Splintered Halifax women’s march shouldn’t be ‘dismissed’ as division

WATCH ABOVE: Halifax's poet laureate says the city's two women's marches shouldn't be “dismissed or discredited” as a “division within women's groups.” Marieke Walsh has the story.

Halifax’s poet laureate says the city’s two women’s marches shouldn’t be “dismissed or discredited” as a “division within women’s groups.”

“There needs to be different spaces for different people,” Rebecca Thomas said. “Coming together on occasion is wonderful but so is having different spaces where people feel supported and safe in the manner that they need.”

Transphobic comments posted on the event page for the main women’s march at Grand Parade prompted the creation of a second march at Cornwallis Park. The two events overlapped briefly at Grand Parade, where the second group was greeted with cheers from the crowd and a chant from former poet laureate El Jones.

READ MORE: In pictures: Women, men, young and old take part in Halifax women’s marches

While the two events were created out of a “negative” action, Jones said in the end it was about “building solidarity.”

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“This is an important moment,” Jones said. “When women do politics in public it’s treated as some kind of cat fight or pettiness or derailing, and in fact this is the work of politics.

“This is a public conversation that women are having about the role of transwomen, the role of women of colour, the histories of our movements, the futures of our movements and this is important that we’re having it and it’s a good thing.”

El Jones (left) and Rebecca Thomas look on at the second women’s march in Halifax.
El Jones (left) and Rebecca Thomas look on at the second women’s march in Halifax. Marieke Walsh/Global News

One of the participants said it was “great” that many people came out to support the second protest. “It’s not just women, it’s awesome that there’s men here, there’s children here,” Rachel Wright said.

She said she would be open to the two marches coming together if the organizers of the original protest can support and promote more diversity, and ensure that trans and queer women who are also racial minorities are included.

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Many people attended both events, including one of the organizers of the first event, Rana Zaman.

She called the concerns raised about the transphobic comments “absolutely valid” and said even though she and other organizers tried to make a safe space at the first event, it was “wonderful” a second march was created.

“It can be very challenging when you’re organizing,” she said. “The intention is always to do the best for everyone, it’s never meant to isolate or not be inclusive. Our hope from day one was to be extraordinarily inclusive.”

She said the organizing committee included a diverse group of women including herself — a Muslim Pakistani woman.