After a year-long absence from the streets of Toronto, 40 Days for Life returned to Canada’s largest city, home to more abortion facilities than any other municipality in the country. Once again, 40 Days was set up across from a medical offices building where the Women’s Care Clinic is located.

Christina Alaimo, a University of Toronto languages student, was co-organizer for 40 Days for Life Toronto, and she describes the campaign as “an enormous success.”

She told The Interim that “all the awareness and discussions we were able to have because of the signs, proved that we were having an impact.” So did the four turnarounds.

“Turnarounds” is 40 Days-speak for convincing a pregnant woman to turn around from her appointment at an abortion facility.

New signs utilized by 40 Days for Life this year has the message, “Abortion stops a beating heart,” which was added to the usual messaging that includes signs that say “Pray to end abortion.” The new sign appears to be connected to a baby that was saved. A pregnant woman asked the street counsellor holding the sign if that statement was true. Despite being told that it was, the woman proceeded inside but returned shortly afterward. She told the street counsellor that she asked what she presumed was a nurse in the consultation room if indeed her child in the womb had a heartbeat. The abortuary staff confirmed that was true so the woman left without procuring an abortion.

Most volunteers at 40 Days pray silently and hold signs; only trained street counsellors should approach women who look like they might be seeking an abortion.

Another abortion-minded woman was turned around by Alaimo, who discussed the physical and psychological consequences for more than two hours. The woman, in her early 20s, was interested in the information presented to her by Alaimo, who handed her a pamphlet with a description of the abortion procedure and about its medical consequences.

Alaimo also educated the woman about the development of the child she was carrying and countered the misinformation offered by the Women’s Care Clinic. Eventually the woman took a card for Aid to Women (a Toronto crisis pregnancy centre), did not proceed inside, and got back on a city bus.

An estimated 2500 people participated in the Toronto 40 Days for Life campaign, including 350 from the Polish community during a day covered by Polish churches, about the same number from St. Joseph the Worker in Thornhill, which had adopted three days during the March break so its youth could take part, and a smaller group from St. Timothy parish in Toronto, the only other church that also adopted a day for its congregants.

All 480 hours were covered, although the two co-organizers had to cover about 12 hours each on their own because there was no one signed up on the schedule for certain times or no one showed up for times that were scheduled. Still, they told The Interim they were pleased with the turnout and are hopeful that volunteers will cover all 480 hours next year. Experience shows that these witnesses grow over time and Alaimo said this year’s success should build momentum for next year’s 40 Days for Life campaign.

Alaimo also reported a positive reaction from the community. People who engaged volunteers were mostly polite with only a handful of obscenities hurled their way.

40 Days in Toronto was launch at St. Joseph’s the Worker Church in Thornhill on Feb. 22 and the kickoff rally was attended by 200 pro-lifers.  Jeff Gunnarson delivered a message from Jim Hughes of CLC, and Alissa Golob of CLC Youth and Alaimo also spoke.

A midpoint rally at the Good Shepherd’s Sister’s Convent was attended by 50 participants. CLC Ontario president Mary Ellen Douglas spoke and there was also a candlelight vigil. The closing rally, also held at the convent, featured speeches from the organizers, a prayer service, and music.

40 Days for Life was also held in another nine locations in Canada including Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Red Deer, and Calgary.

Other communities held 40 Hours for Life – either non-daily or daily hour-long witnesses – including in Saskatoon, Regina, and Moose Jaw.