Aubrey Harris

Aubrey Harris

Being a human rights activist is a way of life

Aubrey is an extremely passionate and hard-working human rights activist who has become an incredible resource and expert in the anti-death penalty movement. Aubrey is also an invaluable member of our Amnesty International family in Toronto who takes on very important leadership roles but is also willing to roll up his sleeves and pitch in wherever help is needed.

I have had the pleasure of working alongside Aubrey for over a decade and continue to appreciate his intelligence, warmth, humor and dedication. Aubrey’s dedication to Amnesty International is inspiring and I look forward to working with him for many years to come.

Bridgette Clark

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member AI Toronto Indigenous Rights Action Circle

In Aubrey’s words:

“One November evening in 2000 I was approached by a young canvasser asking if I would support Amnesty International. I had been coming from a Remembrance Day ceremony and hadn’t expected to stop but when I heard “Amnesty” it struck a chord – I knew of Amnesty International and had for a number of years been doing my own research on the death penalty around the question of free will, justice and determinism. This was something I did on my own, stemming from interest in determinism when I was studying philosophy at university.

“Of course!” I said. I wasn’t making a lot of money in my job then, but I still signed-up as a monthly donor, giving a small amount each month and I signed-up for the Urgent Action Network. I specifically asked for death penalty related actions because of my interest.

When I joined I was ‘teamed-up’ with an experienced Amnesty member to help me with my first few letters. Susan Hoch mentored my letters and had one very good question for me to think about: What were my five main arguments against the death penalty? I wrote back about a page or two as I recall.

In 2004 I volunteered to help with the Toronto Regional meeting and had my first experience with Amnesty’s membership. I helped to organise a session on the death penalty with Iris Nowell. When the next regional conference came about I decided to try and run a session myself, which I tongue in cheek titled ‘Pro Patria Mori’ but while researching that session I found the Amnesty Canada listing for a new Coordinator on the Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty. I applied, competed, and I’m still doing it!

It is a way of life to be a human rights activist. There is a lot that inspires me in Amnesty International. I know that we are working for an undeniably good cause and joined by so many inspiring other members. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to represent Amnesty International as a Coordinator and to help within the senior volunteer levels on the Coordination Council of AICES. I am also privileged to be directly involved with some death penalty cases with worldwide attention.

I have sometimes said that as a coordinator, I feel like I am “Standing on the shoulders of giants” – but maybe a better metaphor is to be riding the crest of a wave in which we are all an equal part. When I represent Amnesty and speak on our behalf, I do so with the authority and reputation of the world’s largest human rights organisation and it is made up of people like you and me.

Amnesty International commands great respect. A couple of years ago I was asked to speak briefly at a special event for the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted. There was a panel of experts and specialists at the event and until I rose to speak, few knew who I was. At the first break several people from the panel came straight to me to talk about Amnesty.

As a coordinator, I have been able to work with great staff, colleagues and other members. Each AGM, coordinator meeting, group talk, event, AITO or Branch Office visit I find invigorating because I can see that same enthusiasm for human rights in other people and it gives me great hope.

In my spare time, I work full time as a provincial civil servant and I find the time to play Australian Football for the Broadview Hawks Australian Football Club. I have in the past been involved with Team Canada for AFL, “Northwind” and I’ve had the advantage of many opportunities in my youth to learn leadership, teamwork and make friends all around Canada from when I was a Sea Cadet. I believe that experience has greatly helped my public outreach work with Amnesty International as a coordinator.”

I don’t often work closely with Aubrey, but I have found him to be the type of person who will be there for you in a pinch. Even if he’s not supposed to be helping at an Amnesty event, he will gladly assist when asked to lend a hand. It’s nice to know that there are people like Aubrey who you can turn to in last minute ’emergency’ situations.

Renee Saviour

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AI Canada Board member

THANK YOU, AUBREY!