A court battle to have documents related to a massive Toronto police drug investigation, with reported ties to Mayor Rob Ford, released to the public moved forward today, although its pace remains at a cautious crawl and its outcome is more uncertain than ever.
Lawyers representing several media organizations continued to press for the Crown to release documents related to Project Traveller, a massive raid against alleged gang members in a north-end Toronto neighbourhood.
Several names and addresses targeted in the sweep have been connected to Ford after Gawker and the Toronto Star reported viewing a video of the mayor smoking from a crack pipe.
The files are expected to shed light on what prompted police to execute a series of search warrants in mid-June, which led to the arrest of some 40 people. Included in the arrests were two men who appeared in a photo with Ford that accompanied reports of the existence of a crack tape.
CBC News reports that lawyers representing several people arrested have come forward to oppose the release of those documents.
Chief Bill Blair has declined to comment on whether Project Traveller has connections to Ford, although police sources have told several reporters that chatter about the video was picked up on wire taps.
The documents, expected to be heavily redacted if and when they are ever made public, are to be released to the lawyers, who will argue that certain details should be made public.
The Crown says the documents must be handled with care, leading to delays in their release, and are asking for further delay of up to six months.
The National Post reported on Thursday that lawyer Peter Jacobsen accused the Crown of using a secretive "hide-and-seek" approach to granting access to search warrants.
There is legitimate concern over protecting information in the search warrants – details about potentially active wire taps and identities of confidential informants, to name a few – but the possibility that those documents connect the city's mayor to suspected gang members should be addressed as soon as functionally possible.
The Toronto Star recently defended its original report about the Rob Ford crack tape to the Ontario Press Council.
"That the Mayor of Toronto has any connection with people connected to these guns and drugs gangs is something that is very much in the public interest," Editor-in-chief Michael Cooke argued.
I’ve argued in the past that the release of these documents must be done so with caution, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be released at all. Or released with more details blacked out than entirely necessary.
Protecting ongoing investigations and upcoming trials is the priority, but is not the only factor to consider. There is legitimate public interest in putting the Ford controversy to bed, one way or the other.
Games, be they hide-and-seek or otherwise, would do us all a disservice.
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