By TOM GODFREY
The race for Ward 2 in Etobicoke North has been a rewarding and eye-opening experience for Somali-Canadian candidate, Munira Abukar.
Toronto Police are investigating a second incident in a week in which one of her election signs was vandalized and defaced with racial slurs.
The word “terrorist” was scrawled on the sign in red wax and a Nazi swastika was drawn over her face, with just days before Election Day on October 27.
“It is very frustrating,” Abukar told Share. “It has been an uphill battle and this just makes me more determined and I want to fight harder.”
The sign was found October 15 on the side of the road in the Scarlett Rd. and Lawrence Ave. W. area, she said.
“This is terrible and disheartening,” said Abukar, a community activist. “But it doesn’t hold us back and we are getting more support.”
Her first sign was defaced near Islington Ave. and Dixon Rd., on October 11. It had the words “go back home” written in a similar red wax, like that of lipstick.
Since then others have since lashed out against Abukar on social media, asking if she was born in Canada or “why is she dressed like that?”
Abukar, 22, said she is not scared, nor does she know who is attacking her with such hurtful words.
“This only makes me stronger and it will not slow us down,” she said. “I didn’t do anything to anyone and why would someone want to attack me?”
She said the campaign has been a great learning experience.
“Nearly all the people I have met have been great to me,” said Abukar. “I don’t know who would want to do this but I am not scared.”
The incidents appear to be the only instance during this election campaign in which racist graffiti were scrawled on a candidate’s political signs.
Abukar, who holds a degree in Criminology from Ryerson University, is recognized nationally for her advocacy and community work.
One of nine children, she is a director of Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) and sits on other committees.
Mayoral candidate, Olivia Chow, has also been the victim of racial remarks, including one person telling her to “go back to China” during a televised debate.
Abukar is among three Black candidates competing to try and stop Mayor Rob Ford from reclaiming Ward 2, which he previously held for 10 years. Ford withdrew from the Mayor’s race to run for the ward after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
Candidate Benn Adeoba, a realtor, said it was a relatively clean campaign and his team did not receive any threats.
“We have been running a clean, respectful campaign,” Adeoba told Share. “We have not had any negative feedback in (those) regards.”
Candidate Andray Domise, who was touted as a frontrunner, said his team didn’t have any hostile encounters while knocking on thousands of doors.
“Our biggest challenge in this riding was the Ford brothers,” he said. “This ward has been neglected for far too long.”
Other visible minority candidates said the campaigns in their wards were “pretty clean”, with rare instances of signs being vandalized or stolen.
A photo of the first defaced sign was Tweeted by Abukar and social media soon erupted from her supporters and well-wishers.
Joyita Sengupta responded on social media that this election has brought out another side of Toronto.
“This election has really brought out Toronto’s uglier side but seeing all the support on Twitter for Munira keeps me hopeful,” she wrote.
Jane Farrow said Toronto is no place for racists.
“Proud that our city’s home to brilliant young women like Munira,” Farrow wrote. “No place here for anyone who thinks different.”
Lisa Barnoff said she’s had enough and pledged support.
“I admire your courage and strength,” she said. “Not in your ward but I will be making a donation to your campaign tonight.”