Police chief attempts to explain why he won't answer any questions about allegations that surround the mayor.
Yesterday, Toronto’s police chief, Bill Blair, gave a speech to the Canadian Club, tackling a slightly odd mix of issues: 15 minutes on the most effective ways to tackle crime (youth programs, community support, and stronger neighbourhoods), and then another 15 on strategies for easing gridlock (install cameras at intersections and automatically ticket drivers who make illegal turns or block traffic). Sandwiched in the middle: some remarks about Mayor Rob Ford, without actually saying the words “Mayor Rob Ford.”
Blair was, obliquely, addressing persistent questions about whether the mayor is under investigation by police and whether information about his activities is included in the evidence used to obtain search warrants in the major guns and gangs sweep called Project Traveller, and the spin-off probe, Project Brazen 2. Blair refused to directly answer question about the mayor’s involvement when he held a press conference following the Project Traveller raids in June (at least some experts believe he could have legally provided considerably more information) and he has refused ever since. Lawyers representing multiple media outlets have been trying to convince the courts to release hundreds of pages of material related to the Traveller and Brazen investigations; so far only 114 pages have been made available to those outlets’ lawyers, and the vast majority of those pages were redacted.
Here is the full text of the relevant portion of Blair’s speech:
There’s another issue—and I’ll speak with a certain amount of caution on this. One of the investigations we did earlier this year involved alleged gang activity in the west end of the city. At the conclusion of that investigation a number of young people were arrested, a number of firearms were seized, a number of very significant charges were laid, and I stepped forward to announce that. But—this was towards the end of June, this was Project Traveller—there were a number of other questions of peripheral issues that were put to me. And I just wanted to make some explanation to you as to why I took the position I did with respect to the disclosure of that information.
The police are given extraordinary powers. We are given the powers to conduct investigations. We are given the powers to undertake surveillance on people, to listen to their conversations, to interrogate, to search, to gather information and to gather evidence. We are not given those extraordinary powers to gossip. We are not given those extraordinary powers to feed to the press. And quite frankly, in my opinion, there’s a great different between the public interest and what the public’s interested in.
But I also want to assure the people of Toronto that when there is evidence of wrongdoing, we will leave no stone unturned, that we will pursue every avenue of investigation that is required to do our jobs and to uphold the law, and that will be done without fear and without favour. It will be done in the right way. But the evidence we gather is only evidence to be placed before the courts, and in this case that is what we have done. We have conducted those investigations, we have gathered that information, and we have placed it quite appropriately before the courts. That’s where it belongs.
Integrity in my business is contingent upon us upholding the laws. The law gives us the authority to gather that information, and the law tells me exactly what I am supposed to do with it, and that’s put it before the courts. It is the court’s job and the court’s determination, as to what information should or should not be presented as evidence in court, or made public. That’s a process that’s going on right now, but I wanted to share that with you. I’m not going to speak about any of that investigation or any of that evidence, but I wanted to assure you all that the Toronto Police Service will do its job. I’ll make sure it does its job and that we will conduct all investigations, leave no stone unturned. We will conduct ourselves with integrity and we will do it without fear or favour of anyone, and we’ll use the evidence that we gather appropriately and put it before the courts.