I remember meeting Andy at an Amnesty Annual Meeting years ago and discovering that he was on the verge of moving to Toronto. “Well”, I said, “The members there will be very glad of that!” How right I was. He became an extraordinary leader among us – on protecting human rights defenders in Colombia, on the use of tasers, in teaching youth about Amnesty, in coordinating membership activities (not the least was an AGM). Whenever Andy is involved, one can always be assured that event planning is in good hands. He continues to be an avid letter writer whether at group meetings, at public events, within the Urgent Action Network, or at Write for Rights. If he ever wears ordinary clothes, it might be hard to recognize Andy because he is The Best at wearing Amnesty’s promotional t-shirts in the summer and sweatshirts in the winter.
I first met Andy when he came to AITO having moved from Ottawa to Toronto. Andy had been an active member of his local Ottawa Amnesty community group and wanted to remain involved. He joined Gr. 63 in Toronto and soon became the group’s rep to AITO. Before long Andy was elected Chair of AITO. In that role Andy demonstrated many leadership skills, and assumed many volunteer roles in Toronto including chairing a few AGM local arrangement committees, speaking for Amnesty at schools in the GTA and becoming an eloquent, well-informed spokeperson on the taser issue- appearing many times in the media representing Amnesty Canada on the use of tasers by the police force.
As a Volunteer Merchandise Co-ordinator for AITO I really appreciated the many times Andy stepped up to the plate assisting me with merchandise sales at the annual December 10th Open Houses at the Toronto Amnesty office. One year when I could not attend the AGM in Winnipeg Andy generously volunteered to drive the merchandise to Winnipeg and look after all the details. On his return Andy remarked how much he enjoyed the experience because staffing a table at the AGM meant that you met and engaged with so many members across Canada (something I always appreciate). He remarked that he never enjoyed an AGM as much as that one.
I think that I speak for many in AITO when I say we truly miss Andy since he has moved with his family to Hamilton. Toronto’s loss is Hamilton’s gain! Thanks Andy for all you have done and for all you do for Amnesty.
In Andy’s words:
“I first joined Amnesty International over 25 years ago when I learned that support for AI and human rights could extend well beyond simply donating to the movement. My first involvement was as a member of AI group 5 in Ottawa.
After moving to Toronto I continued my involvement in human rights activism with group 63 and a variety of AITO branches including the Speakers Bureau, the new members orientation team, several regional meeting planning teams, and AITO itself, first as secretary and later as chair. AITO twice hosted Amnesty International’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Toronto in recent years, and I chaired the local arrangements committee as well as serving on the national planning committee for these AGMs.
I fondly remember the time when I crammed a stockpile of AITO merchandise into my car and drove it to the AGM in Winnipeg, spending much of that weekend at the merchandise table. “Before you feel sorry for him for ‘missing’ things, he insists that this is one of the best ways to participate at an AGM since you get to meet and talk to pretty well every attendee that way – everyone wants to check out what’s for sale. (The drive through northern Ontario was spectacular too.)”
The one thing I did most often in my decade in Toronto with AITO was to facilitate human rights seminars for students at dozens of local schools. Clearly one imperative for human rights activists is to educate and involve youth in our work. Outreach to students is a great (and fun) way to do this.
As well, I studied up on Amnesty International’s concerns over police abuses related to the use (and often overuse) of Tasers, taking these concerns several times to the Toronto Police Services Board.
This developed into a sideline in media work with dozens of radio and TV appearances and interviews. I also debated a number of Taser supporters in the media, ensuring that AI’s concerns were heard loudly as part of the public debate.
Since my ‘retirement’ to Hamilton I have joined AI group 1 (group 1 was the first AI community group in Canada) and I continue to be an active part of the Amnesty International community.”