Rob Ford and the Implications of Memorialization

Toronto city council considers naming new stadium after the late mayor Rob Ford

By: Kaelen Pelaia, Staff Writer


A recent proposal by the City of Toronto Mayor, John Tory, suggests that Central Park stadium be named in honor of the late Rob Ford, who passed away in 2016 after twelve years of serving as both Mayor of Toronto and as a city councilor.

PC: Lucas Oleniuk,. Toronto Star via Getty Images

While Ford had a significant populist following during his political career, his hardline conservative agenda and substance abuse quickly turned a majority of Toronto’s public opinion against him. An audio recording of him making frequent use of racial and homophobic slurs truly set a significant number of Torontonians against his career. On top of this, the discovery of Ford’s abuse of crack cocaine, while also lying about it, forced Ford to give up a bid for the mayoral office in favour of his old council seat. He passed away shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2016.


Tory had suggested to his colleagues on the Council that Central Park Stadium be named after Ford, which elicited a mixed reaction from onlookers. While the Ford family was extremely grateful for the proposition, many Torontonians were outraged. Some said that the stadium should not be named after a man who “smoked crack and then lied about it,” and that it would be “extremely inappropriate” for a stadium for children’s sports to be named in memoriam of  such a figure.


Doug Ford, brother to the late mayor,  an opponent to  Mayor Tory in the last election,  was the first to suggest the name change. Ford was relieved to hear that his political rival had supported the name change and  he noted that himself and the Ford family were “deeply honoured” by the proposal.


The implications of memorialization are greater than ever. Naming a stadium after Ford, a known racist and homophobe, draws interesting similarities to the current controversy surrounding Confederate statues and memorials in the United States. Many have argued that these monuments are a glorification of white supremacy and slavery. White nationalists protested the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville this summer. At the rally,  a car plowed into a group of counter protestors, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and sparking government officials to call for the removal of Confederate statues across the country.


It certainly begs the question: do people deserve to be honoured and respected in death despite their actions in life? Well, in the case of Rob Ford, it would appear not; the Toronto city council voted 11-24 to keep the name of Central Park Stadium.


“I got along with Rob and I considered him a colleague and I was devastated to hear that he passed so young,” remarked Toronto city councilor Joe Cressy after the vote, “but considering many of the things that took place in his time as mayor I didn’t think it appropriate to name a kids’ football stadium after him.”


The implications of naming a kids’ stadium after an individual known for scandal and controversy would surely send the wrong message; it would serve to normalize and desensitize people to this type of behaviour, which is frankly unbecoming of an elected public official, and has no place in politics, be it at the municipal or the federal level. Political positions must be held to the highest scrutiny by the electorate and to allow and even to reward this type of behaviour is detrimental to democratic institutions as a whole.


In any case, while the Ford Stadium issue may be resolved, the events happening in the US betray a growing outrage to the continued worship and admiration of objects such as the Confederate flag by radical neo-conservative voters. This phenomenon has manifested in the defamation and attempted removal of several statues and memorials dotting campuses and parks in the US.


The past must always be considered in contemporary politics and we must recognize the wrongs of previous generations in order to move forward—united in purpose to better the world for all of humanity. Just because an individual has passed away, no matter how tragic or untimely their death may have been, their character and actions in life should carry far greater influence in the minds of others, than their passing should.


While the history of the Confederate States of America should not be removed from textbooks or historical memory – in fact, it must not be forgotten, as to allow a continuation of discourse and reflection on such histories. The active glorification of these past wrongs is unacceptable and it actively hinders our evolution as a society. Only by acknowledging and accepting the ills of the past can the future be truly realized.