6 Things To Know About Trudeau's Point-Man On Cannabis

During the election campaign, newly minted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tabbed former Toronto Police Chief (and newly-elected Member of Parliament) Bill Blair to head up the research team that will investigate the best practices for legalizing and regulating cannabis in Canada.

"We've got good frameworks already in place," Blair told CTV News last month. "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."

Blair was not named to cabinet ( MP Jody Wilson-Raybould was named Justice Minister), but he's been given an important role nonetheless. Here's a quick background check.

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 (and eventually getting) a marginal increase to the city police's budget.

3. He owes Canadians an explanation about the Toronto G20

The biggest blemish in Blair's career is his involvement in the greatest 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 noted pointed out in an editorial during the election campaign, "Mr. Blair has never adequately accounted for the misbehaviours 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 controversial 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 defence, 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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