The day after Donald Trump was officially sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, people across the world took to streets, in support of Americans protesting. Thousands of Canadians crafted signs and threw on their winter jackets to stand in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. Rallies were held across the country from the nation’s capital to Halifax, Vancouver and Montreal.
Some Canadians crossed the border Friday evening and Saturday morning to march alongside the estimated one million Americans, including Jen Jackson, a mother to two young daughters living in Chicago; Jennifer Kruidbos, a Montreal-based yoga instructor and Jay Baltz; an American-Canadian dual citizen living in Ottawa.
Why did you attend the Women’s March on Washington?
Jackson: I have two daughters. I decided to go because for better or for worse I have to raise these two girls in the States. I owe it to them to fight against all of this crap that’s going on even if I can’t in fact vote or be part of the political process in any real way as a Canadian in the States.
Baltz: To say that what Trump has been doing and what he is talking about doing should not be seen as normal and is not acceptable. He’s looking at turning back progress that’s been made over decades and decades specifically in the area of women’s rights and equal pay.
Kruidbos: I wanted to put some skin in the game. I wanted to experience some front-line activism. Since the election and what’s been happening in the States, I definitely had some visible emotions and I felt that going to this march would put the wind back in my sails and be inspiring. I have friends in the States and people that are more marginalized than me and actually are afraid in many ways. For me the election is really upsetting but I don’t feel like my life is really in danger so I wanted to stand beside people whose lives are.
What message do you hope your presence at the march sends?
Jackson: I hope it sends the message that we are not going to accept this as a new normal. I hope it sends a message that people who were not protesting or fighting in the past are willing to do so now and we are not going to back down.
Baltz: People are watching. Winning the electoral colleges does not give him carte blanche to do whatever he wants to do which seems to be his attitude. Not to mention to define the truth as whatever he sees as the truth. People will be keeping an eye on him.
Why did you think it was important to participate as a Canadian?
Jackson: This has gone beyond an American problem and become an international problem and I think Canadians are part of that need for international intervention. I also think that Canada itself is starting to swing back and forth in a polarized manner, to a much lesser degree. We had Harper to Trudeau, a swing. We could see that kind of swing to the far right as well. I think we are seeing evidence of that internationally, of these polarizing swings to the right.
Baltz: The U.S. has a huge effect on us being right next-door and our biggest trading partner and essentially contiguous in land everywhere so a lot of people move back and forth. There are a lot of Americans who live here. It’s easy to live in Canada where we haven’t faced that sort of thing to think it will never happen here. Looking at the current Conservative Party leadership, there are people who are running in that leadership who are saying exactly the same things that Donald Trump was saying. I think we also need to be careful here about making sure this doesn’t happen to us.
Did you have any fears for your safety?
Baltz: No, not all. There was very little police presence but those that we did talk to and see were universally friendly and happy that people were there. One of the police on the approach to the route we stopped and talked to was saying how different the atmosphere was in the women’s march than it had been the day before in the inauguration where he said everybody was angry. They had a lot of problems that day.
Kruidbos: I really didn’t, I believed it would be peaceful. A lot of friends were sending me messages, saying “Be careful, be careful.”
What moments from the march stood out?
Baltz: There were so many people that we were essentially trapped in place for a number of hours and then moved slowly up to the White House. Really, the moment was approaching it and just seeing how many people there were there. How many women, how many pink hats, how many people actually showed up for this. It was way over the estimate that anyone was making ahead of time. It was remarkable, what a gigantic sea of people. Then walking away from it, every intersection that you crossed in every direction you looked, it was packed, building-to-building, sidewalk-to-sidewalk, people.
Kruidbos: Janelle Monáe brought up six mothers of black youth who were killed by police in 2016. [She was singing] the song ‘Say Their Name’ and had the mothers actually yell out the names of their sons.
What did you write on your sign?
Kruidbos: I had one that said, “Equality First”.
Now that the march is finished, what comes next?
Jackson: I think I’m going to follow the steps that Michael Moore laid out: we should call Congress every day and keep protesting. As an international community, we need to continue to keep protesting, keep the pressure on and keep track of the lies that are getting covered up in the States because the media is struggling against him [Trump].
Baltz: It was very nice being out there to end anger and project hope and talk about how everybody should march in solidarity. If this doesn’t result in four years of concerted effort and organization in the U.S. and in Americans living abroad as well, if it also doesn’t serve as an example that we can’t just sit here and hope it doesn’t happen to us, then it’s really not going to be all that useful. It’s great to go out and march and say we were in this big crowd and it was the biggest ever but everyone who is worried about this sort of thing needs to step up and make sure that they’re actively working to keep our values and our freedoms and our diversity intact.
Kruidbos: I had already started, right after the election, doing workshops called “Helping to Dissolve Racism”. I am going to look at the Trudeau government policy. I’ve been a bit immersed in American politics the last few months and need to actually take action to call regarding things that might be upsetting to me.
*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.