Justice walk turns 40

A large group of people gathers, one holding a large wooden cross
Walkers gather in front of Toronto’s Old City Hall last year during a stop on the route.
 on April 1, 2019
Michael Hudson

March bears witness to society’s wounds

Toronto’s Ecumenical Good Friday Walk for Justice is celebrating its 40th anniversary. This year’s walk will be held on Good Friday, April 19, beginning at Holy Trinity, Trinity Square at 2 p.m. The theme will be, “For the Sake of the World: 40 Years of Hopeful Persistence.”

The first walk, held on April 13, 1979, was organized by a group of Catholic teachers, Teachers for Social Justice of the Metropolitan Separate School Board. The theme was “Witness to Hope: Contemporary Way of the Cross,” and began at the Newman Center at 80 St. George St. with more than 100 participants. There were five stations – for the wounds of Christ on the cross – and everyone was invited to meditate on five contemporary wounds of the suffering Body of Christ. The stations focused on the hazards of nuclear waste, abortion, refugee policy, exploitation in the sugar industry, and justice for striking workers in a seven-month lockout in Sudbury.

“The purpose was not to lay blame, but to acknowledge everyone’s participation in oppressive structures and everyone’s need for repentance,” explains the Rev. Sherman Hesselgrave, incumbent of Holy Trinity, Trinity Square. The first walk concluded at Nathan Phillips Square.

Over the decades, the themes of the stations have responded to a wide range of issues, from human trafficking to the commodification of water to climate change. The themes of the stations on the 2019 walk – homelessness, refugees, Indigenous and environmental justice – have been addressed on previous walks.

“Forty is a long time to persist, but it took William Wilberforce 40 years of offering his private member’s bill to abolish slavery before Parliament took action to do so,” says Mr. Hesselgrave.

This year’s walk concludes back at Holy Trinity with a simple supper.


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