Photo: TORONTO STAR
BY EDWARD KEENAN
For a minute, forget about the video, or alleged video, or whatever you allegedly want to allegedly think it allegedly is or may be. Whether it turns up or not, whether the mayor appears in it or not, whether it shows what it is reported to show or not, there’s reason to believe at this point that, even if the video comes out, it will change almost no one’s mind. When it comes to Rob Ford, and his relationship with the media, and his relationship with drugs, people seem more informed by faith than by facts. Maybe we’ve all made up our minds, and any evidence that does come out—whether exculpatory or damning—will just cause the same people to argue the same sides in a slightly different way.
Anyhow, forget the video for at least a moment. Think about the photograph. In the picture above, there are four men. One is dead, two are under arrest, and one is the mayor of Toronto.
Anthony Smith, the man on the left of the photo holding the bottle and giving the finger to the camera, was gunned down outside a nightclub in March in an apparent targeted killing. The man who shot him was offered and accepted a highly unusual plea deal to manslaughter before Crown discovery even took place. (Another man charged as an accessory in Smith’s murder is now out on bail.)
Muhammad Khattak, the man with the red laces on the right-hand side of the photo, was shot the same night as Smith, but survived with minor injuries. He was arrested in a massive drug raid called Project Traveller and faces gang-related and drug trafficking charges. He’s out on bail awaiting trial.
Monir Kassim, the man in the centre with the hat on, was also arrested during the massive drug raid, charged with gun and drug trafficking, illegal gun possession, and theft, among other things. He’s out on bail, too.
The fourth man, the one with the grey sweatshirt on, is our city’s chief magistrate, Rob Ford.
There’s a house in the background: that’s 15 Windsor Road. None of the men in the photo live there. It is reported to be “notorious for drug problems.” A few days after the photo was published in the newspaper and online, two of its residents were beaten with a lead pipe by assailants who forced their way in, in an episode reportedly related to the publication of the photo. That house was also subject to a warrant in the massive Project Traveller drug and gang raids. One of the men who lives in the house, Fabio Basso, was a good friend of Rob Ford’s in high school.
The man who provided the photo—directly or indirectly—to the Toronto Star and Gawker is Mohamed Siad. He was arrested in those massive drug raids, too, charged with gun and drug trafficking and gang offences. After his arrest, he was stabbed in the Don Jail, and is now in protective custody. His association with the photo getting published reportedly provided the motive for his jailhouse stabbing.
So pretty much everyone and everything in the photo has a direct link to brutal violence and the gun and drug trades, or both. The setting, the person who is the source of the photo, all of the people in it. Except one: the mayor.
This raises some pretty serious questions that we might reasonably expect him to answer. So far he has refused to explain the circumstances in which the photo was taken, except to repeat that he takes photos with a lot of people. That’s true, and besides the point. Very few of the thousands of photos in which he poses raise any questions about criminal activity. This one does, and it was taken in the driveway of his friend Fabio’s house.
The circumstances of the many thousands of other photos in which he poses are often self-evident, or easy to understand. The circumstances of this one are not. The longer he remains silent, the more answers emerge from other sources, the more incriminating the picture seems.
One murder, two shootings, one stabbing, one home invasion and beating with a pipe, four arrests, many search warrants, and the mayor of Canada’s largest city.
Forget the video. The photo provides enough troubling questions on its own.