Canada Is Still Two Decades Behind the U.S. on Video of Mayors Smoking Crack

Matt Berman
October 31, 2013

The Rob Ford crack saga appears to be nearing the end in Toronto. After months of rumors, Toronto police said Thursday they have finally recovered video of Mayor Ford smoking crack cocaine. "It's safe to say the mayor does appear in the video," Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair told reporters.

Ford has long been adamant that such a video doesn't exist. But a police investigation began months ago after two reporters from the Toronto Star reported seeing footage featuring the mayor smoking while making homophobic and racist slurs. The mayor has so far refused to answer questions about the police apparently possessing the video, instead yelling at a photographer at his home Thursday morning to "get off my property, partner!" It's not yet clear what Ford's next steps will be.

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The video hasn't actually been released yet, and it could wind up being totally engrossing, but Marion Barry had one of the best mayors-smoking-crack videos of all time. Yes, even in terrible scandal, Canada is still decades behind the United States of America.

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A refresher for those of you who need it: In January 1990, an FBI sting operation busted Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry smoking crack cocaine. The 83-minute video, which was watched by jurors in Barry's trial on drug-possession charges, featured a furious mayor yelling about the woman he was with. "Bitch set me up," he infamously complained.

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Some of that footage is available here, but, for reasons that remain unclear, it is only available in French (which, if we're being honest here, is actually pretty great).

Barry, who had been mayor since 1979, was convicted and served six months in prison. But here's where Canada could learn a lesson: America doesn't back down and apologize. After finishing his sentence, Barry won election to the city council with 91 percent of the vote. He served on the council until, amazingly, returning to his prior perch as mayor, from 1995 until 1999. Barry remains in D.C. government as a member of the council, where he has amassed new low-lights, such as saying that Asian-American businesses, "those dirty shops," "ought to go."

Barry, for his part, told The Washington City Paper in May that his case isn't like Ford's. "Unless he was entrapped by the government, it's not similar," he said.

So while the Rob Ford news is reasonably astonishing, although maybe not as much as it would've been before all the rumors, it definitely isn't unprecedented. Even on crack-smoking mayors, Canada just can't escape its southern neighbor's sad, sad shadow.

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