Thousands march for International Women's Day in Toronto

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

Thousands of Torontonians celebrated International Women's Day with a march calling for gender pay equity, an end to cuts to education and social welfare, support for universal childcare, and more. Image: Marites N. Sison

Thousands of Torontonians took to the streets Sunday, March 8, to celebrate International Women's Day and to urge resistance to the Ford government's cuts in public education, health care, and social welfare in Ontario, which they say disproportionately affects women, children and society's most vulnerable. 

Chanting "This is what democracy looks like," women of all ages, labour union members, teachers, Indigenous rights activists, migrant workers, refugees, midwives, nurses and families with children, marched from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) on Bloor Street, and wended their way towards Yonge and Dundas streets. 

Toronto's spring-like weather contributed to a light, nearly festive atmosphere, even as marcher's colourful banners and placards raised serious issues -- gender-based violence, gender pay gap, economic insecurity, missing and murdered Indigenous women, the climate crisis, among other things.

Some carried signs that read, "Support midwives: close the gender pay gap," "Immigrant women need real jobs and living wages," "No cuts to education," and "Decent work and full immigration rights."

Organized by Women Working with Immigrant Women and the International Women's Day Organizing Committee, this year's theme was, "the world is on fire -- we are rising."

Prior to the march, hundreds attended an indoor rally inside the OISE auditorium, which put a spotlight on what organizers described as "a war on women and children," not just in Ontario but around the world. 

"This is a day for celebration and resistance," said Jenny Ahn, an organizing committee member.

"These are challenging times for women," she said, citing corporate greed, climate change, violence against women, and the rise of rightwing populism around the world. 

She mentioned the provincial government's recent decision to cut $1 million in funding to Ontario's 42 rape crisis centres as some examples of challenges facing women locally. "It's 2020, this shouldn't be happening," she said. 

At the same time, however, she said, "we have seen uplifting organizing by women, young women especially," around the climate crisis. There has also been "an unprecedented level of courage and creativity" among activists calling for social justice in other parts of the world like Hong Kong, Chile, and Lebanon, she said. "The world is on fire, but we are rising. It's a day to celebrate our collective voices and our power." 

Joy Lachica, president of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto, thanked parents and students for lending their support to the teachers' rotating strikes. "Class size matters, safe and supported classrooms matter, special ed programming matters, preserving our kindergarten model matters and what is at stake is the very future of publicly funded education," she said. "We will not see it dismantled on our watch. We will not back down."

Liana Salvador-Watts, a parent of two, highlighted the "power of community organizing" as she told the story of how parents, retirees and other educators have set up "pay-what-you-can" childcare in low-income neighbourhoods as teachers strike. 

Catherine Brooks, an Indigenous elder, opened the event with prayers and a smudging ceremony, saying it is everyone's duty "to share and to care for one another with honesty and respect."

This year's march was noticeably different than previous years, largely due to the presence of more families with children, mothers pushing strollers with placards calling for universal childcare and an end to cuts in education and social welfare, and young women and girls calling for action on the climate crisis.

Marites N. Sison is a freelance journalist based in Toronto.

Image: Marites N. Sison

Further Reading

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.