Protesters calling for the global abolition of the death penalty gathered on Nov. 30 at Toronto’s city hall and walked to St. James’ Cathedral, which was illuminated after the march. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, joined the march and spoke to the crowd of about 100 people.
About 100 people, including Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, braved a cold, rainy night in Toronto to make the city a “City for Life,” one of eight in Canada and more than 900 worldwide.
On Nov. 30 each year, people in cities around the world speak out against, and call for the global abolition of the death penalty. Events are supported by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which Amnesty International helped found.
Toronto’s event began at city hall, where protesters with placards and banners gathered. They marched through downtown streets chanting calls for an end to the executions. Then they were welcomed into St. James’ Cathedral by the rector, Dean Douglas Stoute, to listen to speakers, including Alex Neve, secretary-general of the Canadian chapter of Amnesty International. He brought a message from Louise Arbour, the former UN high commissioner on human rights, who said that those working to end the death penalty should be encouraged that about two-thirds of countries in the world have stopped the practice. She described the Cities for Life event as a “gesture of hope.”
But Mr. Neve reminded the crowd of the reasons to increase their efforts when he spoke of Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, a 13-year old girl, who was stoned to death in October in Somalia by a group of 50 men with a crowd of 1,000 looking on. She was accused of adultery after she reported that she had been raped.
Mr. Neve also noted that, although Canada has been a leader in the work to abolish the death penalty, the government has stepped back from that leadership role in the last year. When Resolution 62/149, calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions, was put before the United Nations late last year, Canada voted for it but refused to co-sponsor it.
Inside the cathedral, Archbishop Hiltz asked the audience to reflect on Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew: “I was in prison and you visited me.”
Archbishop Hiltz said that God takes no pleasure in the deaths of the innocent, but neither does he take pleasure in the deaths of those who have committed wicked acts.
Aubrey Harris, co-ordinator of the Amnesty International Canada’s campaign to abolish the death penalty, described the plight of two young Canadians, Mohamed Kohail and his brother Sultan Kohail of Montreal, who are in imminent danger of being executed in Saudi Arabia. He said there is an urgent need for Canadians to write letters to the Saudi government, asking it to show mercy.