By TOM GODFREY
Many Torontonians have taken to the streets to “Bring Back Our Girls”, while those running for elected municipal or provincial offices remain silent on the issue.
Olivia Chow is the only mayoral candidate to join in demanding the almost 300 missing Nigerian schoolgirls be freed to their mothers, who spent last Mother’s Day grieving.
Chow took part in a rally last week as Toronto-area Nigerians called for the schoolgirls to be freed by Boko Haram Islamic militants, who have threatened to smuggle them outside Nigeria and sell them.
The kidnappings have touched the hearts of many Canadians who want to help.
Hundreds of concerned mothers, families and activists showed their solidarity for the teens in Toronto, Hamilton, Cambridge, Vancouver, Saskatoon and Winnipeg last weekend as part of a “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign.
The girls, who range in age from 16 to 18, were snatched April 14 by the militants from their boarding school in the northeastern village of Chibok. The school was set ablaze to try and stop the girls from obtaining an education.
Ontario politicians, including Premier Kathleen Wynne, have remained quiet with regard to the schoolgirls, as they try to drum up votes for the June 12 elections. More was expected from Wynne to help raise the profile of the case.
Conservative leader Tim Hudak and NDP leader Andrea Horwath have in the past paid lip-service about equality and equal pay for equal work, but both are missing-in-action on this case.
At the end of the day, the words from leaders are symbolic but it lets the Nigerian government know that the world is watching.
As a result, many politicians, celebrities, athletes and even U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama have joined in calling for the girls to be released.
Except for Chow, there is total silence from Toronto candidates running to replace Mayor Rob Ford for the top job.
Chow has been involved in dozens of community protests and will not hesitate to add her name to such a life-saving cause.
“An attack on one girl is an attack on all girls worldwide,” Chow told a rally. “We all want our daughters to be safe.”
This is the second week that Toronto activists have returned to Dundas Square to seek action. They plan to keep returning until the girls are reunited with their families.
“I want to show my unyielding support for these girls, their families, and women the world over who still face paying an incredibly high price for the basic right to an education,” Chow told Share.
John Tory, who unveiled his economic plan last week, has talked about taxes and transit, but not about schoolgirls.
Tory is a decent man, but his campaign makes him appear stiff and over-scripted.
Karen Stintz, a mother of two young girls with whom she gladly poses in front of cameras, is also nowhere to be heard on the issue.
The Canadian government, namely Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, were among the first to criticize the kidnappings and to send surveillance equipment and personnel to help free the girls.
Chow has been quietly making inroads into the community. She met with members of the community last week in a roundtable discussion about important issues facing the city.
About 12 leaders, along with former NDP MPP Zanana Akande, met with Chow, who is leading in the polls of contenders in the race for mayor.
“It was a lively debate,” one attendee said. “There were a lot of good ideas that were brought up that is being looked at.”
Chow is familiar with the people and issues facing Toronto and intends to be an inclusive mayor, who is willing to reach out and work with all parties.
With Ford out of the way, it will be a shoving match between Chow and Tory, whose high-price help have failed to perform so far.