New parents know that there is no joy like that following the birth of their children. Parents watch in awe as baby lifts his or her head, and tries to look around the room and focus on the faces of those who will be there to provide love and care.
Parents are there each day, and for their children's milestones, learning to crawl, walk, talk, and attend their first day of school. Here in Canada, parents often read to their children at night, teach them to play baseball, hockey, soccer and take them to their numerous activities.
And if the unthinkable happens, namely, one of our most precious, our most vulnerable, goes missing or is in grave danger, an amber alert is issued so that the child can be quickly returned to his or her distraught parents.
Unfortunately Nigeria is over 10,000 kilometres away from Canada, and there is no amber alert. And so, when not one child, but 276 school girls, were kidnapped from a secondary school in remote northeastern Nigeria on April 14, there was no immediate alarm, no hue and cry.
And these appalling, atrocious attacks continue. Just this morning, news broke that that witnesses were reporting Islamic extremists had abducted 60 more girls and women and 31 boys from villages
in northeast Nigeria.
Canada condemned a separate terrorist attack in Nigeria on April 14, but waited over two weeks to condemn the abductions of the school girls. In truth, the international community at large waited for close to two weeks before expressing outrage.
How could this horror, nightmare and terror attack go initially unnoticed, and how do we ensure that this never happens again? More immediately, how do we ensure that these young girls are not forgotten, and that we continue to fight for their safe return to their parents' waiting arms, particularly as Nigeria has wrapped up its inquiry into the abductions, with little progress to show?
Each week, I hear from Canadians who are heartbroken about the abduction of the school girls. In these girls, we see all our children, their hopes and their dreams, and our hearts ache.
One woman recently sobbed: "I think of my daughter, how I held her in my arms the day she was born, and promised to always look after her. I wave each day as she walks down our driveway, and I know she will soon be safe in her teachers' care. But those parents, those poor parents, they entrusted the school the same way. It's not their fault, the terrorists stole their children, they just stole them. And where was the world's outrage?"
None of us can begin to imagine how frightened the school girls are, and we keep the girls, their anguished families and communities in our thoughts and prayers.
But they need more than our prayers. The clock began ticking April 14, when the 276 girls were abducted from their dormitories. Two months have now passed, and 219 girls remain missing. The more time passes the greater the risk, including the girls being sold into marriage or engaged in the worst forms of child labor, sexual exploitation and violence and recruitment into armed groups.
Canadians should demand that the government update us on the search for the missing girls, what Canada is contributing to the search, and what we can do to support the government's efforts.
What specific resources has Canada sent to Nigeria to help search for the school girls, when was each resource "on the ground", until what date will each resource stay, what is the monetary value of Canada's contribution, and are supplementary requests expected or required?
In addition, was Canada invited to the Paris Summit to boost the search for the Nigerian school girls? Did Canada attend, and if not, why not?
The House of Commons has risen for the summer, and soon all Canadian children will be home with their parents for the break. But 219 Nigerian school girls will remain separate from their families, their community, and all that they know.
A child said to me this weekend: "Do you know the girls in Africa who the mean men took? I think they are scared. I want them to come home to their parents. Can you help them?"
Let us all work together to push for more action, both nationally and internationally, regarding this brutal act of violence. And let us take whatever steps we can to ensure that the girls are returned to their families unharmed, and that they and all girls in Nigeria can continue their education in a safe environment.
Without concerted and sustained action, the violence will continue, and could possibly even escalate.
It is past time that Canadians are told their government's efforts in the search for the school girls, and what support has the government provided to build Nigeria's anti-terrorism capacities.
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