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politics

Chief Bill Blair Accepts Doug Ford’s Apology

Blair will drop legal action now that Ford has offered written apology for comments linking the chief to alleged information leak.

Bill Blair in May, 2012, responding to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director’s report on G20 policing.

Councillor Doug Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) has complied with the terms of Chief Bill Blair’s defamation notice and offered an apology in writing—and the chief is now willing to accept it. On August 5, the councillor suggested that news of a pending subpoena for Mayor Rob Ford in the Sandro Lisi extortion case had been leaked by the police, and that Blair had been involved. Blair then filed a notice of defamation against Ford on August 11—Ford made a public apology yesterday, but did not send an apology in writing to Blair’s lawyers.

This morning, though, Ford sent a written apology to Blair’s legal team, in which he stated that he “completely and fully” apologizes to Chief Blair for “any inference or suggestion that he has acted in personally dishonourable way.” He also agreed to donate $1,000 to Covenant House.

In a press conference held today, Blair accepted the apology and indicated his legal action would be dropped, saying, “I accept the signed statement that I have received from him in its totality, which includes an apology, a retraction, and his offer to make a donation to Covenant House. All of that, in my opinion, resolves this matter satisfactorily.”

He also revealed that after investigating the alleged information leak and discussing the matter with the journalist who broke the story, he’d determined that the reports of a pending subpoena for Rob Ford had come from a non-police source.

Blair read a prepared statement to the press, the full text of which is reproduced below:

On August 5, 2014, Councillor Doug Ford spoke to the press and made a number of false and slanderous statements which attacked my professional reputation and my personal integrity. In response, I issued a statement stating that Doug Ford was lying and that I was prepared to take legal action. Mr. Ford began to retreat from his comments, but failed to fully and completely acknowledge that his statements had been false and totally without foundation. Anyone in this job has to be prepared and to expect criticism and attacks—those come with the turf. But lies that go to the heart of your integrity cannot be tolerated. They can never be part of an acceptable public dialogue. The law does not protect lies or the people who tell them, and they must be held accountable.

Having been unable to obtain a clear and unequivocal retraction of his false statements, I proceeded on August 11 to serve Mr. Ford with a notice of defamation. In that notice, I required a clear and unequivocal retraction of all of the false statements and allegations made by Mr. Ford as well as an apology. I required that retraction in writing—his comments that followed were neither clear nor unequivocal. It was important to me to get a retraction and apology in writing, so that there could be no confusion among those who had heard or read about Mr. Ford’s false statement.

This morning, I have received through my legal counsel a signed copy of Mr. Ford’s statement in response to my notice of defamation. In this statement, which Mr. Ford is required to publish, he will retract all of his false statements and fully and completely apologize for the damage he has caused to my reputation.

My intention in initiating this action was to compel Mr. Ford to acknowledge that his statements were false, and to apologize. I have tried to avoid being dragged down into what has been often called a “war of words.” And I have generally declined to respond to personal attacks. I cannot, however, ignore lies and false statements that go to the heart of my personal and professional reputation. In all such cases, I intend to vigorously defend myself and hold those who engage in such conduct to account.

In any defamation action, there is the issue of damages. It was always my intention that any monies recovered in damages would be donated to a charity of my choice, a charity that makes a difference in the quality of people’s lives in this city—and in resolving this matter today, I have asked Mr. Ford to make a donation in the amount of $1,000 to Covenant House. I’m on the board of Covenant House—Covenant House is an important institution in the City of Toronto. It provides shelter and services to homeless youth in this city, and it does extraordinary work to make this a better city for everyone. I am pleased to tell you that Mr. Ford has agreed to make that donation.

Finally, I wish to address the issue arising from the disclosure of information concerning the serving of a subpoena in a criminal matter. There has been some suggestion that a member of the Toronto Police Service may have been involved in this, calling into question the integrity of the rank-and-file members of the service. The integrity of the service is my responsibility, and as the chief of police, I have a responsibility not only to stand up for my own personal integrity, but to ensure and to stand up for that of the service and its members. Therefore, this matter has been investigated, and I can advise you today that we have been advised by the reporter who originally disclosed this information that she received the information from a non-police source. I accepted that information from her at her word. I am therefore satisfied that no member of the Toronto Police Service compromised their integrity or their oath of office.

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