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'Going to see a massive change:' Women's Marches planned across Canada for 2018

From the Women's March to #MeToo, 2017 was a year for women fighting back. They'll keep marching in 2018.

Sadaf Jamal, in pink, has warm memories of the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21 .

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Sadaf Jamal, in pink, has warm memories of the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21 .

Wearing a fuchsia hijab instead of a knit "pussy hat," Sadaf Jamal couldn't believe the size of the crowd as she joined a sea of women in pink moving toward the U.S. capitol building on Jan. 21, 2017.

"It felt like the whole gender came out," she recalled in a recent interview.

"There were people standing up for different reasons, but we were all there for the bigger goal that women deserve respect and women deserve acknowledgement."

Jamal was one of hundreds of Canadian women who boarded buses to reach D.C. for the Women's March on Washington, while thousands gathered at public squares around the world for sister marches after President Donald Trump's inaguration. The year ends with the toppling of dozens of powerful men due to sexual assault and harassment allegations.

And women around the world are preparing to march again. There will be marches all over Canada, including in Toronto on Jan. 20, said Sara Bingham, one of two executive directors for Women's March Canada. Marches are also planned across the U.S., including a signature one in Las Vegas, Nevada — a swing state that will be influential in the 2018 mid-term elections.

"The theme around the world is looking back, marching forward," said Bingham.

They'll be reaching out to local groups to get a diverse crowd, she added, a response to criticism the first time around that organizers and marchers were mainly white women.

Protesters walk during the Women's March on Washington, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, on Jan. 21, 2017.

Mario Tama / Getty Images North America

Protesters walk during the Women's March on Washington, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, on Jan. 21, 2017.

Judith Taylor, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, sees a resurgence of feminism that builds on the work prior generations have done.

"I do think we're going to see a massive change," Taylor said, adding she believes the "cultural explosion" will filter down from elites like Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and his actress accusers.

"That dialogue then translates into a shift in consciousness, a shift in what's possible to say in your place of work, whether you're paid by the hour or you're a professional."

While Canada has not seen the succession of high-profile men fall the way the U.S. has, in some ways our moment started before Trump with sexual-assault allegations against former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi. He was acquitted on five charges and he signed a peace bond after the final one was withdrawn, but the scandal ended his career in Canada.

"That was a moment of like cultural, social and intellectual trauma and breach, where people were like, 'No way,''' said Taylor.

Canadian society is smaller and also more polite, but she does feel abusers will have their moment.

"I think we will see high-profile professors, we will see high-profile actors and people in the business world get accused," she said. "The question is whether the Canadian courts will acclimatize."

Ellen Berrey, also an assistant professor in the department of sociology at U of T, sees clear links between Trump, who has bragged on tape about sexual assault, the Women's March and #MeToo. But she's not sure if this year's news stories will lead to lasting impacts, especially for low-income women and women of colour.

"Is this going to become like, this thing that happened at the end of 2017, or is this a deeper sea change?" she asks.

Berrey said one of the paths to change, as well as revamping human-resources systems so they don't protect employers, is to get more women in positions of political power.

"Maybe someday we'll tell a story about this feminist wave; maybe it's the fourth wave," she said. "You wonder where the energy's going to go."

Jamal, for one, now finds herself busy with work and doesn't have much time for marching. But she'll always have her memories of the Women's March, including her favourite one:

After it was over, with blisters on her feet and 40,000 steps on her Fitbit, she waited in a stadium parking lot for her broken bus back to Toronto to be fixed. The American Red Cross came to her rescue as she waited, with packets of chips and cookies, warm fleece blankets and even hot chocolate.

"We came into their country and marched against their president, and they took care of us," she said. "It gave me some hope that I won't need to come back again."

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