Olivia Chow—Member of Parliament, seasoned politician and widow of former New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton—tells her story in this candid memoir
What drives Olivia Chow? How did she emerge from a turbulent childhood to become an inspiring political force? What influences and events have shaped her life? And how is she continuing her quest after losing her partner in life and politics?
When she was thirteen, Olivia’s middle-class family moved from Hong Kong to Toronto, but the transition was difficult. Her mother went from having a maid to being a maid. Her father failed to carve out a working life for himself in Canada—frustrated and bitter, he lashed out at Olivia’s mother and violence darkened their lives. A rebellious yet playful child, Olivia discovered self-discipline and became an excellent student in Canada, studying fine art and philosophy at university. After graduating, Olivia worked for a time as a sculptor. Then, driven by a desire to achieve social change, the artist became an activist, and she launched her political career.
As a popular and much-admired school trustee and Toronto city councillor—the first Asian woman in that role—Olivia honed a grassroots approach and crafted progressive programs that enhanced the lives of others, especially children. Strong-willed, focused and passionate, Olivia got things done by bringing together people from all parts of the political spectrum.
In the mid-1980s, Olivia met Jack Layton. Their dynamic partnership, unprecedented in Canadian political life, made a powerful impact in Toronto, and on the national stage. Together, they forged a strong vision for a better country and for enlightened political change. But when her beloved partner and political soulmate died in the summer of 2011, how did she find the strength to move forward? What might we learn from her inspiring story? Those answers are here, in Olivia: My Canadian Journey.