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Montreal students lift 250,000 pounds in support of women’s rights, Iranian protesters

Click to play video: 'LaSalle students come together for women’s rights'
LaSalle students come together for women’s rights
WATCH: There was a whole lot of strength, sweat and determination on display in a LaSalle schoolyard as a group of students came together to accomplish an extraordinary feat for a worthy cause. Dozens of people worked to lift hundreds of thousands of pounds in less than an hour. As Global’s Dan Spector explains, it was all done in the name of women's rights – Jun 8, 2023

There was a whole lot of strength, sweat and determination on display in a LaSalle schoolyard Thursday afternoon, as a group of Montreal students came together to accomplish an extraordinary feat for a worthy cause.

Dozens of people combined to lift hundreds of thousands of pounds in less than an hour in the name of women’s rights.

The initiative is called Lifting the Weight of Oppression, a challenge born out of Jason Gannon’s class at Options High School in LaSalle.

“It’s an act of love that we want to send to the people of Iran,” said Gannon. “It’s just an act of love over oppression.”

The idea was ignited out of the widespread protests that began last year in Iran after a woman was killed in custody for not properly wearing her hijab.

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Students Canela Bireck-Lapaix and Isis Redmond both wanted to do something to help promote women’s rights.

“I felt a little bit powerless,” said Bireck-Lapaix.

“We really wanted to do something big,” said Redmond.

Gannon helped channel their feelings into something positive, and the idea of Lifting the Weight of Oppression was born.

“We committed to lifting 1,000 pounds a day over our shoulder in an act of kind of carrying that heavy load and then discarding it,” said Gannon.

Students each lift a weight over their shoulder until they’ve done 1,000 pounds worth, every day.

“I’ve been lifting 1,000 pounds every day since Sept. 3,” said Redmond.

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Their motto is “All go, no quit.”

“If you have the 30-pound ball, you throw that over your shoulder 34 times and you’ve got your thousand. If you’ve got a 200-pound ball pound, you’ve only got five lifts but it’s quite something,” said Gannon.

“It’s nothing compared to being sexually assaulted and killed. It’s the bare minimum, in my opinion,” said Bireck-Lapaix of the weight-lifting challenge.

Eventually, the idea spread to seven other schools. At the culmination of the project, everyone gathered to lift the weight of oppression as one. Their goal was to combine to lift 250,000 pounds in 40 minutes. Gannon and other staff members joined the students in the grueling task.

As part of their idea to “think global, support local,” the event was a fundraiser for Chez Doris, a local women’s shelter. It’s a cause close to Redmond’s heart.

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“We should be allowed to dress how we want, wear our hair how we want. In Iran, they’re being punished for not covering their hair, choosing their own rights,” she said.

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The students say Gannon has been a huge source of inspiration.

“Jason lit this fire inside of me where it’s like, I know I can do better,” said Redmond.

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