Mayor Rob Ford and the Canadian Judicial System

November 30, 2012

On Monday, November 26, 2012, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was ordered out of office in 14 days after Justice Charles Hackland ruled that Ford broke the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act in a council vote in February 2011.  This would likely lead to the first time in the history of Toronto with a vacant mayor seat ordered by a court of law.

First of all, let’s review what troubles Mayor Ford has been through in this shocking case:

  1. In August 2010 when Mr. Rob Ford was just a Councillor of Toronto, was slammed by the city’s integrity commissioner for soliciting donations for his football charity from lobbyists and other businesses using his official council letterhead. Ford was then ordered to pay back the $3,150 he raised.
  2. In February 2012, a new report from the integrity commissioner was presented before council, indicating that Ford had not repaid the funds as ordered. Ford, already the elected mayor of Toronto, gave an impassioned speech defending his right to not repay the money, and then voted – with a majority of Councillors’ support- to dismiss the matter entirely.
  3. In March 2012, Lawyer Clayton Ruby filed a complaint on behalf of Toronto resident Paul Madger before the Superior Court of Ontario, alleging that Ford had broken the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act when he spoke about and voted on the matter in February. The Act provides that with few exceptions, any elected official found in violation will be automatically removed from office.
  4. In September 2012, Mr. Madger’s case was heard by Justice Charles Hackland for three days. On the witness stand, Ford admitted that he is not familiar with Council’s Code of Conduct or the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, and had skipped orientation sessions designed to familiarized Councillors with the rules.
  5. In November 2012, Justice Hackland ordered that Rob Ford’s seat as mayor be declared vacant 14 days following the release of his 24-page decision. The judge dismissed Ford’s avenues for defence, writing, “Outright ignorance of the law will not suffice, nor will willful blindness as to one’s obligations.”
  6. On November 26, 2012, Ford said he would appeal the ruling.

As one of the most democratic countries in the world, Canada has earned her reputation by keeping a just, equal, and efficient legal system. The Ford case shows that Canada takes the rule of law very seriously, and the superintending power of the court is not without teeth. Zero tolerance on corruption is well accepted by the Canadian public, and even suspected conflict of interest may have serious consequences to the people holding public office. We are indeed proud of our judicial system that safeguards the interests of ordinary people in this great country.

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