Rob Ford, harm reduction, and hypocrisy
By Sophie Isbister, Life & Style Editor
After taking a blow in the polls during the British Columbia provincial election on May 14, Canadian left-wingers enjoyed a bit of schadenfreude from the east, in the form of Toronto’s Conservative Mayor, Rob Ford, and his now infamous crack video.
In case you spent the last half of May without an Internet connection, I’ll get you up to speed: there is a video in existence, viewed by two Toronto Star reporters and one reporter from the website Gawker.com, which appears to depict Mayor Ford smoking crack cocaine. Gawker broke the story on May 16, and quickly set up a Kickstarter account (affectionately called the Crackstarter) with the intent to raise the $200,000 the owners of the video want for it. The Kickstarter has already raised the money, but no tape has yet materialised.
So who’s Rob Ford? Accused of sexually harassing female opponents, charged with a DUI, and famous for public drunkenness, Ford doesn’t have the best record—and that’s just his personal life, not his political record. To give you a taste of that, here’s something he said back when he was a lowly city counsellor: “If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably, that’s bottom line… those are the facts.” Anti-fact, anti-bike lane, anti-media, and anti-LGBTQ; you could call Rob Ford the anti-Gregor Robertson, basically the polar opposite of the mayor in Canada’s major West Coast city.
But to me, the most appalling aspect of this whole controversy is the attitude that Ford and other right-wing politicians take towards drug addicts that aren’t their cronies. According to the Gawker report that shed international light on the scandal, Ford and his other crack-smoking buddies in Toronto’s elite all get their goods from the same dealer. A lot of people are smoking crack and ingesting all kinds of controlled substances in the city of Toronto, but the only ones that Ford and his ilk seem to hate are the poor ones.
Which only reinforces my belief that it isn’t drug addicts that right-wing politicians hate, it’s poor drug addicts. Conservatives don’t hate the investment banker who sniffs an eight ball up his nose seven times a week; they don’t hate the business owner who does heroin every day and can afford it; and they don’t hate alleged politician crackheads like Rob Ford, who is publicly adamant that he is not stepping down and intends to run in and win the next mayoral election.
So what kind of drug addicts do conservatives hate? They hate the ones they have to see. They hate the intravenous drug users who would benefit from safe injection sites (proven to save lives), which Ford has vocally opposed. They hate impoverished, street-entrenched youth who hustle for $10 rocks whenever they can. And they hate the homeless drug users—just not enough to give them homes, as evidenced by this Ford quote from 2005 on harm reduction: “It’s euthanasia. You’re just giving them a place to kill themselves. That’s what is going to happen. You might as well just have a crematorium beside the crack house.” Ford went on to say, “I know for a fact that tough love has worked and I’m talking from personal experience. If you just enable someone and give them a place to live and money, nothing changes.”
Easy for you to say, Mr. Ford. Nobody’s taking away your home and money, and nobody ever threatened to. Rob Ford, and his hypocritical attitude toward drug addicts, is emblematic of the entire failed right-wing approach to eradicating the illness that is drug addiction.