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This article was signed off by john stackhouse, editor in chief of the globe and mail, and arguably one of the best journalists in toronto.
Globe investigation: The Ford family's history with drug dealing
By Greg McArthur and Shannon Kari
Posted without permission from The Globe and Mail
Long before the current controversy at Toronto City Hall, The Globe and Mail set out to trace the Ford brothers' rise to prominence. Reporters found the Mayor's siblings have former ties to drug trafficking, a charge of physical assault and other brushes with the law
This investigative report reveals that:
Doug Ford, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's brother, sold hashish for several years in the 1980s.
Another brother, Randy, was also involved in the drug trade and was once charged in relation to a drug-related kidnapping.
Their sister, Kathy, has been the victim of drug-related gun violence.
In the 1980s, anyone wanting to buy hashish had to know where to go. And in central Etobicoke, the wealthy Toronto suburb where Mayor Rob Ford grew up, one of those places was James Gardens. In the evening, the sports cars often wound along Edenbridge Drive, past the gated homes and the lawn-bowling pitches, until they reached the U-shaped parking lot. By nightfall, the public park was a hash drive-thru. One former street dealer, whom we will call "Justin," described the scene as "an assembly line."
There were usually a number of dealers to choose from, some of them supplied by a mainstay at James Gardens – a young man with the hulk-like frame and mop of bright blond hair: Doug Ford. "Most people didn't approach Doug looking for product. You went to the guys that he supplied. Because if Doug didn't know you and trust you, he wouldn't even roll down his window," Justin said.
Today, Mr. Ford is a member of Toronto's city council – and no ordinary councillor. First elected in 2010 as his brother was swept into the mayor's office, he has emerged as a truly powerful figure at City Hall –– trying to overhaul plans for Toronto's waterfront less than a year after arriving. He also has higher aspirations, and has said he wants to follow in the footsteps of his father, Doug Ford Sr., by running in the next provincial election as a Conservative.
Meanwhile, he serves as his brother's de facto spokesman. As Toronto is gripped by allegations that its mayor was captured on a homemade video smoking what appears to be crack cocaine and his office descends into disarray – his chief of staff was fired on Thursday – Doug Ford has been the only person to mount a spirited public defence of his largely silent sibling. On Friday, after the Mayor finally made a statement about the accusation, he was the one who fielded questions from the press.
Well before the events of the past week, The Globe and Mail began to research the Ford brothers in an effort to chronicle their lives before rising to prominence in Canada's largest city. Over the past 18 months, it has sought out and interviewed dozens of people who knew them in their formative years.
What has emerged is a portrait of a family once deeply immersed in the illegal drug scene. All three of the mayor's older siblings – brother Randy, 51, and sister Kathy, 52, as well as Doug, 48 – have had ties to drug traffickers.
Ten people who grew up with Doug Ford – a group that includes two former hashish suppliers, three street-level drug dealers and a number of casual users of hash – have described in a series of interviews how for several years Mr. Ford was a go-to dealer of hash. These sources had varying degrees of knowledge of his activities: Some said they purchased hash directly from him, some said they supplied him, while others said they observed him handling large quantities of the drug.
The events they described took place years ago, but as mayor, Rob Ford has surrounded himself with people from his past. Most recently he hired someone for his office whose long history with the Fords, the sources said, includes selling hashish with the mayor's brother.
The Globe wrote to Doug Ford outlining what the sources said about him, and received a response from Gavin Tighe, his lawyer, who said the allegations were false. "Your references to unnamed alleged sources of information represent the height of irresponsible and unprofessional journalism given the gravely serious and specious allegations of substantial criminal conduct."
There's nothing on the public record that The Globe has accessed that shows Doug Ford has ever been criminally charged for illegal drug possession or trafficking. But some of the sources said that, in the affluent pocket of Etobicoke where the Fords grew up, he was someone who sold not only to users and street-level dealers, but to dealers one rung higher than those on the street. His tenure as a dealer, many of the sources say, lasted about seven years until 1986, the year he turned 22. "That was his heyday," said "Robert," one of the former drug dealers who agreed to an interview on the condition he not be identified by name.
Upon being approached, the sources declined to speak if identified, saying they feared the consequences of outing themselves as former users and sellers of illegal drugs.
The Globe also tried to contact retired police officers who investigated drugs in the area at the time. One said he had no recollection of encountering the Fords.
Another, whose name appeared on court documents in relation to allegations of assault and forcible confinement committed by Randy Ford, said he could not recall the incident. Several did not respond.
Since entering public life, both Fords have been ardent supporters of Toronto police and have campaigned, over the years, on increasing the police presence on Etobicoke's streets. In December, 2011, Doug Ford showed up, unannounced, at a police press conference to trumpet the force's crackdown on a network of drug dealers who were selling, among other things, marijuana.
Doug, like Rob, frequently promotes the Ford family as a type of brand – one that started with their late father's four-year tenure as an MPP in the government of former Ontario premier Mike Harris. Doug Ford is fond of invoking his family's contributions to the community. Through his involvement with the Rotary Club of Etobicoke, he has helped to organize events like the Etobicoke Fall Fair. He frequently mentions the many sports teams that the Ford family business, Deco Labels and Tags, has sponsored over the years. He also cites the many football teams his younger brother has coached, and the hordes of people – he puts the figure at 25,000 – the Fords have entertained at their annual backyard barbecue.
But long before he took over the family business and pursued public office, Doug Ford's circle of friends was a group of young people who called themselves the RY Drifters, after the Royal York Plaza, a strip mall many of them frequented.
The Fords' neighbourhood was paradoxical in some respects. It teemed with wealth; families who settled there after the Second World War, such as the Fidanis and the Brattys, would become known as the biggest players in Toronto-area land development. As his sticker and label business flourished, Doug Ford Sr. was featured in the society pages of The Globe, rubbing elbows with cabinet ministers, senators and members of the Eaton family.
But the prosperity disguised a disturbing trend among many of the area's young adults – an attraction to crime that went beyond typical teenage rebellion. Former Ford associates interviewed for this story identified at least 10 RY Drifters who became heroin addicts, some of whom turned to break-ins and robberies to support their habits.
In recent years, the Ford family home has become known for the annual barbecue, attended by hundreds of neighbours and a Who's Who of Conservative luminaries – including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. But in the 1980s, the finished basement at 15 Weston Wood Rd. was one of the many places Doug Ford did business, the sources said.
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