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Daniel Dale Serves Rob Ford, Vision TV With Libel Notice

Toronto Star reporter is taking legal action in the wake of the mayor's false claim Dale was on his property and acting inappropriately towards his children.

Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale is taking legal action against the mayor over remarks Rob Ford made in an interview with Conrad Black, along with the network which aired the interview and its owner, Moses Znaimer. In that interview Ford falsely accused Dale—who was visiting parkland adjacent to the mayor’s house to research a story about that property (the mayor was seeking to purchase it)—of an inappropriate interest in his children. “When a guy’s taking pictures of little kids…I don’t want to say that word but you start thinking ‘what’s this guy all about?’” The word Ford didn’t say but everyone clearly understood: pedophile.

Police looked into the matter, interviewing Dale and looking, at Dale’s invitation, through the pictures on his phone. They found no photos of Ford’s home or family, determined that at no point was Dale on Ford’s property, and that there was no evidence Dale had been acting in any way inappropriately.

Rob Ford has persisted in his allegations in recent days (the interview aired on December 9), telling reporters from multiple outlets that he stood by his remarks. And it is that repetition, more than the original comments themselves, that pushed Dale to take legal action.


“As the mayor likes to say: enough’s enough,” Dale wrote in an article explaining his decision. “It had become clear to me that, if I had done nothing, the mayor would make his smears some sort of political talking point. His comments to Black were no one-time slip.”

What’s happened so far is that Ford has been served with a libel notice, which is a preliminary requirement for pursuing an actual suit. According to the Libel and Slander Act a notice must be served within six weeks of the alleged libel. That notice gives the defendant a chance to respond—it provides Ford with an opportunity to retract his statements and apologize, if he is so inclined—before further legal steps are taken. “I did not want to do this,” Dale writes. “I didn’t want to be goaded into a legal battle that could last a long time. The mayor very much deserved to be sued, I knew, but I thought I could do more good for the city by challenging him at City Hall on policy than challenging him about me in a courtroom. Ford’s persistence changed my mind.”

Because the remarks Ford made were directed at an individual reporter, it was up to Dale rather than his newspaper to decide whether to pursue legal action. Now that he has, says Toronto Star editor Michael Cooke, the paper will be backing him completely. In an interview with CP24 aired just after Ford was served, Cooke said the actions was “being launched by Daniel with my personal and the Star‘s institutional full support. We will back Daniel with every dollar that it takes to deal with this issue.” He added: “It’s an appalling, appalling thing that the mayor has done and he needs to be challenged on it because he’s a bully and Daniel Dale…is a good reporter, he’s a young reporter, he’s a thorough reporter, he’s got a great reputation, he’s won awards in Canada for being the best young reporter in this country, and he’s standing up to the mayor.”

The interview in question is no longer available on Vision TV’s own website—they posted it briefly but took it down within hours. Here is a clip of the segment in question:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFhlZdbyYQs&t=2m33s

Dale will continue covering municipal politics, he also explains. “With the full support of the Star, I will stay on the City Hall beat while pursuing this action… I can easily imagine the mayor and his brother attempting to turn the tables on the Star and calling for me to take a leave of absence…I will not let this affect my job. I will not be bullied off of my beat.”

UPDATE, 7:27 PM: We asked Dale to say a bit more about his decision to continue covering City Hall, and whether he worried it was a conflict of interest for him to do so. From his reply:

I would almost certainly not have sued the mayor for some criticism of an article of mine. Dealing with such stuff is part of the gig. If we set a precedent, though, that we must give public figures impunity to defame us in the most vile personal terms, or else we must leave our jobs, it could be open season—if the Fords or anyone else decide that they don’t want a reporter on the city beat, all they’d have to do is use their megaphone to tell malicious lies, and the reporter would be gone.

I have no malice whatsoever toward the mayor; I’d love to have a pleasant relationship with him, and I always have. (Man, we could have such fun football conversations!) I’d love if he’d apologize and retract quickly so we can all move on. Until then, I’ll be around, continuing to cover him fairly.

UPDATE: December 17, 2013, 12:25 PM Mayor Rob Ford issued an apology to Daniel Dale on the floor of council on December 17.

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