Does the City of Toronto Need to “accommodate” Rob Ford?

I know it hasn’t been discussed much generally, but I think it’s an appropriate time for me to talk about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on Slaw. I’m not breaking any news by saying that it has been reported that Rob Ford may have have a substance abuse problem. While John Stewart, Jay Leno, David Letterman and everyone else have made light of his somewhat public gaffes, any form of substance abuse issue (real or perceived) is sad.

I’m an employment and labour lawyer, so I am often required to look at substance abuse issues through the lense of human rights law. It’s an unfortunate but common situation when you advise employers.

If we forget the fact that MayorFord is an elected official (who apparently can’t be removed without an act of Parliament), he would, if a regular employee, have a right to be accommodated under provincial human rights legislation if he was addicted to illegal (or legal) substances and that addiction was the cause of his behaviour. If he acknowledged his addicition and needed time off (generally unpaid) to attend a treatment program, it is likely that the City would be required to accommodate that request.

As an elected official, the law is unclear. I would doubt that if the provincial legislature passed a law removing him for his admitted conduct while mayor (smoking crack cocaine), we would be able to successfully win a human rights complaint before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. However, I don’t know of any case law on the issue. Generally, as the New Yorker pointed out, we don’t ever get to this step. Normally, politicians who admit to this kind of misconduct resign, “rehabiliate” and run again.

However, from all reports, Mayor Ford does not acknowledge that he has any substance dependancy issues and has seemingly refused to take any steps to address any issues he might have (e.g., taking a leave of absence). Under existing human rights law, an employee who commits drug-related misconduct, refuses to admit that he or she has a substance dependency problem and/or to take any steps to address the issues does not need to be accommodated and can certainly let be “let go”. That doesn’t seem to be happening for Mayor Ford, but I do hope that he is able to get any help he might need.


  1. David Collier-Brown

    Slightly off-topic, I rather doubt that the Ontario Legislature would specifically pass a law removing him for his admitted misconduct. That would be too much like a “bill of pains and penalties” for at least our legislature, who prefer to let courts decide guilt or innocence.

    I can’t necessarily say the same for the Senate (;-))