Meet The Former Police Chief Who Will Guide Canada's Legalization Plan

Toronto MP Bill Blair has been assigned to handle Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's mandate to legalize cannabis, CBC reports. The former Toronto police chief will handle legalization as part of his duties as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

The CBC story confirms a commitment to making Blair a lead player on this file, first reported during the election campaign by CTV News.

"We've got good frameworks already in place [for legalization]," Blair told CTV News. "We've already had a great deal of experience with controlling the sale and use of alcohol. We believe that we can build upon that model and we can ensure our communities could be made safer through regulation and legalization."

Tabbing the retired cop reinforces Trudeau's pledge to make legalization about public safety and crime reduction rather than money.

Here's a quick background check on Trudeau's point-man on pot.

1. He comes with mixed reviews

Blair's career as a law enforcer includes working on Toronto's drug enforcement program, organized crime units, and major criminal investigations. As the police chief for Canada's largest city from 2005 to 2015, Blair kept the peace in Toronto and worked with provincial, national and international policing organizations.

Wendy Gillis of the Toronto Star wrote that he has a mixed legacy from his time as police chief. Depending on who you ask, she says, he was a community builder, a disappointment, a "modern police thinker," or a cunning manipulator.

2. He knows how to negotiate

In 2011, Toronto's mayor Rob Ford (more on him later) asked all city departments to cut their budgets by 10 percent. Blair countered by requesting an increase to the city police's budget. After heated negotiations with City Council - in which Blair said the cuts would endanger the public - the chief got his way.

3. He owes Canadians an explanation about the Toronto G20

The biggest blemish in Blair's career is his involvement in the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. In June 2010, Toronto hosted the G-20 Summit, which featured violent protests from the "Black Bloc mob." In response, police officers unlawfully detained peaceful and disruptive protestors along with passersby. In total, 1,105 people were arrested - most were released without charges, and only 24 were convicted of crimes.

As The Globe and Mail pointed out in an editorial during the 2015 federal election, "Mr. Blair has never adequately accounted for the misbehaviors of his force during the G20....Whether he lost control of his officers or failed to properly oversee their poor decisions, Mr. Blair needs to revisit the lost weekend of 2010 and explain his force's performance."

4. He's made shocking statements

On Sept. 23, 2013, Blair sparked controversy when he defended plans to authorize more police officers to carry tasers by claiming the weapons would "save lives."

5. Surprise! He had a toxic relationship with then-mayor Rob Ford

The partnership of Blair and Mayor Rob Ford was like Parks and Recreation meets Breaking Bad. Highlights include accusations of corruption involving high-school football, allegations of misused funds, and a defamation suit.

Oh, and that time the mayor dared Blair to arrest him:

In Blair's defense, Ford is best remembered as Toronto's "crack-smoking mayor," so it's not like people would necessarily judge him for the dysfunctional relationship. And there are no hard feelings on the former mayor's end: "Man to man, if I saw him [Blair] I would shake his hand because I respect him," Ford told the Toronto Star in April 2015.

6. He's being sued

In February 2014, the family of Sammy Yatim filed a lawsuit against Blair. Yatim died on Jul. 28, 2013 when Toronto police used lethal force to subdue the 18-year-old, who allegedly threatened passengers on a streetcar with a knife. Although Blair was not on the scene, Yatim's family wants him held accountable for the actions of his officers.

h/t CTV News, Toronto Star, Daily Mail, Globe and Mail


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