Following my complaint to Toronto's Integrity Commissioner, Valerie Jepson, Toronto's 64th mayor and (now) City Councillor, Rob Ford, offered a "sincere, specific and public apology" this morning. His apology was based on racial slurs he made in 2012. "Nobody sticks up for people like I do, every f-ing k-e, n----r, f--ing w-p, d-go, whatever the race." He then described himself as "the most racist guy around."
Her report found his action to be "below the standards expected of him and were contrary to the Code of Conduct" and that "considering the position he held at the time, his actions were egregious and wholly unbecoming of the Office of the Mayor."
Amen to that.
Calling on him to apologize, Ms. Jepson, accepted my argument that his apology should be appropriate and worthy of the position he held. According to her, this would "allow Ford to take responsibility for this specific incident, it will signal that he understands and respects the Ontario Human Rights Code, and it gets the apology on the public record."
I know many friends and acquaintances of mine and die-hard supporters of the former mayor will fail to understand the action I took and will continue to excuse his misdeeds. Friends of mine have worked on his campaigns since 2010, when he was seen as a credible candidate despite his public shortcomings. Still, many stood by him throughout his mayoralty until supporting him became impossible and foolish.
I know reasonable Torontonians are convinced my action is motivated for partisan purpose. Many will assume I am part of the Liberal establishment intent on helping to destroy the Ford dynasty. I am not.
Let me explain myself.
I am a paid member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. I am an active supporter of Christine Elliot for leader. I am a director of the Toronto Centre Progressive Conservative Association. I have written countless blogs and articles endorsing Sir John A. Macdonald (who has also proven to be controversial in retrospect), as that of our best prime minister ever. I am even trying to collect the necessary resources to construct and build a bus station in a small village in Ethiopia to honour Brian Mulroney for his humanitarian efforts to the East African country.
So my Conservative partisan credentials are as good as Ford's. They run deep. My beliefs come from the political centre where the majority of Canadians reside. Ford's brand is nether Conservative nor Liberal. It has always been a Tea Party-like movement that is more American than Canadian and, unless he adjusts and reconstructs himself accordingly, we should all reject his brand.
The ideal Conservative is progressive, humble and respectful. It is someone who respects individual liberty and builds public institutions to protect and promote human rights. The more perfect Conservative understands government exists primarily to protect the most vulnerable and that minority rights are as important as that of the majority. David Crombie understood that in Toronto, as much as Bill Davis did in Ontario. Rob Ford does not.
Ford needs to understand words -- and in particular, racial slurs -- are powerful and hurtful to all Canadians. Whether one is black, brown or white is secondary as they destroy the fabric of our culture and citizenship. We should never allow him to use them no matter how privileged and powerful he is.
It is fortunate that he and his family can freely hand out money to the less fortunate or can afford to invite thousands of residents to his mother's backyard for a BBQ. What he should never have the privilege of doing is to use historically derogatory words to describe them or anybody else.
I take my civic responsibilities and rights seriously. I certainly do not need to take out my citizenship card from my heart pocket to celebrate my citizenship the way Jean Charest used to do during the 1995 Quebec referendum and the 1997 federal election debates. By forcing Ford to account for his racism, I am embracing and fulfilling the promise of my citizenship. That is more powerful than waving the Canadian flag on July 1.
I am excited that my complaint was given its due course by the integrity commissioner, not because I am rich or connected, but because I am a citizen. This is proof that the system works and is accessible. From the Council chamber, I watched, in person, as Toronto's 64th mayor apologized and took responsibility for what he did and said as mayor. Onward, I will fully expect him to have a higher standard for himself and the office he occupies in future.
As the Integrity Commissioner warned, "Should Mr. Ford engage in similar conduct in the future, it may be necessary to consider more significant penalties."
This article was originally published on Leaders and Legacies.
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