There's a very good chance that, no matter where you live in the world, if you have access to international news, you likely know what's going on with Toronto's mayor Rob Ford. There is allegedly a video of him smoking crack. The mayor has called the allegations crazy, but hasn't come out and denied that this video exists, or that he doesn't actually smoke crack.
I didn't vote for the mayor, and I don't know anyone who admits to or talks about doing so. Admittedly, I live in downtown Toronto which is not a hotbed of support for him, so I probably don't know too many people that wanted him in office. Ford is strongly favoured by our city's suburbs, while those of us who live in the core are largely still reeling from the fact that he ever became our mayor in the first place. He stands for so many things that people that live in the core do not. He is anti-bike and heavily pro-car; he wanted a huge casino to be built downtown, (a movement which is thankfully dead now); and he has refused to commemorate Pride Week in Toronto - a tradition that several of his predecessors did for decades.
Since the crack story broke on Friday, I've been checking in with the local online news every few hours to see any developments. Has the mayor addressed the allegations at a news conference? Has he admitted it? Come out fighting to say it never happened in the first place? He has done none of these things, preferring to remain silent on the issue. During these days that the mayor has refused to comment, the story has become international news and rich fodder for the late night TV hosts. And this is where it gets me.
As a citizen in Toronto and as a Canadian, this story genuinely embarrasses me. I'm always so proud to travel to other places and talk of our multiculturalism and our tolerance. "Oh, we've had gay marriage for years now," I tell those I meet. I love to talk about our people, and our general sensitivity and politeness. What this story has made me realize though, is not that Rob Ford is acting un-Canadian in his boorish behaviour, but rather that how I talk about Canada is merely hopeful yet unrealistic stereotyping. I believe that as much as we'd like to be what many other people think of us, it's clear we have a long way to go.