It’s been over a year since Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford was accused by Gawker and the Toronto Star of smoking crack cocaine, and appearing in a video doing so. And today, after a brief stint in rehab, he’s back.
While we’re all happy that Ford seems to be getting help for his drug abuse issues, we can’t forget that for the last year the people of Toronto have collectively decided that they’re pretty much good with racism, homophobia, misogyny and classism.
Toronto’s apathy toward Ford’s bigotry was made startlingly clear this May, when two new videos of Rob Ford surfaced. One, apparently, features him holding a pipe and smoking crack, and there are some screen grabs of the video floating around the internet, which I’m sure you’ve seen. The other, however, is an audio recording where Ford is talking politics with some friends at the bar. It’s a great Canadian past-time – have a couple of beers, and admit that you’re thinking of voting Green. We’ve all done it.
Except that Rob Ford’s reason for voting Green is that he couldn’t have possibly voted Conservative, because Tim Hudak (that party’s leader) lost his vote when he supported “the gay organization.”
Remember that time everyone except Rob Ford was in favour of flying a rainbow flag at City Hall during the Sochi Olympics, in solidarity with the LGBTQ community? This is what that’s about. At the time, Ford had given some excuse about the Olympics and patriotism and Canada, but now, rather than just suspicions, we have full-fledged proof that it was just some good old fashioned homophobia.
Of course, we already knew he didn’t like the gays, or their organizations. He has refused to attend the Pride Parade every single year he’s been mayor. Last year, in fact, he voted to discontinue funding for Pride altogether. At first, in 2011, the people of Toronto were shocked that he wouldn’t be attending Pride. There was a sense of disbelief that Toronto’s mayor was choosing to go to his cottage instead of one of the world’s largest and longest running Pride events. By 2013 though, Rob Ford’s lack of attendance was just a given, and some were even proud of him for attending a kick-off event for Pride, saying that that showed growth. Though he still didn’t attend the parade. Consider our standards for equality significantly lowered, then.
Some made sure he could be there anyways. <3
On the audio recording, when Ford was asked about Karen Stintz, one of the top contenders running against him in the upcoming mayoral election, he said, “I’d like to fucking jam her but she don’t want it.” So – his only comment about a female frontrunner in the election is that he’d like to have sex with her? This made the news, but no one seemed to demand or even expect any kind of apology or explanation.
But again, we already knew that he’s not that big on women, or respecting them. Last fall he was accused of groping the head of the Toronto Transit Alliance at an event. Also last fall, he was accused of saying he’d “been intimate” with former advisor Olivia Gondek. (This would be when he responded to those claims by saying that he wouldn’t have said that he “wants to eat her pussy” because he gets “more than enough to eat at home.” Charming.)
The news media in Canada and around the world has been having a field day with the whole thing. Americans seemed to be in a state of genuine shock that Canada could produce a man like this, and that Toronto would willingly elect and support him.
And none of this even gets into his behaviour prior to being elected mayor. In 2010 he agreed with a fundamentalist pastor who claimed that same-sex marriage could “dismantle a healthy democratic society” by saying, “We’re together. We have the same thoughts.”
Can I repeat that? Rob Ford said he had the “same thoughts” as a person claiming that homosexual relationships will bring down society. Four years ago. And he was still elected mayor.
In 2008 he was arrested for assaulting and uttering death threats to his wife – the charges were later dropped because of an unlikely conviction. As in, dropped by the lawyers because they’d be unlikely to win in court with just a woman’s word against her husband. And he was still elected mayor.
In 2005, he questioned the reasoning behind various grants and programs supporting transgender organizations saying, “I don’t understand. No. 1, I don’t understand a transgender, I don’t understand, is it a guy dressed up like a girl or a girl dressed up like a guy?” And he was still elected mayor.
In 2002, during a debate about adding additional homeless shelters across the city, Ford said, “This is an insult to my constituents to even think about having a homeless shelter in their ward. And you want me to have a public meeting to discuss this? Why don’t we have a public lynching?”
I could go on.
We knew he wasn’t a champion of human rights or any kind of an ally when he was voted mayor. For the last 3 and a half years, we’ve continually been subjected to more and more examples of his racist, bigoted, sexist behaviour. And you know, drug use.
Sure, there have been protests. And people complain about Rob Ford all the time at home, at work, and at bars. But there hasn’t been any major dissent or demonstration. Today is actually Day 139 of “Rob Ford Must Go” – a permanent, sit-in protest asking for him to be kicked out of office, but in general it’s not a large enough effort to have garnered much attention. Up until Ford took his leave of absence – his approval rating was still at 46%. It dipped lower for a while, but with his return, it’s apparently on the rise again.
For the last three and a half years, Toronto has shown the world we’re ok with racism, sexism, homophobia and general bigotry. Our complacency and indifference to his hateful remarks has put us all on the side of Rob Ford. And that is not the solidarity we want to be affiliated with.
Because while his drug addiction and alcoholism are an illness – his other problems are not.
A “drunken stupor” doesn’t absolve anyone of blame, nor does it cause a person to start shouting derogatory, misogynistic, hate speech.
With Ford back in action at City Hall, and only 131 days to go until the mayoral election – let’s pledge not to continue to leave our vulnerable citizens behind. Let’s pledge not to re-elect someone who has blatantly promoted racism, classism, sexism and homophobia.
This is our chance to show everyone who has been affected by Rob Ford’s bigotry, and the rest of the world, that we’re here, and we care, and we’ll stand up for the rights and respect of all of Toronto’s citizens – by voting for someone else.
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