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Rob Ford's Words Matter More Than His Vices

05/24/2013 12:21 EDT | Updated 07/24/2013 05:12 EDT
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TORONTO, ON - MAY 21: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford listens to and moves a motion during the casino debate at Toronto City Hall, he faces allegations that there is a video which he reportedly appears to be smoking crack cocaine. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

This post first appeared on the author's blog as Part One of her response to the ongoing Rob Ford saga.

There are plenty of people -- public figures and others -- who manage their substance use without letting it affect their work. The statistics are staggering: CAMH claims that one in ten people will experience alcohol or illicit drug dependence in their lifetime, and if you included caffeine or tobacco dependence, the number of Canadians experiencing some sort of drug dependency would likely exceed 50 per cent. But many of us still manage to function (and I include myself in this because I've been a caffeine addict since my first year of university) and given how prevalent substance abuse is in our culture, I'm not so quick to judge someone on that basis. I'm not likely to laud Stephen Harper for his distaste for alcohol, or praise him for the substances he doesn't consume, and I'm not keen on criticizing Rob Ford (or any other political figure) for the substances they do consume. I generally care a lot more about their policies than their personal habits.

Of course, this only extends to their ability to prevent their consumption from affecting their job. I don't know for sure if Rob Ford's alleged use of coke/crack/alcohol/weed (all substances he has been said to have used or abused) is the reason he's been such a terrible mayor. If so, then I would certainly encourage him to step down and seek treatment. However, if his incompetence as mayor exists independently of his alleged substance use, then the substance use is pretty much a non-issue for me; I'd sooner hope for him to spend more time developing his leadership skills, learning how to compromise, and stop seeing the world in such stark dichotomies all the time. One of his biggest failings (often echoed by his most ardent supporters) is approaching everything as a "left-right issue" and constantly taking a with-us-or-against-us approach to public discourse. If he could address these issues while still smoking crack recreationally (assuming that's actually possible), then I honestly wouldn't have a problem with it.

I'm not going to approach this from a legal perspective, either. One factoid that's been ignored throughout this saga is that Ford, technically, isn't shown doing anything illegal. Interestingly, the consumption of a controlled or prohibited substance is not actually illegal in Canada. It's illegal to possess or distribute certain substances, but technically not illegal to consume them. Since the video is alleged to only have filmed Rob Ford consuming crack cocaine, rather than purchasing it, there's a legit reason why he can't be charged with a crime over this (hat tip to Alan Young, he of the constitutional challenges to decriminalize both sex work and medical marijuana, for teaching this to me a few years back). Additionally, since I don't really agree with the draconian and counterproductive drug policies as outlined in the Criminal Code of Canada, I'm not going to judge Rob Ford on this basis either.

Of all the things Ford has done, his supposed choice to smoke crack would hardly be the most offensive; I'm more interested in seeing the video because of what he is alleged to have said in it (calling Justin Trudeau a "fag" and referring to his football team as "just fucking minorities"). That's the primary reason I want the video made public, because comments like these are truly indefensible for any public figure to make. If he really did say what he said -- whether under the influence of crack or not -- that's what I want him held accountable for.

As the proverb says, "In Vino Veritas" (with wine comes truth), and I'm inclined to believe that Ford's crack-induced comments are genuinely reflective of his true feelings about the citizens of Toronto. That should be the primary discussion point for us, and the main reason he needs to address this directly and personally. Independent of the crack-smoking allegations, Ford has been accused of making comments that would be tantamount to hate speech had they been made in a public setting, and I think it's deeply unfortunate that the gravity of these comments has taken a back seat to his alleged use of an illegal substance.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Rob Ford will no longer be coaching the Don Bosco Eagles, not due to the crack-smoking allegations, but because of comments he made to Sun News Network in March. If these are the sorts of comments he makes publicly, one can only imagine the vitriol he spews when he thinks he's among friends and allies -- and those are the comments that we need to hear. His supporters might say they support him because he "calls it as he sees it" -- and if so, they should all know his true opinions before deciding to support him in the future.

Enough nonsense already. Let's see the video, and let the citizens of Toronto find out the truth about Rob Ford. Let's see how he really feels about the people of this city.