of feminist magazine LiisBeth and organizer of the march, said in an interview with The Varsity that she felt it was important to have the march, no matter how small. “We felt we should come anyway… Just because there’s just a few of us on a snowy day doesn’t mean that Toronto women are not aligned with all the things that everybody’s fighting for.”

The original women’s march took place in January 2017, with the first wave taking place the day after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump. However, the Toronto women’s march separated from the organization that hosts the marches in Washington, DC and organizes marches in the United States, instead operating under the title of March on Canada. For the past three years, Toronto has held a more sizable women’s march, with the 2017 march drawing as many as 60,000 participants, and the 2019 march still gathering hundreds in poor weather conditions.

The group that previously hosted the Toronto women’s march, Women March On: Toronto, disbanded at the end of 2019, causing a lack of an official women’s march this year. Before that, they had separated from the new entity called Women’s March Canada, an organization closely aligned with the Washington, DC-based women’s march.

The divide between Women March On: Toronto and Women’s March Canada in 2018 “had to do with the feeling that the Women’s March 2020 organization globally… is too corporate,” said Kassun-Mutch. “They objected to them trying to find corporate sponsors.”

The official statement of Women March On: Toronto expressed that Women’s March Canada was unwilling to work with or give credit to local organizers, and citied its corporate structure as a reason for the schism.

The initial women’s marches were met with criticism that they were not inclusive enough. However, “It’s come so far since then,” said Kassun-Mutch. “It’s really evolved and strengthened.”

“This is the women’s march 2020 Toronto!” shouted Kassun-Mutch into a megaphone as the group walked up University Avenue. “Small but mighty!” another protestor echoed.

Another protestor, Champagne Thomson, said she was participating in the march “because as a woman you see that we are disproportionately impacted by all the atrocities in the world, from pay equity to environmental issues.” She expressed the need that women’s marches represent all women: “If it’s not for all of us, its for none of us.”

Kassun-Mutch expressed optimism that the march would come back in a bigger way in 2021, and create “a march that looks representative of Toronto’s population.”

“Hopefully next year, there’ll be twice as many of us!”

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