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What We Do and Do Not Know About Rob Ford and Drug Use

Deep breaths are important right now.

Two publications—the New York-based site Gawker, and the Toronto Star—report that they have seen a video that allegedly shows Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. Both say they were approached with the video by a man who was seeking a six-figure sum in exchange for the footage; both report that they did not pay money to obtain the video, but were able to meet with the tipster and view the video on a cellphone.

As soon as the news broke a great many people started saying a great many things—about how this shouldn’t be surprising given the Ford’s known history, about how his mayoralty is clearly finished, about how they were excited to see him fall. The jokes about addiction came in a torrent, some wry and many gleeful.

Most of those things are both wrong and wrong-headed.

The truth is that right now we know almost nothing. We know that there is a video, that some reporters have watched it, and that they agree about what they saw in it: that Rob Ford appears to be smoking out of a crack pipe, and also making some fairly offensive remarks. Neither outlet was able to independently verify if the events that appear to be shown in the video took place. Neither was able to confirm when the events that appear to be shown in the video took place. (Gawker’s editor says the man who got in touch told him it was within the last six months.) Neither was able to confirm that if Rob Ford was smoking out of that pipe, he was smoking crack. Neither was able to confirm whether there is a larger pattern of behaviour in question.

Rumours about Rob Ford’s drug use have been swirling around City Hall for almost as long as he’s been mayor. More publicly, his long record of making off-putting, erratic, and sometimes detestable statements has made many wonder—sometimes idly, sometimes less so—about his judgment, and whether it might be impaired. Rob Ford has driven drunk, has been kicked out of a hockey game for drunken rowdiness, and most recently was asked to leave a public event apparently because he was drunk. For almost everyone hearing about this video, surprised though they might be by its gravity, there’s also an extent to which it seems to fit into a larger narrative, and to that extent, it is widely being accepted not only as plausible but as unquestionably true.

That context may certainly incline us to believe the story, but it isn’t actually decisive. The allegations, not just about drug use, but about the remarks Ford made—that he called Justin Trudeau a “fag” and that he said, of the players on the high school football team he coaches, that they are “just fucking minorities”—are serious. If true they would render Ford unfit for public office by almost any standard, but especially in a city which is widely known as one of the most diverse in the world, and which prides itself on its leadership in this regard. Toronto cannot and should not abide an elected official who says such things.

If he said them.

The allegations are serious, and they need to be treated as such. We can’t sacrifice evidenciary standards just because the story sounds right, or because it comes on the heels of other lapses, or because we disagree with Rob Ford’s politics and would be glad to see him forced out of City Hall. And we should not, no matter our politics, and no matter how fed up we are with a mayor whose term of office has been a long sequence of fiascoes and failures, stoop to the level of celebrating this ending, if an ending it proves to be.

Consider what it would all mean, if the allegations turn out to be true. We’d have one man, a drug dealer, secretly making a tape to either extort a large amount of money from one of his customers or to sell, paparazzi-style, to the highest bidder. We’d have another man, our mayor, in the midst of utter collapse, and possibly battling serious drug addiction. And we’d have an entire city left even more rudderless than it already is, the past two years of bad governance compounded by personal tragedy.

Whatever reasonable relief many Torontonians might feel if and when Rob Ford ceases to be the mayor—and we have been among his staunchest critics since well before he assumed that office—the vindictive delight with which many first met the news needs to end.

We don’t know yet if these allegations are true. We do know that if they are, Rob Ford is a man who more than anything needs help. So will the city he’s supposed to be leading. If we’re all to overcome the worst of Rob Ford’s tenure as mayor, the divisiveness and the ignorance and the failures of due process that he—regardless of what may be on this video—can justly be charged with, it can only be through demonstrating other values. Now would be an excellent time to start.


  • dsmithhfx

    Can’t wait to see the video.

    • Paul Kishimoto

      Can’t wait to have the city governed.

      • dsmithhfx


  • Mrs Doubtfire

    Hey Torontoist, how about you don’t tell us how to feel/act about a Mayor who has continually fucked this city. Celebrate away I say

    • Ford needs to go away!

      Beautifully written!

    • WarOnMugs

      He’s a person, perhaps a bad one. I don’t know. He’s certainly thoughtless and bullying in his approach. He’s overweight and ‘funny’ to look at. But showing some kind of reservation of judgement and some compassion for someone who might be addicted to one of the most addictive things on the planet seems a fairly moral thing to do. But do as you wish.

      • dsmithhfx

        Rob’s own words on the topic are pretty revealing.

