With the first anniversary of Vancouver’s 15,000-strong Women’s March rapidly approaching, organizers are looking to continue last year’s successes and advance the dialogue around a number of gender and human-rights issues.
This year’s rally—an evolution of the 2017 event, which brought a broad activist coalition to the streets with a reinvigorated sense of purpose upon the inauguration of U.S. president Donald Trump—is set for 10 a.m. this Saturday (January 20), beginning at Jack Poole Plaza in downtown Vancouver.
Now called March On–Vancouver, this year’s protest acknowledges that’s there’s still much work to be done.
“Last year, we talked a lot about ‘why we march’—this year it’s ‘why we march on,’” says co-organizer Bodil Geyer. “We look at it as a success that resistance and activism is up across North America, and it’s expanded in this really exciting way with all these different issues like #MeToo, and the anti-Trump, anti-xenophobia, and anti-white-nationalism movements, which all started at a grassroots level.”
Although part of an international movement, much of the local March On effort is also uniquely Canadian.
“It’s brought about a lot of conversations in Canada on minimum wage, gender equality in the workplace, the status of sex workers, affordable child care, women with disabilities, sexual violence against domestic workers, and missing and murdered Indigenous women,” says Geyer.
While last year’s march included a wide array of activist groups and causes, there were charges by Black Lives Matter Vancouver (BLMV) that they and trans people were not well-represented. It’s an omission that the march’s organizers took into account when planning this year’s event.
“Our outreach to BLMV was successful, and people will be speaking at the march on behalf of BLMV,” says Geyer. “We’re also continuing the dialogue with the local LGBTQ2 community, especially trans people—we thought a lot about what happened last year, and we worked really hard to give different groups voices . This time, the speaker lineup really represents the huge mosaic of our city.”
On that note, Geyer makes it clear that everyone is welcome at March On.
“Our march is for everyone who supports the values of equality, inclusion, and intersectionality,” she says. “Families of all kinds are welcome, and March On believes that our partners, friends, brothers, and sons have a role in the success of our movement—and any type of activism—which is about the empowerment of all women folk, in a transectional manner.”
As well as raising consciousness, the march can act as an agent of change in the voting booth, Geyer notes.
“We’ll be focusing on getting out the vote, and getting women to run for office, as we run a real risk right now in Canada of a Trumplike backlash in pockets of Canadian politics,” she says. “We’re also focusing on youth, the millennials, and we have a number of younger groups involved in the march who weren’t with us last year. We’re expanding our network to absorb the next generation, because they’re the ones who are going to inherit this stinking mess if we don’t fight our hardest to protect them.”
Geyer urges those interested in volunteering to message “March On–Vancouver” on Facebook, and to come down to attend a sign-making party this Tuesday (January 16) at MakerLabs (780 East Cordova Street).
“We’re all in this together,” Geyer says. “People who were never politically involved will come to a march, and then another, and whether you’re in Canada or the United States, there’s a conversation around the water cooler, or on the train, or at the dinner table—it’s really happening! If we all work together at a grassroots level, it’ll percolate up to the people who aren’t normally involved in politics. That’s when we’ll start to see a sea change.”
March On–Vancouver begins at 10 a.m. Saturday (January 20), at Jack Poole Plaza.