Words and photography: Amanda Cloutier-Santos

Filmmaker and activist, Marie Boti, is one of the founding members of the women’s group collective called Women of Diverse Origins. When the collective was founded in 2001 it was made up of organizations such as PINAY, the South Asian Women Community Centre, and the Immigrant Workers Centre.

Their first demonstration was in March 2002. At the time, Boti says, they wanted to be visible, “because we were women who were excluded from mainstream women’s movement which was mainly white and kind of middle class.” The women in their organizations are mainly women of colour from different backgrounds and cultural communities, “They didn’t really have a place of worthy of mention within the mainstream women’s movement, so we got together and decided to work out our own agenda,” says Boti.

Now, their annual march is a major part of International Women’s Day. They have anywhere from 300 to 1000 people march alongside their organizations.

Boti specified that the event is not a parade, but a militant act. They show up no matter what day of the week March 8 falls on, or how bad the weather is, “because we wanted to be one with all the other women of the world that were demonstrating at that time for women’s equality,” Boti says.

The Raging Grannies were among the organizations that participated in the demonstration on International Women’s Day. They sang a few songs both in French and English.

This year they decided to extend the one-day event into three. A panel spoke on March 2 at Dawson College. The variety of speakers—some from Montreal, some immigrants, and one from Mexico—were very open and candid about their experiences as ‘other’.

Marlene Hale, a Wet’suwet’en caterer turned activist who gained attention in January for speaking out about the pipeline, was one of them. She talked about meeting Justin Trudeau and her 15 minutes of fame that came with being on the news.

The emotional conference brought tears to many eyes, especially when Margarita Lopez, a Mexican mother who now helps families find their missing children’s bodies, spoke of her own search for her daughter’s decapitated body.

Panelists and audience members had tear-streaked cheeks and hands covering their gaping mouths as Lopez cried and shared her experience. It was one of the Spanish speeches that was translated in English on headphones.

Lopez’s story is part of a documentary called “Portraits of a Search.” On March 4, the documentary was shown at UQAM.

The final event was Friday March 8, on International Women’s Day. All allies of their cause were welcomed to join with banners, posters, and messages at Phillips Square in downtown Montreal.

Marie Boti (second from left) celebrates a successful march in front of Berri UQAM metro station with her fellow Women of Diverse Origins activists on March 8, 2019.

Marie Boti thanks everyone for showing up and walking with them, saying she’ll see them at next year’s International Women’s Day.