Send in the clowns

There are, as I tried to illustrate this morning, intelligent ways to respond to tragedy. They involve spending time thinking about not only how to understand what has happened, but to come up with reasonable and perspicacious ideas of what to do next. Smart is not the only way to respond to tragedy. For those with an aversion to ‘smart’, there’s always the ever-popular ‘stupid’:

In particular, [radio hosts] Doyle and Downs were having difficulty understanding just how and why Ford was drawing a connection between Monday’s Danzig Street shooting and Canada’s immigration laws, especially given that there is no reason to believe any of the people responsible were immigrants. “Well, he seems to be drawing a link between immigration and gun crime,” Downs said. “So, how is that link being drawn, why is he drawing that link? It just seems extremely bizarre. So it’d be great if he could explain himself on that one, I’m curious to know if other people are not a little confused as to why he is calling on the prime minister to clarify Canada’s immigration laws so we can crack down on gun crime.”

Who is ‘Ford’, you might ask? Maybe some other right-wing commentator? A Rush Limbaugh figure? Maybe a prominent Toronto businessman or other person whose name carries some recognition but otherwise has little knowledge or influence with respect to the situation at hand?

Yeah… if only. Rob Ford is the mayor of Toronto. Canada’s largest city. To put Toronto’s population and national importance in perspective, if you added together the populations of Washington, D.C.; Boston; Miami; Atlanta; and Salt Lake City, you’d have a city roughly the size of Toronto. Fully one sixth of the population of Canada lives within an hour’s drive of Toronto. Rob Ford is the mayor of that. So why is it that he thinks that gun crime is an immigration issue? In his honour’s most illustrious words:

Ford: I wanna clarify what John was saying. I said I’m gonna, I have called, uh, the prime minister to find out if there’s any laws with respect to the immigration and citizenship, um, status and the city. So people are caught—I don’t care if you’re white, pink, or purple, I don’t care what country you’re from, I don’t care if you’re Canadian citizen or not—all I’m saying is, if you’re caught with a gun and convicted of a gun crime, I want you out of this city. And the portfolio for cabinet ministers is Immigration and Citizenship. So I don’t think the other half of my statement came out quite clearly: it has nothing to do particularly with immigration or where you come from, which I think John was trying to say. All I want to do is getting information, which I’m not an expert on—I’m sure nobody is right now, until we talk to the minister, and I can only get that information to the prime minister’s office. So I put a call, uh, into the PMO, and to get that information, maybe, you know, maybe we don’t have a leg to stand on, but I’m gonna do everything in my power to find out, you know, if we can, umm, get rid of these people when they get out of jail. I don’t want ‘em livin’ in this city, so I just wanna clarify the same portfolio is called ‘Immigration and Citizenship,’ it’s not just ‘Immigration,’ so—

Yes. Rob Ford wants the power to deport people from the city of Toronto. Because apparently he’s never even heard of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, let alone read it.

Oh, and it gets better. When asked about Ford’s opposition to the types of social programs that the experts agree are sorely needed:

Downs: Well, isn’t it misleading to call it a ‘hug-a-thug’ program when we’re talking about little kids who don’t have any records?

Ford: No no, it’s not little kids, you just said it, it’s, it’s, it’s kids that are in trouble with the law and kids that are carrying guns around, I call ‘em thugs. I call ‘em cowards. And if you’re gonna pay these so-called social workers to go out and, you know, give ‘em a hug and say, ‘Here, we’ll help you out,’ and at the end of the day you’re not getting’ ‘em a job, the best social program is a job, and, uh, I can’t, uh, sit here and sit back and say I’m gonna give $50 million away on these programs when there is no measurement, you cannot measure the results. So there’s no, uh, matrix, as we’d say in the private sector… umm, there’s so, uh, I totally disagree with handing out $50 million of free money, when no jobs are created. I’d rather lower the commercial property taxes to encourage people to come to this city and create jobs.

The situation was so bad that our asshole of a federal Immigration Minister (remember him?) had to go in and bat cleanup:

The Mayor of Toronto can’t tell Canadian citizens where to live, the federal immigration minister said Friday in response to Rob Ford’s call to expel convicted gun criminals from the country’s largest city. “Obviously we can’t tell people which city they can or cannot live in,” Jason Kenney told radio station Newstalk 1010. “If someone’s a Canadian citizen and they’re convicted of a crime there’s nothing you can do to deport them because citizenship is irrevocable unless it was found that they obtained it fraudulently.”


“If you’re a Canadian citizen and you’ve committed a crime, you spend your time in prison, but once you’re released and you’re beyond parole you get what’s called the mobility rights of the charter of rights,’ Mr. Kenney said. “You get to choose where you’re going to live. Whether they like it or not, that’s the situation.”

Any situation in which Jason Kenney looks like the reasonable and well-informed party, you know you’ve done something supremely bone-headed.

