This story has been updated to include a statement from Ford's team.
After taking a photo with a far-right fringe mayoral candidate and her posse of sycophants the premier of Ontario would not denounce her by name.
The photo of Doug Ford, the premier of Canada’s largest province, and Faith Goldy, Canada’s most well-known white nationalist who is now running for mayor of Toronto, was taken at Ford Fest this weekend. The photo, unsurprisingly, immediately brought about criticism of Ford. And Ford made sure the flames of this particular controversy stayed lit when, yesterday, he refused to denounce the candidate when called upon by the opposition.
“She is a very, very dangerous person in our society,” former Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne told the Toronto Star following Ford’s initial reaction. “Her ideas, her actions are dangerous. I was surprised he didn’t just stand up and say: ‘I want nothing to do with this person.’”
At the onset of the photo controversy, Ford initially tried to explain it away by saying he took a lot of photos with a lot of people. But the idea that Ford wouldn’t know who Goldy is doesn’t seem to hold water as she’s been one of the most disruptive stories in a mayoral race in the biggest city in Ontario. Furthermore, in the past Ford has been advertised as a speaker alongside Goldy at a Rebel Live event.
On the first attempt on Monday Ford essentially equivocated on the floor and spoke about how “diverse” Ford Fest was. On the second day, Ford said repeatedly that he “denounces” hate speech but again didn’t name Goldy directly. Bernie Farber, the chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, told VICE Canada that he doesn’t see much difference between the first and second response, calling it Ford’s “good people on both sides” moment.
"Both responses were in my view exactly the same. It's easy to condemn hate speech but they just become words if there is no action attached to it,” said Farber. “So his inability or refusal I should say, to distance himself from Faith Goldy and her relationships with white supremacists and neo-Nazis is to be a telling sign of a man who is trying to do a dance and play both sides against the middle. You can't do that with Nazis, Nazis are bad and it's up to the premier to say so."
According to Farber, condemning hate speech without naming Goldy doesn’t go far enough. "When you have a person like Faith Goldy who is involved with racism, anti-immigration, she engages with white nationalists, and utters racist and neo-Nazi phrases. Ford is the premier of the province and he has to stand up and outrightly reject this kind of behaviour and he hasn't done that yet."
Since the onset of her campaign, Goldy has proven to be skilled at grabbing public attention during her campaign. Just recently she was able to get the attention of the media—even getting the attention of some international right-wing pundits—by storming the stage of the mayoral debate she wasn’t invited to. Make no mistake, this photo was almost certainly another calculated ploy to get attention and, well, it worked.
However, while it’s easy to see the reason Goldy would want to court controversy through a photo with the premier, it’s less understandable as for why the premier wouldn’t disavow. There are few things, other than bad press, Ford can gain from Goldy at this point. Farber told VICE Canada that he doesn’t understand why Ford wouldn’t denounce her by name.
"Ontario is not America, not to say that we have a perfect society, but for the most part we have roundly rejected racists and bigots and anti-Semites and Islamophobes,” Farber told VICE. “So hitching your wagon to someone like Faith Goldy is inexplicable."
Alongside Goldy was a cast of characters that have been helping her along the campaign trail. Among them was a man who goes by the name of Cracker Jack and Tyler Jack™ online. Cracker Jack has been well known in the Canadian alt-right circles for some time now either as a podcast host or guest. As Press Progress has already pointed out, white nationalists like Cracker Jack are already using the photo to legitimize their cause.
When asked specifically if Ford will denounce Goldy by name, a spokesperson provided an emailed statement repeating Ford's talking points.
"As the Premier said during Question Period, he denounces all forms of hate, regardless of who says it," reads the statement. "Ford Fest was a diverse event with over 7,000 people in attendance from nearly every race, religion, and community across the province. Premier Ford was available to take pictures with everyone in attendance."
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