Toronto

Brad Blair, ex-OPP officer, files $15M lawsuit and calls for public inquiry

With calls for a public inquiry and news of a $15-million lawsuit, a new chapter is unfolding in the feud between Ontario Premier Doug Ford and a man who served in the top ranks of the Ontario Provincial Police.

Interim commissioner of Ontario Provincial Police was fired in March

Brad Blair, centre, who is flanked by his wife, Danielle Blair, and his lawyer Julian Falconer, held a news conference on Friday at Queen's Park. Blair has filed a $15-million lawsuit for wrongful termination against Premier Doug Ford and several top-level civil servants. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

Brad Blair, former interim commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, has filed a $15-million lawsuit for wrongful termination against Premier Doug Ford and several top-level civil servants. 

At a news conference, Blair's lawyer, Julian Falconer, said that the statement of claim for the lawsuit was filed Friday morning, calling it "the only way Brad Blair can push for accountability."

Speaking publicly for the first time since he was fired, Blair was visibly emotional, saying that the last six months have been a time of "grieving." 

"The impact of the firing has quite frankly traumatized me, my wife and my family," he said. 

Falconer and Blair also called for a public inquiry into provincial appointments made under Ford, calling them "questionable."    

"Nothing short of a commission of inquiry … will actually give a full airing to the issues," said Falconer. 

By mid-afternoon Friday, Ford's government had released a statement, saying that since the matter was before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment. 

Turbulence began last fall 

The dispute between the premier and Blair grew out of the government's move last November to name Toronto Police Supt. Ron Taverner as the OPP's new commissioner. 

Blair, a 32-year veteran of the OPP, was in the running for the job. In December, Blair made a public appeal to Ontario's ombudsman to investigate what he called "questions of political interference" in Taverner's appointment. Taverner is a longtime friend of Ford and his family. 

Blair was fired in early March, within days of Taverner withdrawing his name from contention for the top police job.

We have been cut off from our OPP family.- Brad Blair, OPP's ex-interim commissioner

Ontario's integrity commissioner cleared Ford of allegations of political interference in Taverner's appointment. 

Blair has asked the courts to force the provincial ombudsman to investigate that hiring, which was eventually abandoned by the government.

On Friday, Blair went into detail about his experience since problems began in the fall. 

He described his decision to raise concerns about Taverner, saying that he believed himself "duty-bound" to come forward. 

He said his later firing came as a shock, adding that he has still not been told why he was terminated. 

He said it resulted in him being cut off and feeling isolated from the organization he spent more than three decades with.

"We have been cut off from our OPP family," he said. 

He also said that failing to challenge his dismissal would put "every OPP officer at the risk of the same fate." 

Blair accused of 'unprovoked personal and political attack'

The wrongful dismissal suit isn't Blair's only legal action against the provincial government. 

He is also pursuing a $5-million defamation suit against Ford over comments the premier made suggesting Blair had violated Ontario's Police Services Act. 

That came out of Blair's decision to reveal documents that suggested Ford's staff wanted the OPP, which provides the premier's security, to spend more than $50,000 on a customized van. 

In another lawsuit, Blair is suing Premier Doug Ford for defamation. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

In the defamation suit, Blair is suing Ford over statements he made in December and January suggesting that Blair broke the law by releasing confidential material obtained through his job as deputy commissioner of the OPP. 

Ford denies that anything he said about Blair at the time was defamatory.

In their statement of defence, filed in April, lawyers for Ford say he made his comments about Blair to the media in response to "a calculated, widely publicized, public, malicious and unprovoked personal and political attack."

Ford's lawyers say Blair "used and abused" his position in the OPP to go after the premier. 

None of the allegations in the case by either side has been proven in court.

About the Author

Mike Crawley

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Mike Crawley is provincial affairs reporter in Ontario for CBC News. He has won awards for his reporting on the eHealth spending scandal and flaws in Ontario's welfare-payment computer system. Before joining the CBC in 2005, Mike filed stories from 19 countries in Africa as a freelance journalist and worked as a newspaper reporter in B.C.

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