So yeah, Rob Ford’s dumb. Big deal, right? Actually, it is a big deal. Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world, with fully half of its residents being born in another country. This man is supposed to represent them. Instead, his knee-jerk reaction is to turn a tragic shooting into an immigration issue. Even if you believe his statement that he meant he was going to try and deport people from the city (and no way do I believe that – he’s stupid, but he’s not that stupid), this kind of callous response only further serves to alienate the city’s residents. Far from setting an example of how integral the concept of multiculturalism is to what it means to be Canadian, Mayor Ford has instead chosen to reach for the least tolerant, least understanding, least intelligent parts of himself and spew forth the kind of knee-jerk idiocy that is worthy of Joe Quimby, not the political leader of one of Canada’s crown jewels.

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  1. quietmarc says

    I have to avoid the news this week, because of Ford and the backwards, 15th-century attitudes I’m seeing regarding this story. I live in Toronto and this mayor is….terrible. He’s a perfect case-study for how easy it is to manipulate people with populist rhetoric and an “appeal to ignorance.”

    I foolishly made a comment on the Yahoo! News story about this about how poverty reduction strategies would help the situation and have 5 responses back, each of them horrendously racist in some way. There are comments about how “facts don’t tell you anything, I’m sick of reports and “experts” blah blah” and my head is about to explode. How is “making shit up to align with my ideologies” supposed to be better than “facts and reports”?

    And…..this insane meme going around that because poor people have (*gasp*) cell phones, that they’re somehow better off than people who work for a living. The ONLY way someone could have that idea in their heads is by never having actualy spent any time with actual poor people.

    Pro Tip: Poor people are NOT actually richer than non-poor people! If they were, we would use a different word than “poor”.

  2. says

    Where the hell does he expect to send them to?

    We have a similar situation in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I live. The city council has been trying to do things to keep landlords from renting to ex-cons. The problem, of course, is that they have to live somewhere and most of them can’t buy a house.

  3. slc1 says

    If you’re a Canadian citizen and you’ve committed a crime, you spend your time in prison, but once you’re released and you’re beyond parole you get what’s called the mobility rights of the charter of rights,’ Mr. Kenney said. “You get to choose where you’re going to live. Whether they like it or not, that’s the situation.”

    Although that’s generally true in the US, there is a notable exception, namely someone convicted of a sex crime against a minor may not live within a certain distance of a school after his/her release from prison. In many cases, that means that he/she can’t live in a particular town if there is no location in that town whose distance to the nearest school is less then the legally required distance.

  4. Nentuaby says

    Yeah, not just small towns either, slc1.

    Synopsis: Miami passed a 2500 foot radius exclusion zone, and due to the city’s geography, the result was making it unlawful for a sex offender in Miami to not be homeless. So they started releasing people from prison and driving them directly to a tent city under a bridge. Lovely, huh?

  5. Pen says

    Well, he’s just like our prime minister* isn’t he? Multiculturalism requires more brain cells and is just too complicated to deal with. It stops him from dishing out nice one-size-fits all policies and it very likely costs more money into the bargain.

    * The fool Cameron (UK)

  6. says

    I was in Toronto at Christmas visiting my sister (born in the UK) and my brother-in-law (also UK-born). I love the multicultural nature of Toronto and always enjoy my visits.

    Rob Ford came up in conversation. General consensus: he’s an idiot. I concur. It’s a real shame that such a great city has a clown in charge.

  7. Tim Riches says

    This is not the only stupid, embarrassing move Ford has made, but it’s going to be the one that sinks him. It’s one thing to be so awkward that you call the police on a well-known TV personality having a joke at your expense (see the Mary Walsh incident on YouTube for a laugh) but it’s quite another to show you have little grasp of how government actually works. Embarrassing is one thing, incompetent is quite another.

  8. kennypo65 says

    As an American, I must admit it tickles me that your politicians are almost as stupid as ours, almost.

  9. thetristantomes says

    To put Toronto’s population and national importance in perspective, if you added together the populations of Washington, D.C.; Boston; Miami; Atlanta; and Salt Lake City, you’d have a city roughly the size of Toronto.

    As a Chicagoan, why does the world always forget us? I mean Miami comes before us? Salt Lake City?! Are we that much of a second city?

  10. says

    No, but Chicago is friggin’ huge. If I included you, I’d have to leave off a bunch of other cities. I was surprised that Miami was that teensy.

  11. says

    It’s a common misconception that Miami is huge, either in population or area. Jacksonville is actually the largest city in Florida for both.

  12. thetristantomes says

    Toronto and Chicago have similar populations in the city proper (2.7 vs. 2.6 mil). It’s only when it comes to metropolitan area that we kick your ass (9.7 vs. 6.0). I have no idea whether to be proud or weep that we have such huge suburbs.

    And when it comes to Miami, I was blinkered as well. It seems people just tend to overstate the population of well-known cities. I was surprised to see that Vancouver proper is only #8 in Canada. Even Mississauga is kicking its ass.

  13. says

    Many mayors come to office announcing that they’re gonna change this and they’re gonna do that. Then they discover what they should have known, that Toronto has a weak mayor system and they’re a member of council. They cannot rule by fiat. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from saying stupid things, assaulting reporters, and trying to push people around.

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