World March of Women's 5th action wraps up with rallies against poverty and violence

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MONTREAL — The World March of Women's fifth international action wrapped up with events in Quebec on Sunday, with organizers demanding the provincial government better protect Indigenous women.

The Montreal coalition of the World March for Women said growing inequalities driven in part by the pandemic have affected Indigenous women and girls in particular, because they are already more vulnerable to violence and discrimination.

"We stand in solidarity with the struggles of Indigenous women and we support them in their demands for justice to be applied so that they can obtain rectification and respect of their rights," spokeswoman Marie-Hélène Couture said.

The World March of Women happens every five years, from March 8 until Oct. 17, but was postponed last year — on its 20th anniversary — due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Quebec Coalition of the World March of Women asked the province to institute systemic change at a rally that brings to a close the seven-month-long event.

"We want the police forces to stop their practice of racial profiling and police stops," Marie-Andrée Gauthier, a spokeswoman for Quebec's World March of Women, said. "We want to redress forced sterilizations."

Quebec's coalition used the occasion to also demand stronger economic integration of immigrants and to increase funding toward eliminating violence against women.

Gauthier said the government needs to propose systemic change and to not just put a "bandage" on the issues. She said there's a lack of resources to support immigrants women and is calling for an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour to fight poverty.

"During the pandemic, we saw that more women were working in so-called essential services and in unacceptable working conditions and wages," said Gauthier.

The international slogan of the World March for Women "resist to live — march to transform" is especially meaningful in Quebec, Gauthier added.

Quebec's coalition has been pressuring the government to act against violence toward women as the province experienced a spate of femicides since the beginning of 2021, with an unofficial count putting the number at 16.

"When the government comes up with solutions, they should address the root causes of the problem and not just plaster over the various problems women face," Gauthier said.

The coalition said it intends to meet Isabelle Charest, the minister responsible for women, and different political parties to reiterate their demands.

World March of Women began in Quebec in 2000, and has since spread internationally.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 17, 2021.

-With files from Frédéric Lacroix-Couture

Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press

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