By Ellen Morgan
At yesterday’s picnic for Gender Justice in Allan Gardens, we caught a glimpse of the Canadian feminist movement in action. Sitting together in a loose circle on the grass, men and women from across the country explained why they had gathered to shout out for gender rights.
The concerns they raised echoed those we had been hearing all week, both at the Oxfam conference and previous rallies– the impact of the economic crisis on women’s lives, the country-wide assault on women’s organizations, the problematic nature of the Conservative government’s approach to maternal and child health, and the need to reinvigorate the feminist movement.
‘When the economic crisis hit in the Oshawa region and people lost their jobs and livelihoods’, said one women, ‘we saw a 75% increase in the number of women and children needing to access services in our community but due to cutbacks the doors were closed and the beds were full’. Another talked about the importance of education in sustaining the feminist movement and shared the positive outcomes of her experiences working to empower female youth in the secondary school system.
Overall, the atmosphere was a mixture of frustration and determination. Many expressed discontent with the treatment of women’s issues at the Summits. ‘The leaders at the table, some come from countries where women are being stoned to death or killed on the street,’ said one woman, an edge of desperation in her voice ‘so if Canada can’t lead on this issue who will?’
While those in the circle exchanged stories and thoughts, elsewhere in the park people were making signs and placards, singing or simply sharing a moment in the sunshine. As the afternoon wore on, more on more people arrived, each eager to demand justice for a different cause – for Palestinians, for the disabled, for the poor, for the workers. Marching bands, gospel singers and vuvuzelas added to the intensity and by the time the diverse crowd left Allan gardens to make its way downtown the atmosphere was nothing short of a carnival.