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Ford’s response to the recent shooting at a Jewish school was a decisive denouncement of imported hatred and violence

Michael TaubeOntario Premier Doug Ford was in hot water for several days last week. This was after he answered a reporter’s question at a May 30 press conference related to the recent shooting at Bais Chaya Mushka, a Jewish girls’ elementary school located in Toronto. His legion of critics claimed his response was either racist, anti-immigrant or both.

But is this what he really said, or what others want to believe he said?

The controversy occurred a couple of hours before my weekly appearance with national radio talk show host Rob Snow. He played parts of the Premier’s response during our on-air interview. It was the first time I had heard anything other than small soundbites.

What were my thoughts? Ford’s response wouldn’t be described as Shakespearean prose, but there wasn’t a whiff of racism or intolerance against immigrants in his words or tone of voice.

Doug Ford on racism and immigration

Ontario Premier Doug Ford

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Don’t take my word for it. This is what he said at the news conference when asked about those who have targeted Jewish institutions:

We will throw every single resource with increased funding for the police. And we’ve also given thousands of dollars … uhh, to places of worship. They feel threatened.

But folks, let’s cut to the chase here. What lunatic goes around shooting up schools? Like … that is just unacceptable. Imagine that. Imagine a little kid in a school … because they’re from the Jewish faith, someone goes by and starts shooting through the school windows? These guys need to be caught, they need to be punished, they need to be thrown in jail. Now, I’ll tell you we have zero tolerance for … for this anywhere in Ontario. And it doesn’t matter what race, what … what creed, what religion you’re from. I’d be saying the exact same thing if it was, if it was, another, uhh, community as well.

But enough is enough. You’re bringing your problems from everywhere else in the world, you’re bringing it to Ontario, and you’re going after other Canadians, as the Prime Minister said? Unacceptable.

I got an idea. Before you plan on moving to Canada, don’t come to Canada if you’re going to start terrorizing neighbourhoods like this. Simple as that.

You want to come to Canada? You want to be a resident of Ontario? You get along with everyone. I don’t care what background, what religion, what race you come from. You know, diversity is … is our number one selling tool around the world. We have 110 nationalities here in Ontario. 200 languages being spoken. And guess what? 99 percent of the people get along. There’s wars going all around the world, but we still get along.

So all this other nonsense we’ve been seeing over numbers and numbers of months … uhh, enough is enough. I’ve just had it up to here. And guess what? People outside those communities, they’ve had it, too. They aren’t used to this happening here in Ontario. I’m done with this stuff.

(The transcription, for the record, is mine.)

Look at Ford’s words again. There’s no direct or indirect connection between his response and the slew of accusations that it was supposedly racist and anti-immigrant. No individual or group was named or targeted. There’s no suggestion or insinuation that an immigrant fired the gunshots, either.

Rather, the Premier spoke off the cuff and cobbled together a series of separate thoughts, ideas and opinions. Proper breaks and pauses, with additional words for context, would have made things easier to understand.

Ford started at funding for police and houses of worship. He shifted to the horrors of someone shooting at a Jewish school and the need for the perpetrators to be caught. He pivoted to people with bad intentions coming to Canada from other parts of the world, and to not come here unless they accept our diverse society and get along with others. He ends with the fact that he’s fed up with what’s happened in this country for the past few months.

These are all separate thoughts. There’s no connecting theme whatsoever.

It’s simply the words of a political leader who went off-script (which can occasionally be risky) and is sick and tired of the growing tide of racism and anti-semitism in Canada. He wants to put an end to this madness, as most normal, rational-thinking people do. He also took a passionate stance against individuals who come to Canada with terrible intentions and hatred in their hearts, and told them not to bother. Many Canadians from all walks of life feel exactly the same way.

That’s why Ford won’t apologize and has reportedly received praise for his response. He said what most honest, decent Canadians have been feeling for months on several matters. It could have been communicated differently and with more clarity, but there’s no need for him to take anything back.

No matter what you think about the Ontario PCs, Canadian conservatism, or right-leaning columnists like me, there’s a huge difference between what Ford actually said and what his critics claim he said. Think about it.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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