An exhaustive look at the past 9 days in the life of crack-smoking, press-conference holding Toronoto Mayor Rob Ford, the man who’s so awful it’s exhausting.
What’s Going On in the New Rob Ford Video?
This has been a terrible week for the Rob Ford administration. On Tuesday afternoon, Ford admitted that he has smoked crack cocaine, which inspired a nearly unanimous string of mockery from every late-night TV host and Twitter account owner in the world. More importantly, that admission, after months of question-dodging and denial, sounded more like a proverbial fuck you to the City of Toronto and its many hard working councilors and employees who are not currently embroiled in a crack related crime scandal. Then, about an hour after the crack admission, VICE reported that Amin Massoudi, Rob Ford’s spokesman, allegedly hired a hacker to destroy the crack tape on a private server—an allegation that Amin denied hours after we published our investigation, despite not answering several of our very specific requests for comment days before.
The Toronto media has been blue-balling the public all week with hints that there are more bombshells to come, and that’s not surprising. The 474-page surveillance document released last week is so heavily redacted with swaths of thick black ink that clearly there are more, presumably ridiculous, revelations to come. As a journalist, it’s somewhat thrilling. As a Torontonian, it’s exhausting and sad.
Rob Ford’s Office Hired a Hacker to Destroy the Crack Tape
In late July, an anonymous source approached VICE with claims that he had been hired by Amin Massoudi, the communications director for troubled Toronto mayor Rob Ford, to hack into a website.
More specifically, the source—who for matters of simplicity will be referred to as “the hacker” from here on out—said he was asked by Amin to crack the password of a private online directory that allegedly contained a digital copy of the now infamous footage of Mayor Ford smoking a substance out of a crack pipe. Rob Ford has, up until very recently, publicly doubted the existence of the video.
VICE acquired a log of emails that, according to the hacker, detail his correspondence with Amin from May 18 to May 31 of this year. When contacted by VICE, the hacker confirmed the validity of these emails but also said it was a little more complicated than it seemed. He agreed to talk if we would preserve his identity, as publishing it would incriminate him.
In case you aren’t caught up on the intoxicated calamity that is Rob Ford’s contemporary existence, today he bluntly admitted to having smoked crack cocaine in a “drunken stupor.”This insane bombshell comes after last week’s statement from Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, whoconfirmed that the crack tape Gawker and the Toronto Star reported on does indeed exist and contains footage that is “consistent” with their reports that claim the video shows Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine. Rob Ford also appeared on his weekly radio show this past Sunday toapologize to the City of Toronto and asked for the crack tape to be released to the public “immediately.”
In light of these recent developments, we believe that now is the time to publish portions of Amin and the hacker’s arrangement since first receiving the emails in July for the benefit of public interest.
Rob Ford Needs to Step Down
Update: Rob Ford has commented on today’s revelations by saying: “I wish I could come out and defend myself. Unfortunately I can’t it’s before the courts. That’s all I can say. I have no reason to resign.” Reporters yelled questions at him about whether he lied to the people of Toronto, but the mayor just walked away.
Early this morning, a line of reporters with microphones and cameras waited outside of Rob Ford’s house. When Rob Ford emerged from his suburban cave, he was immediately bombarded with questions about whether or not he is at the center of a drug-related police investigation, along with questions about his relationship with Alexander Lisi, a man who is known as Rob Ford’s driver, close friend, and an alleged drug dealer with a history of domestic abuse. Unfortunately, Rob Ford didn’t take the questions gracefully and ended up screaming and yelling, “Get off my property! What don’t you understand? Get off my property, partner!” at the reporters who, undoubtedly, are only asking the questions that are on every Torontonian’s mind right now.
This morning’s scrum was the result of the Toronto police released a 474-page document—with a lot of the presumably juicy stuff blacked out and redacted to avoid implicating those who are currently innocent—detailing results of a surveillance operation that clearly targeted Rob Ford and Alexander Lisi. The police dubbed their municipal spy mission “Project Brazen 2,” which I like to believe was inspired by the unbelievably bold and inappropriate behavior Toronto’s mayor appears to believe he can get away with.
I didn’t expect a major bombshell to come out of today’s release, given that an investigation is still underway and given that Ford has been gleefully avoiding the issue ofwhether or not he’s a crack user by decorating his office like a haunted house. I was very wrong. Shortly after the document was released, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair vindicated what Gawker and the Toronto Star have been claiming since May—much to the ire of Ford and his legion of largely suburban political supporters. Blair held a press conference where he admitted that yes, the crack video exists, and yes, Rob Ford is indisputably pictured in it with a crack pipe in his hands.
