Turnout was high for the Women March On Toronto rally Saturday afternoon, despite an extreme cold warning.

The annual rally began at noon in Nathan Phillips Square, with speakers including Ward 13, Toronto Centre councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and Indigenous musician Tanya Tagaq giving short speeches about the need for women’s unity both in Toronto and nationwide. The march then proceeded to Queen’s Park, concluding at 3 p.m.

Elena Carson, 58, was among hundreds of attendees who marched in -12 C.

“We’re lucky we have the opportunity to march,” said Carson. “We can’t wait for somebody else to do it – we have to do it. And if that means coming out when the wind chill is – 22 C, then that’s what we’re going to do,” she said.

Carson has been marching for women’s issues since the fight to make abortion fully accessible for Canadian women in the 1980s.

Canadians march together in the cold from across the country to end violence against women on Jan. 19, 2019. (Tianna Reno/ Ryersonian)

The march took place at the same time as hundreds of others worldwide, marking two years  since a global women’s movement sparked in opposition to the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump in January 2017. Some attendees at the Toronto rally drew a parallel to the actions of Ontario’s premier.

“It’s sad that we’re still having to march,” Carson said, adding that she’s concerned about Ontario Premier Doug Ford. “He doesn’t have much respect for Toronto and he’s bad for women.”

Much of the rhetoric used in the addresses given by speakers at the event was critical of Ford’s cuts to initiatives that benefit women, including a hold on the planned 33 per cent funding increase to rape crisis centres across the province.

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“I came out because of intersectionality,” said attendee Vanessa Henry, a 22-year-old criminology student at Ryerson. “ I feel like there’s not a lot of racialized bodies in this space. Intersectionality is recognizing what other women are going through.”

Henry said she thinks the march is a good way for people to get informed on intersectional feminism.

Lauren Herrle, a 12-year-old Torontonian who attended the march, said she came out because, “even in 2018 and 2019, everything is still so unequal.”  

Another marcher, Anja Moore-Heighington, 26, said: “Ford’s policies make me so upset and I’m sad to see us go backwards. The march gives me hope, but I want to see more political action.

“I wanted to be present. I think it says something when people actually show up in a physical space,” said Moore-Heighington, who works for a non-profit. “Despite the weather, I still thought it was important to show up.”

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