Ottawa Residents Headed to Washington for ‘Historic’ March
Only a few days after the U.S. election in November, Ottawa’s Vicky Smallman booked a hotel room in Washington.
Smallman, the director of women’s and human rights at the Canadian Labour Congress, saw the stirrings of a major protest in the wake of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday. And she wanted to be part of it.
“I decided I wanted to be there,” said Smallman, who will be driving to Washington with her spouse and two children to participate in the Women’s March on Saturday.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty historic event. It’s an expression of strength and commitment to a more positive and progressive world view than that expressed during the election,” she said.
“It started out as a grassroots initiative. You could see people getting on board.”
The Women’s March is shaping up to be one the biggest protests Washington has ever seen, although it’s unclear how many people will actually attend.
Facebook is notoriously unreliable in terms of predicting how many people will actually show up at events, but almost 100,000 people have indicated that they will attend and more than 250,000 say they are “interested.” Media reports from Washington say 1,200 permits have been requested for buses.
Men have also been invited to take part and almost 200 progressive groups have signed on as supporting partners, representing issues ranging from affordable health care to gun safety to anti-racism.
Kelly Hayes-Crook and two friends signed up to take a bus from Ottawa to Washington, leaving Friday night and returning to Ottawa early Sunday morning. Other buses are to bring marchers from Montreal, Toronto, London and Windsor. As of Sunday night, there were a few spots still available.
“The election normalized lying and hate speech,” said Hayes-Crook. “I wanted to do something that said, ‘This isn’t OK.’ I just wanted to be part of something that is good.”
Meanwhile, Ottawa organizers are planning a march in downtown Ottawa on Saturday, starting at the human rights monument on Elgin Street and ending at Library and Archives Canada on Wellington Street.
It will be one of 17 similar marches in cities across Canada, said Catherine Butler, one of the Ottawa organizers.
“It’s a women’s march, but it’s open to anyone,” she said. “It’s not an anti-Trump protest. It’s bigger than Trump.”
On Sunday, a group got together at the Orléans branch of the Ottawa Public Library to make placards for the march.
“You know that things are messed up when your Grandma starts marching,” says one placard.
“Marching for my sister,” says another, painted by a five-year-old boy.
Terrie Meehan, one of the organizers of the Ottawa march, said she can’t afford to renew her passport to go to Washington but she still wanted to be part of the movement.
“Anybody who is not the establishment and doesn’t fit into a narrow little box is afraid. I can’t go down there and protest with them, but I can still use my voice,” she said.
Amanda Carver said she worries that the populist surge in the U.S. is coming to Canada. Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch has proposed screening immigrants for “Canadian values,” for example.
Butler says the U.S. election is a “wake-up call.”
“We’re just on election away from moving in the same direction.”
What happens in the U.S. has a huge impact in what happens in Canada — and that’s why Smallman wanted to go to Washington.
“It’s a way to express solidarity with people in the U.S.”