Canadian Cops Ambushed a First Nations Anti-Fracking Protest
What started out as a peaceful demonstartion held by members of First Nations tribes turned into what resembled a war zone after the Canadian cops showed up with guns, Tasers, and dogs yesterday in New Brusnwick, Canada, leading to five police cars getting torched and 40 people being arrested on charges ranging from intimidation, uttering threats, and mischief.
The protesters had been blocking an entrace to a compound owned by SWN Resources since late September in protest of the oil company’s plans to conduct seismic testing and potentially start fracking operations on tribal lands. On Thursday morning at around 7:30 AM, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP, a.k.a. the Mounties) went in to break up the blockade, but the protesters I spoke to in the aftermath claimed that the cops were much too aggressive and seemed out to spread terror and bust heads in what amounted to an ambush.
“We had no idea this was going to be happening. They showed up with guns in our faces this morning. It was terrifying. They even brought dogs with them today, it was so scary and unbelievable,” said Susan Levi-Perf, a member of the Mi’kmaq tribe. “I have never seen anything like this in Canada in my lifetime—I’ve [only] seen it on TV.”
What Kind of Person Goes to a Men’s Rights Rally?
On September 28, an international coalition of men’s rights groups converged in Toronto to discuss the topic of “Men and Boys in Crisis.”
Prior to the rally I didn’t know much about men’s rights activism, except that these groups have an established tradition of responding to writers with personal attacks, seen in creatively titled blog posts like “Jonathan Goldsbie: Head in the sand, talking out ass” and “Brad Casey wants to mind-rape our women!” It is because of blog posts like these,previous events like this, anti-feminist diatribes like this, and individual men’s rights supporters with a fondness for Nazi iconography that I had developed a skewed impression of who actually goes to their rallies. I expected to encounter an all-out hate group, when in actuality the men’s rights activists I spoke to held beliefs ranging from reasonable to downright oppressive and sprinkled with a dose of crazy.
Most attendees seemed motivated by a concern for the well-being of men, or a fear of women rooted in their own personal traumas. A surprising number of men at the rally came forward as victims of domestic violence. These men felt stung by misandry—they talked reasonably about the weakness of men’s support networks and the lack of sympathy that they experienced following abuse. Almost everyone at the rally expressed concern for things like the high suicide rate among males, boys falling behind in school, and a systemic bias against fathers in custody battles. Then again, some statistics used by the activists to bolster these issues were hard to swallow: “In 50 years the last bachelor’s degree will be issued to a male in this culture,” said Paul Elam of the organization A Voice for Men.
The MRAs who met in Toronto attribute all of these problems to a single threat—a radical feminist ideology that has taken hold of our institutions and is actively oppressing men, even if most people with power in these institutions are still men. Attila Vincer, who organized the rally to take place outside of Ontario’s legislature, didn’t know if Canada or Ontario had more female or male legislators (spoiler, it’s men). Of those we talked to, not a single person protesting knew what laws they wanted to see enacted.
Neo-Nazis Are Attacking Anti-Racist Activists in Calgary
We’re being attacked, Bonnie Devine thought as a brick shattered her living room window, only inches above the couch where she slept.
It was just past 5 AM on September 29, and luckily the brick-throwing vandals didn’t break through the second of two window panes, which would have sent deadly glass shards cascading upon her.
The mother of four calmly checked on her four boys before inspecting the damage. A brick lay broken in half on the lawn outside. Three of her car tires were slashed. The next day, the fourth tire blew out while she was driving with her boys.
The attack follows six years of white supremacist violence against her family, which they link to 26-year old ringleader Kyle McKee.
“This time it’s a brick,” she pondered. “But who knows what it’ll be next time.”
Amidst a rising tide of hate activity in Canada, the couple have been targeted again and again for their activism with Anti-Racist Action Calgary.
Over six years, they’ve faced death threats, fire-bombing, home invasions, and horrendous beatings—the worst of which saw a group of thugs break into their home in 2010, jumping on Bonnie’s husband Jason—along with a friend of his—and battering them so severely with hammers and bats there was blood smeared on the walls.
“They tried to kill me by beating my head in and beating my body,” he recalled.