  • MrFoxMulder

    yes I cant wait to see the video.. the star and gawker do not exactly have sterling reputations regarding honest news reporting

  • Testing 123

    Really – you’d put the star and gawker in same sentence? What about the star’s reputation is in question? You could argue anti-ford bias for sure, but better to call BS and take a position rather than be typical well-meaning but soft liberal apologist as in this article. When the someone is sort of nutso side of partisan,why stand by and read the rules.

  • CarlosTheJackal

    Sounds like the time Obama smoked crack with a gay hooker and sucked him off.

    People of all walks tend to lie when they are embarrassed. It’s just human nature.

    What’s disturbing is that we have laws against any of our personal freedoms. They obviously don’t seem to deter even our nations leaders in either the USA or Canada from doing whatever feels good to them personally from time to time.

    The problem is not drugs. The problem is addiction.

    • WarOnMugs

      Oh look, an anarchist troll! Seen this exact post on a few comments threads. Master of copy and paste.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    If he said them.”

    He’s said similar and worse and still managed to slide into the mayor’s office after being re-elected as councillor.

  • Jono71

    I agree with much of Dotan’s article, with the exception of the ‘ABC After School Special’ slant. Simply because Ford drinks and — allegedly — uses drugs, this doesn’t automatically re-frame his personal narrative into that of some victim-slash-addict who desperately needs professional support. His failings as a person go far beyond any possible substance abuse issues. Applying this article’s logic, Ford’s reported history of racism, homophobia and spousal abuse can also be softened by simply attributing it to a man who, to quote Dotan, “more than anything needs help.” No thanks.

    • dsmithhfx

      We need him booted from office. He needs help.

  • jbdone

    “The allegations are serious, and they need to be treated as such. We can’t sacrifice evidenciary standards just because the story sounds right, or because it comes on the heels of other lapses, or because we disagree with Rob Ford’s politics and would be glad to see him forced out of City Hall.”

    Oh yes “we” can. Ford slanders defames taxpayers, discloses personal information about his own councillors, treats the taxpayers with the utmost DIS-respect. So why should anyone care about him facts or no facts? He has set the bar for himself.

  • PCalith

    Until he recognizes he needs help, I feel no need to bend over backwards for the guy. His staff have been pushing him from day one to get addiction assistance, to get a driver, to talk to a counselor, he just does not care. The city has suffered for his abuses, and will continue to do so so long as he’s in office.

  • Seth Bullock

    I was reading this article and I was hoping at some point it would say something. It didn’t.

  • lssdrbrg

    Thank you for a reasoned, reasonable post.

    Personal negative opinions (even if justifiable) are not instances of due process or democracy or “justice” at work, merely the freedom of speech enjoyed (and often exploited) by all of us.

    And stridently expressing biased, negative personal opinions is just one of the many things people find distressing about Ford’s behaviour as an elected official representing a broad base of constituents.

    But the collective “we” will never be able to effect any kind of positive change by stooping to the same sort of behaviour we’ve been pointing fingers at all this time.

    It seems more and more that people just jump on the hate bandwagon ’cause that’s where the biggest party is. Depressing. Contributing to a mob mentality does not improve things, in fact it delays progress since people stop thinking for themselves around the same time they choose to throw stones with everybody else. Maybe that’s how we find ourselves in a political climate where name-calling has become so commonplace that we no longer seem to even recognize it for the pathetic schoolyard distraction tactic it is. Only people in positions of weakness resort to name-calling, which no politician, or any other person, would have to do if they had something truly valuable to offer.

    Yes, there have been many unfortunate Rob Ford incidents. And this may very well turn out to be the doozy of them all. But gleefully anticipating his demise does not make us better people or more informed citizens.

    Video or not, there are some big problems that need to be addressed when it comes to Ford’s mayoralty. Meanwhile, let’s behave with some class & integrity ourselves, and then let’s remember the qualities we’re looking for next time we head to the polls.

  • Robert Waterworth

    Ford should let a lab test his hair. If he never smoked coke it will
    show clean in his hair. If he has, it will show up in his hair. I know
    he hasn’t got a lot of hair to spare, but the lab only needs a few
    strands about 2 inches long. It will end the speculation.

    • Houndsworth

      And gosh, he just showed up to make his statement in a really, really short new haircut.


  • dsmithhfx

    There’s something else we “do not know” about the allegations, if we were to rely solely on our home-grown media sources: they go waaay beyond Rob Ford.

  • diogenes

    rob ford gets benefit of the doubt that is never given to anyone else. AND he is not arrested for any other infractions that would land anyone else in jail. He is ‘white privilege’ as a poster boy. Investigate him.

    • dsmithhfx

      TPS is depending on him for their next raise…

  • theseguysneedtogo

    The Globe and Mail just reported DOUG FORD was a hash dealer, yikes!