SANDY COVE, N.S. – A small-scale women’s march in rural Nova Scotia that charmed the internet in 2017 more than doubled its turnout this year to 32 people — amounting to nearly half the village’s permanent population, according to an organizer.
As hundreds of thousands of people around the world organized marches last year in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration as U.S. president, a plucky group of 15 women trudged down the only road in Sandy Cove, N.S., to show their support for women’s rights without having to travel to Halifax, about 2.5 hours away.
Cars honked and onlookers cheered on Saturday as a small band of marchers retraced the spirited trek that turned the fishing village of about 65 year-round residents into an internet darling.
“I think sometimes people in larger urban centres sort of feel that people who live in little communities like this perhaps aren’t as in touch with some of the issues and events,” organizer Gwen Wilson said in an interview on Sunday.
“We have a population of women down here too, and these issues are important to us as well, and we wanted to take our stand.”
Wilson said locals and residents of surrounding communities in the Digby Neck region waved signs and banged on drums as they walked along the roughly one-kilometre route from a 22-student school, down a steep hill and then up another to the fire hall.
She said the marchers ranged in age from three years old to 76, and many of them wore suffragette-inspired rosettes to mark 100 years since women in Nova Scotia won the right vote.
“I think everybody has their own individual reason for marching,” said Wilson.
“For me, personally, this year I was really focused on issues of women’s equality, because I feel that if women were truly equal, that would solve a lot of problems in society across the board.”
The 64-year-old retired teacher said she still receives messages of support after an eight-second video of last year’s hastily organized event garnered more than 150,000 views and even attracted the interest of The New York Times.
While this year’s march has not received the same world-wide attention, Wilson said, it has had a lasting impact on Sandy Cove.
She said the community held a series talks to keep up the momentum from last year’s march, starting with a discussion about the issues of patriarchy and misogyny — weighty topics in what Wilson characterized as a “small-c conservative” part of Nova Scotia.
Eight people showed up at that meeting, a turnout Wilson called “groundbreaking.
“The kind of changes that need to happen, you have to be patient. We learned early on that you can’t hope to effect change overnight,” she said.
“You just do one thing at a time and if you change the mind of one person, then you’ve made progress. So you just keep marching forward.”
Canadian organizers said 38 communities hosted marches, rallies and other events on Saturday, representing a 20 per cent increase from the number that took part last January.
Wilson said there are already rumblings of Sandy Cove hosting another march in 2019.
Otherwise, she said, “Folks will think we’ve become complacent … Or worse, satisfied.”