Mennonites in Alberta, Canada Have Cozy Relations with a Notorious Mexican Drug Cartel
From a distance Grassy Lake, Alberta doesn’t have a whole lot going on. The rural hamlet takes up less than one square mile of a prairie highway between Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, Canada. The population at last count was 649. According to the nearest town’s newspaper, 80 percent of residents are Mennonites.
But what Grassy Lake’s stub of a Wikipedia entry fails to mention is that the United States’ Drug Enforcement Agency has outed the town as a distribution hub for an international weed and coke smuggling operation linked to the Juárez cartel, one of Mexico’s deadliest drug gangs.
I contacted the DEA to find out about the devoted/bearded supply chain that brings Calgarians their party drugs. Fortunately, DEA agent Jim Schrant called me back a few minutes before the United States’ government shutdown sent his media relations department home indefinitely.
“We started investigating a large-scale marijuana and cocaine distribution group in 2010, which was operating out of Mexico and shipping large amounts into the United States and then subsequently to different points in Alberta,” Schrant explained, on the phone from theweed-friendly state of Colorado. “We learned there were individuals who identified as Mexican Mennonites involved in the transportation and distribution.”
Omar Khadr: War Criminal, Child Soldier… or Neither?
Omar Khadr made his first appearance in a Canadian court on Monday. After an 11-year journey from Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay to Canada’s Millhaven Institution, the Toronto-born man is now in Edmonton’s federal prison. He was 15 when he was captured and tortured at Bagram. He turned 27 last Thursday.
If you’re not familiar with the case it goes loosely as follows: When the Americans first arrested Omar in Afghanistan, he was accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American solider. For eight years he maintained his innocence, until he signed a plea deal in 2010 that got him out of Guantánamo. Omar was then convicted of five counts of war crimes for his actions, which were not recognized as such anywhere else in the world including Canada.
Omar’s case is complex. While the American solider he is accused of killing certainly died from a grenade, there is no evidence showing that Omar ever threw one. And while Omar confessed to these crimes, it was after eight years of torture—and given his option to either insist upon his innocence and stay in Gitmo or confess to the crimes and see a judge in Canada, the context of his confession was problematic at best.
The Canadian Supreme Court has even ruled that that Omar’s right were violated, but left the remedy up to the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who of course declined to provide any solution.
Harper himself has been making strong statements about the trial in an apparent attempt to influence the court proceedings—he’s said that “It is very important that we continue to vigorously defend against any attempts, in court, to lessen his punishment for these heinous acts.”
Omar’s counsel, Dennis Edney, argued that he should be transferred to a provincial prisonfrom a federal institution due to his age when the alleged crimes took place. In a confusing instance of legal doublespeak, the Crown’s prosecutors are arguing that Omar has not really been sentenced to eight years, but rather to five eight-year sentences served at the same time. Associate Chief Justice J.D. Rook has reserved judgment to a currently undetermined future date.
Heather Marsh, a journalist who has followed Omar’s case closely, was in court on Monday and wrote about it for us.
The media swarming Khadr’s lawyer outside of Monday’s hearing. Photo by the author
The court was filled with what seemed to be Omar’s supporters. Many were wearing orange or orange ribbons and I spoke to several of them. There was a high schooler who said she was done with classes for the day, students from several different universities skipping class even though they had exams next week, and people of all ages and ethnic groups. After the media were moved to the jury box and people were encouraged to squeeze together, 120 people were in the courtroom and a live feed was set up for those who had to watch from the overflow room.
The Canadian Prison System Is Keeping People Doped Up on Methadone
“Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy then gives them the drugs to take away their unhappiness. Science fiction is already happening to some extent in our own society.”
Orange Is the New Black is providing lazy Netflix watchers all over the place with an opportunity to escape into the lives of prisoners, but however fashionable prison entertainment may be, the truth is that Canada’s prison system, on all levels, is pretty fucked up right now. When you look at stories of cost cutting, population growth, and the rise of inmates suffering from mental health issues, it’s hard not to shudder at what else might be going on behind bars.
Drugs, in one form or another, have always been present within the prison system, and the failed war on drugs has only made the problem worse. In the last few years, however, one drug in particular has been sounding alarm bells for prison staff: methadone.
Methadone is a synthetic-opioid similar to heroin, and is often referred to as ‘liquid-cuffs’ because the habit is so hard to kick. It comes in a liquid form, and is often mixed with Tang of all things. The drug is used to treat opioid addiction, but many users will end up being hooked on methadone itself for the rest of their lives.