This year's forum to mark International Women's Day in Montreal was once again a day of laughter, rage and tears organized around strong, passionate women.
Over 200 people came out to hear speakers, exchange, and network around the theme Women Demand a New World Order: End Imperialism, occupation, exploitation, war and repression on Saturday, February 28, 2009 at the Université de Montréal. This was the eighth yearly event organized by the March 8 Committee of Women of Diverse Origins (WDO-FDO).
There was an impressive array of speakers from around the globe and around the corner:
Soha Bechara, a former political prisoner at the notorious Khaim prison in Israel spoke about the on-going resistance of Palestinian women;
Elizabeth Penashue, an Innu elder from Labrador shared her community's story of on-going struggle against low-level NATO flights and the dams that were flooding their territory;
two young women from the local Tamil community spoke about the genocide being carried out against their people in Sri Lanka;
Nargess Mustapha spoke of community organizing after the police shooting of young Freddy Villanueva in Montreal North;
Tess Tesalona of the International Migrants' Alliance spoke about the economic crisis and its impact on migrant workers;
Zoya, the speaker from the Revolutionary Afghan Women's Association sent a written message when her visa was denied, in which she spoke about the need to withdraw foreign troops, which had only served to strengthen the position of warlords and the Taliban in her country;
and the struggle of the Algonquin people of Barriere Lake was explained by a member of the solidarity committee.
The day was dedicated to the memory of Melca Salvador, a Filipino migrant worker whose struggle against deportation became a symbol of the courage and stamina of migrant workers and of all that is wrong with Canada's Live-In Caregiver program. Her struggle mobilized broad community support in 2001and resulted in victory for her and her son Richard in May of that year. "She had only two years to enjoy that victory", said Tess Agustin, of the Quebec Filipina women's group, PINAY, "before she was diagnosed with breast cancer." Melca Salvador died on Friday morning, February 27, 2009. A video made by activist filmmakers documenting the year-long struggle and Melca's victory was shown. (You can see it on-line at: http://www.pmm.qc.ca/english/spip.php?article20)
Participants endorsed a series of resolutions presented by the March 8 Committee of Women of Diverse Origins, which included the call for an international assembly of women in Montreal in 2010 towards establishing a global women's alliance.
Colorful banners decorated the amphitheatre and tables of literature and books lined the corridor outside. As usual, a delicious community lunch was served and a Kurdish dance at the end of the day saw participants hold hands and circle the auditorium to the music. A program featuring the history of the WDO, articles and the resolutions was produced by Anna Carasthathis and Charlotte Altunayar.
An International Women's Day demonstration organized by the March 8 Committee of Women of Diverse Origins will be held in Montreal on Sunday, March 8, 2009 at 12 noon starting at Carré Cabot, corner Sainte-Catherine | Atwater (Métro Atwater).