Friday, June 3, 2011

ConsentFest and SlutWalk, Saskatoon, May 28, 2011

Text and photos (c) Robert Barry Francos
Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them
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Earlier this year, a Toronto constable who led a campus safety talk told his audience that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized." In a rightful wave of protest, this blaming-the-victim statement led to what has become known as the ConsentFest, which is punctuated by a multi-gendered march called the Slutwalk, to pronounce that anyone has the right to say no, no matter what the garb. These fests have, in a very short time, become a worldwide movement. Hopefully, it will become annual.

Under a cloudy sky ripe with the threat of rain, people were gathering in the park behind Saskatoon's Farmer's Market. While most appeared to be college students, there was a wide range of participants of all ages, and varied levels of "sluttiness." While making signs, greeting old and new friends, and playing music on found instruments, a feeling of liberation was in the air.

After an announcement from one of the ConsentFest organizers (all of whom wore red sashes), Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighhill came up and said that unlike that police representative in TO, the law enforcement of Saskatoon take assault seriously, so please do not be afraid to let them know.

With that, the march was formally on its way. Going North on Avenue B South and turning east on 19th Street, the chanting walkers continued north on 3 Ave S to 21 Street, across the core to Spadina Crescent, turned south at the landmark Bessborough Hotel, and then on to River Landing.

As we all gathered at the open-air amphitheatre, there were a series of speakers as the weather turned wet. People started to leave at this point, as the sibling country band started. After one song, they had to stop because of the weather. A couple of more speakers went to the mic while some dieharders stayed to listen (I was smart / lucky enough to have an umbrella with me).

Due to the storm, the Fest part was cut short, and rather than it really starting to get into the swing around 3 PM, we were all out of there shortly before that time. I'm hoping this is just the start of these marches, and they turn into a positive alternative to the Take Back the Night ones (I stand by their message, as well). This Fest had only one booth that sold some liquidfaction, and at some point I'm hoping it will be as raucous as the Pride Festival and March.

I have added some comments to some of the photos below, to explain either the moment or why the photo is included.

Gathering the marchers.

Ashley Wills, a reporter from the conservative talk radio station interviews one of the organizers, Leah Horlick.

Leah is also interviewed by Charles Hamilton of the CBC.

An organizer talks to supporter Chief Clive Weighill (right), while Joanne Horsley of The Avenue Community Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity (center) looks on.

People were so happy to be there, they were levitating.

Rhythm musicians, who accompanied the marchers along the way, played a drum and found instruments, such as empty wine bottles and cooking oil cans.

I am assuming that Batman is a representative of Unreal Comics, one of the corporate sponsors of the event.

Did you notice the water bottle?

A quick announcement before the start of the SlutWalk.

Chief Weighill gives the endorsement of the city's police. He participated in the entire march.

Co-organizer Debbie Rye

The SlutWalk begins

Nykea Marie Behiel

There was a police escort for the entire march, including officers on bicycles who helped with traffic through the city.

The "Solidarity" sign gets lost among billboards with the same color. However, these signs do not actually have anything to do with the SlutWalk, but rather with one of the many union contracts that are currently under threat of strike in the province. Sort of like when Al Sharpton marched in Brooklyn, and there were some with Socialist Party signs among the crowd that had their own agenda.

Along the way, people applauded and car horns were honked in agreement. These drew large rounds of cheers from the marchers.

We passed this sign and I couldn't resist.

This sign seemed appropriate.


The march passed the statues of the city's founders, at the base of the now-closed Victoria Bridge (also known as Traffic Bridge).

The Broadway Avenue Bridge.

As the march concludes, the organizers take the stage at River Landing, led by Becca Geisler.

Guest speakers discussed the likes of what to do if abused, safe sex and safe houses.

The country group of three siblings made it through one song before the rain became too much for the open-air show.

A soggy Nykea Marie Behiel

More speakers...

When the rain started coming down hard, people took off.

Co-organizer Debbie Rye

The conclusion of the ConsentFest was a bit earlier than expected due to weather conditions, and rightfully so as the crowd was given a big thank you.


  1. Hi Robert!
    Thanks so much for participating in SlutWalk & ConsentFest! Your photos are great! Just wanted to point out that our MC for the event was Ferron Olynyk - Becca Geisler is the woman with the blue hair at the microphone in your photos of River Landing. (There were a lot of organizers to keep track of!)

    Thanks so much for posting your thoughts on the event!
    Leah Horlick
    Advertising & Media Liaison
    ConsentFest & Slutwalk Saskatoon
    (I'm in the photos being interviewed by CKOM and CBC. Great shots! Thank you!)

  2. Hey Leah, thank you so much for the information and corrections; obviously, I'm still learning my way around the activist scene in Saskatoon. I have made the changes to the text (which is why, if there is someone reading this now, they may be confused. Soon I will be putting up more these and more photos at Webshots. It will be added to the info in this blog when this is done. Take care, and keep up the good work!

  3. Hey Robert,
    Thank-you so much for your pictures and participation in the event! As a single point of clarification, SlutWalk is actually the international movement that started in Toronto while ConsentFest was the locally organized educational event catering to the further needs of the community. It was great to see you out and involved!

    Debbie Rye
    (The Orange Haired/ Black kitty eared organizer in a few of your photos)

  4. Hey Debbie,

    Thanks for the clarification. I thought the overall event being called a "ConsentFest" was quite the smart and more inclusive, gender friendly move that would bring ever more participants into the fold. After all, having us men join, in agreement, makes the message stronger just by headcount alone!

  5. Thanks for the participation and awesome photo Robert! I used one of me as a profile pic with credit and a link to your blog--hope that's alright!


  6. Robert Barry FrancosJune 8, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    Hey Nykea, no problem whatsoever. The whole point is the get the message across, right? That's one of the main reasons I take photos, so help spread the word. Thanks for the credit and link, in return!