Protesters call on Toronto mayor to resign

Residents of Canadian city urge Rob Ford to step down over video allegedly showing him using drugs.

    Ford, who won elections three years ago, has refused to resign and vowed to seek re-election next year [AP]
    Ford, who won elections three years ago, has refused to resign and vowed to seek re-election next year [AP]

    Hundreds of Canadians have taken to the streets of Toronto for the first time to demand the resignation of Mayor Rob Ford, according to Canadian media reports.

    The protesters waved placards outside the city hall on Saturday, calling on Ford to resign over following published accounts of a video that apparently shows him puffing from a glass crack pipe.

    Ford, 44, swept to victory in Toronto's elections three years ago on a wave of discontent simmering in the outlying neighbourhoods of Canada's quiet, efficient financial capital.

    Now, stories of extremely bad behaviour by Ford, a populist who refers to his conservative supporters as "Ford Nation", have transfixed North Americans since the reports of the video first emerged.

    The groundwork for Ford's election was laid when Toronto quadrupled in size by merging with five suburbs in 1998.

    Twelve years later, Ford, a former city councillor, rode a conservative backlash to City Hall, after initiatives like bike lanes in the business district were seen by suburbanites as wasteful, elitist intrusions.

    Troubled behaviour

    The result is that North America's fourth-largest city is governed by a man who has shown evidence of troubled behaviour long before he ran for mayor.

    The controversies range from the trivial to the serious: Walking face-first into a television camera. Falling over in the middle of a photo op while pretending to play football. Being forced, after repeated denials, to admit he was busted for marijuana possession in Florida in 1999. Various altercations with a city transit worker and a reporter.

    Ford was fired last week from his cherished side job as a volunteer high school football coach.

    A school board spokesman, John Yan, told the AP news agency the dismissal was not because of the crack allegations, but because of disparaging remarks Ford made to a TV network about parents and their children at the school.

    Ford now faces his greatest test. The Toronto Star has reported that two reporters watched a video that appears to show the 135kg mayor, sitting in a chair, inhaling from what appears to be a crack pipe. The Star said it did not obtain the video or pay to watch it.

    The video has not been released publicly. Reports on gossip website Gawker and in the Toronto Star said it was taken by men who said they had sold drugs to Ford.

    Six-figure sum

    Gawker and the Star said the video was shown to them by a drug dealer who had been trying to sell it for a six-figure sum.

    The Star also reported that Ford made an anti-gay slur against a federal political leader and made a racist remark about the students he coached.

    Ford has said there is no video and has called the allegations ridiculous, but he has refused to take questions from the media and still has not said whether he has ever used crack.

    Both opponents and allies of Ford have questioned whether he has told the truth. Some have called on him to step down, but Ford has refused to resign and pledged to seek re-election next year.

    Ford's older brother, Doug Ford, an influential city council member, also faces drug allegations after another leading Canadian newspaper published the results of what it called a lengthy investigation into the Ford family's past.

    The Globe and Mail revealed "a portrait of a family once deeply immersed in the illegal drug scene".

    The Globe and Mail, citing anonymous sources who were involved in the drug trade, alleged that Doug Ford sold hashish for several years in the 1980s in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke, where the family grew up.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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