It's getting increasingly difficult to come up with novel conclusions to draw from the Rob Ford mess. So how about this one: multiculturalism isn't working. For Canada's Somalis, at least.
Ordinarily the impulse would be to shy away from drawing sweeping conclusions of an entire community based on a single bad apple or two, but the sheer number of Somali-Canadian gangsters present in the latest chapter of the Rob Ford story is enough to make you wonder if Canada hasn't failed this particular demographic in some exclusively spectacular way.
Yesterday the Ontario cops released another heap of police documents relating to the world's favourite mayor, and the eastern press has gone predictably gonzo in response. Breaking news alerts, Hitler-invades-Poland banner headlines, you know the drill. Obviously, it was all in inverse relation to the actual newsworthiness of the docs themselves.
The docs in question consist of 44 pages of a Toronto police report that has been slowly declassifying itself over the last little while thanks to a ruling by Justice Ian Nordheimer of the Ontario Superior Court. Judge Nordheimer has been a big proponent of the idea that the public has a right to be informed about "the actions of the duly elected Mayor of the country's largest city and the extensive investigation undertaken by the police into those actions." In fact, he said, "it is hard to conceive of a matter that would be of more importance to the public interest." So here we go.
The 44 pages tell a very simple story.
On April 20, 2013, Rob Ford apparently visited his Somali drug dealer, Liban "Gully" Siyad, and a bunch of other Somali underworld buddies, at some manner of crackshack run by a woman named Elena "Princess" Basso. While there, presumably between hits on his pipe, the Mayor lost his cell phone. The report doesn't say this directly, but based on some of the transcripts of wiretapped phone conversations among the Somalis, it seems plausible to presume that the famed Rob Ford crack video might have been filmed at the Princess house that night as well.
Anyway, what matters is Ford lost his phone, but didn't realize it until the next morning. Then he started "freaking out" (quoth the report) and dispatched his pal and driver, the infamous Alexander Lisi, to go back to Princess House and fetch it. Lisi called Gully to haggle and threaten, but Gull felt he had the upper hand in the blackmail stakes because he had incriminating pictures of the mayor (which, the report reveals, he was considering posting to Instagram. What a lot of headache that would have saved everyone.)
Lisi and the Gullster eventually worked out a deal -- the cellphone will be given back in exchange for some pot (or "marihuana" as the report calls it, using the Correct Canadian Spelling™). This little episode is why Mr. Lisi is currently on the hook for drug trafficking and exortion, in case you care.
Culminating this shaggy dog story, on page 43 of 44 there is an excerpt of a taped phone conversation between Siyadin Abdi and Mohamed Siad, two minor side characters in the play, one of whom has somehow wound up with the movie of the Mayor on drugs.
"Remember that day he said that in front of me?" says Mr. Siad, referring to a bargain Ford supposedly proposed.
"Yeah," replies Mr. Abdi, "he said I'll give you five thousand and a car. What the fuck is that?"
And there's your headline, folks: "ROB FORD MAY HAVE OFFERED $5,000 -- AND A CAR -- FOR 'CRACK VIDEO.'"
I still can't get over the Somalis. Though the Rob Ford saga has often been spun as a lurid look into the world of Canada's suburban white trash (which it certainly is -- just read the excerpts from the last police report) it's getting hard to deny this soap opera also reveals a depressingly monocultural slice of Toronto's urban criminal underworld. From my parochial western perspective, it brings to mind the stories you often read about the Somali communities of Alberta, who seem to be disproportionately bound up in that province's drug trade and gang violence too. This Toronto Star piece from 2010, for instance, notes that "Since the summer of 2005, 29 Somali-Canadians ranging in age from 17 to 28 have been murdered in Alberta, in what police are calling an escalating gang and drug turf war," with experts bemoaning the tragic plight of all these "young naïve men" drawn to the "lure of easy money" promised by a life of crime.
As I've discussed before, one of the useful things about the Ford story -- and its status as the most internationally famous Canadian news event of all time -- is that it forces us to confront certain ugly truths about this country that we often do our best to deny. We are definitively not a nation of passive goody-goodies so painfully polite we apologize for blinking too loudly; ours is a troubled country like any other, rife with crime, violence, and no shortage of awful, hateful people who exploit and feed on the misery of others.
Where do such social dysfunctions come from? Well, sometimes they come from privileged white families like the Fords, whose idle, undisciplined lives breed near-psychopathic levels of myopic pleasure-seeking. But sometimes they also come from poor and unassimilated immigrant communities from the most destitute corners of the third world, who, lacking any obvious way to get ahead in a country that gave no thought or concern to the economic, cultural, or human cost of their import, wind up forming a tragic underclass of crime and gangs. That's part of the Canadian story too.
Fordgate may have finally played itself out. As Matt Gurney wrote in the National Post yesterday, few headlines about the Mayor's behavior "will shock at this point," and "unless he's handcuffed and dragged out of his office, which is still possible, it's hard to imagine any further changes to the status quo." Impossible as it seems now, perhaps in a few weeks we'll have all moved on.
One hopes a little humbler for the experience.
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