Racist, homophobic comments mar municipal campaign

The Toronto municipal election has taken on a nasty, and at times racist, tone this week.

Wong-Tam, Smitherman call on Fords to rein in unruly supporters

Ugly words

8 years ago
Duration 2:51
Some municipal candidates have been the targets of racist and homophobic remarks.

The tone of Toronto's municipal election has this week turned nasty, and in a few cases, outright racist.

In Ward 12, candidate Liekan Olawoye found the front of his campaign office vandalized, and his car tires slashed. 

"This is not our Toronto. This is not York South Weston," he said, surveying the damage. 

Earlier this week, openly gay city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who is running for re-election in Ward 27, tweeted one of many letters she says she's received anonymously.

It says: "I hope you get AIDS and die in public office."

The letter, which Wong-Tam described as "vitriolic and hateful," also used racial epithets and included a threat on her life.

It ended: "I support Ford Nation."

Wong-Tam's staff filed a report about the letter with the police.

And at Tuesday's mayoral debate, the first attended by Doug Ford since he entered the race, a man shouted "Go home, back to China" at mayoral candidate Olivia Chow. The man identified himself as a Ford supporter, a group known collectively as Ford Nation.

Doug Ford has said he doesn't condone such comments.

"If they want to talk that way, they aren’t part of this campaign," he said later. "It's very simple."

In an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning show on Thursday, Wong-Tam said she was thankful Doug Ford refused to condone such comments but said he could do more to quell such sentiments from people who claim to be his supporters.

"The Ford Nation brand now denotes a certain type of bigotry," said Wong-Tam, citing videos that surfaced earlier this year showing Mayor Rob Ford speaking in a fake Jamaican patois.

"I realize it's coming from people who are extremists and radicals, but because they claim they are supporters of Ford Nation, I think they've been emboldened by their leader," she said.

But George Smitherman, who ran for mayor against Rob Ford in 2010, says Doug Ford should do more to rein in any unruly supporters. 

"The next time ... we must expect that Doug Ford will stand, shout them down and say 'Take that button off because I don't want your vote if that's your approach to life here in Toronto," Smitherman said.

Wong-Tam said the Fords should set clear rules for their supporters in a code of conduct.

"If you're going to be wearing a Ford Nation T-shirt, then you'd best not be saying certain things because it immediately connects the Ford Nation brand with that type of unacceptable behaviour."

She encouraged Ford and others in the campaign to make a point of identifying supporters who step over the line.

"Otherwise the behaviour becomes normalized and accepted," she said.

"I don't believe that what we're seeing in these random moments represents Toronto values."