OTTAWA, Ontario (CNS) — People can use their hands, their hearts and their heads to fight for the sanctity of life, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto urged at the 20th National March for Life.

Speaking May 11 to thousands of pro-life supporters at Parliament Hill on a blustery day, Cardinal Collins said euthanasia and the crushing of conscience rights “brings shame to our country.”

“It’s very important that we are here,” he said. “We do not own life, we are merely entrusted with that gift from the moment of conception until natural death.”

Legislators and the judiciary have turned away from the sanctity of life, he said, leaving it to others to defend the unborn and those facing the end of their natural life.

The cardinal called on people to use their hands in service to those who may need love and care to turn them away from euthanasia. People can use their hearts, especially in the silence of prayer, to ask the Lord for guidance on how to effectively fight for life, and can use their heads to assess what they are doing and ask, “Is it effective?”

Although elimination of abortion and euthanasia is the ultimate objective, Cardinal Collins reminded the crowd that the road to such a goal may not follow a straight line. “If we ask for either all or nothing, we are going to get nothing,” he said, citing St. Pope John Paul II.

St. John Paul urged people to try to “get something,” so that eventually we will get everything, he said.

In addition to the march in the Canadian capital, where organizers estimated the crowd at 15,000, smaller marches were held in Regina, Saskatchewan; Edmonton, Alberta; and Victoria, British Columbia.

The Ottawa event was marked by controversy when a March for Life flag was raised at City Hall at sunrise, only to be taken down around 3 p.m. following a burst of social media outrage from anti-abortion advocates and some city council members.

The city had proclaimed the day “National March for Life Day in the Capital,” and a simple gray flag displayed the words “National March for Life Ottawa.” Following the anti-flag backlash, Mayor Jim Watson said the flag was raised without his knowledge and that a review of the city’s flag-raising policy would be conducted.

The theme of the 2017 march was “Life We Stand on Guard for Thee,” the words drawn from the national anthem and intended to a tie into the 150th anniversary of Canada’s birth as a nation.

Eight Catholic bishops and two Anglican bishops from the Anglican Church in North America were present on Parliament Hill. Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast explained that the Quebec bishops were in Rome making their “ad limina” visit and sent best wishes to march participants.