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Dog-whistle Doug Ford

John Bell

July 25, 2018

On a sunny July day Mississauga resident Muhammed Abu Marzouk, his wife and two children went for a picnic. Afterward, trying to leave the community centre parking lot, he was attacked by two men who beat and kicked him so badly part of his skull had to be removed; he remains in serious condition in hospital. His assailants also kicked his wife who tried to shield him. As they beat him they called him a “fucking Arab”, a “terrorist” and told him to “go back where he came from”. Initial media reports referred to the crime as “road rage” rather than what it was, a racist hate crime.

On the same day, a London Ontario man tried to prevent another–a person of colour with a beard–from leaving a grocery store. Video shows the large white man assaulting the younger man, accusing him of being an illegal immigrant, and demanding to see his Canadian documentation. London police are investigating as a “possible” hate crime.

Where do these people get the idea they are empowered to assault other citizens, especially Muslims, whether verbally or with brutal force?

These are the attack dogs. They are being encouraged by dog-whistle racism and Islamophobia coming from every level of government. But since these attacks took place in Ontario, forgive me if I focus on the new Tory regime, and its already impressive record of racism.

Doug Ford’s true colour

The incoming Ontario government of Doug Ford wasted no time showing its true colours. Make that colour singular: thoroughly white. Choosing his 20 cabinet members, only one (former Toronto City Councilor and Ford Nation loyalist Raymond Cho) is non-white.

Gone is any respect for First Nations or acknowledging a history of colonial racism. Alongside the cancelation of the updated sex and health education curriculum, Tory Education Minister Lisa Thompson has removed lessons on First Nations history and reconciliation. The former ministry of Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation is shut down. Responsibility for First Nations has been subsumed by the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines. During his campaign Ford promised to open the resource rich “Ring of Fire” region, even if he had to drive a bulldozer himself. But he uttered not a word about consent from the First Nations’ on whose territories the minerals reside.

On the campaign trail Ford blew the whistle during a debate in Northern Ontario. When the issue of immigration and refugees was raised he declared that we should “take care of our own” before taking in newcomers. After, he pretended to be shocked that anyone would accuse him of racism, and bragged about his support in immigrant communities. Sadly, there’s more than a grain of truth in his claim.

‘We know what you’re sayin’ Dougie’

But racists hear the tune. One neo-Nazi blogger posted: “I think when people reach a certain level, they’ll dog whistle to us. Like, recently Doug Ford said ‘we gotta take care of our own before we take care of anybody else’, and just that sentence alone, you know, every nationalist out there are like ‘we know what you’re sayin’ Dougie.’ And he can’t say certain things and have a chance of winning in a Liberal f–king playground like Ontario.”

As Premier, Ford wasted no time blowing that whistle again. He blamed Toronto’s unaffordable housing on a flood of “illegal” refugees. According to a statement from his office: “This has resulted in a housing crisis and threats to the services that Ontario families depend on. This mess was 100 per cent the result of the federal government, and the federal government should foot 100 per cent of the bills.” Of course, neither the profit driven housing bubble nor privatization of services were mentioned.

The real violence: poverty, discrimination and austerity

Not content to marginalize First Nations and scapegoat refugees, Ford’s government moved to demonize Toronto’s Black communities over gun violence and crime. Asked in the legislature about Ford’s unabashed support for carding (aka racial profiling), the new Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services (there’s a nice pairing) Michael Tibollo bragged about his recent ride-along with police: “I went out to Jane and Finch, put on a bulletproof vest and spent 7 o’clock to 1 o’clock in the morning visiting sites that had previously had bullet-ridden [sic] [and also sick] people killed in the middle of the night.”

He also spoke of how he and Ford had visited a crack house and “walked over broken crack pipes.” He said this without a hint of irony. Tibollo is the Minister responsible for the anti-racism portfolio.

Jane Finch Action Against Poverty responded with a brilliant statement: “Thousands of residents of Jane-Finch, from over one hundred cultural backgrounds, proudly live in the neighbourhood, without (a) bulletproof vest or fear of each other, knowing that the most brutal violence imposed on them has been caused by poverty and racial discrimination reproduced by all levels of government, and years of austerity and rich-loving/poor-bashing policies. Instead of scapegoating and stereotyping our community, stop cutting community programs and services, stop providing more tax breaks to the rich and corporations so they can become even richer, stop destroying our public schools and creating more precarious employment and stop justifying more policing in our neighbourhoods; start bringing real long-term decent jobs and sustainable investments in the community as opposed to short term PR announcements.”

Ford and his government have moved beyond dog-whistles that only their racist Dobermans can hear. To ignore or deny a consistent thread of racism in word and deed from these Tories would be difficult—yet Ford remains stubbornly popular among the communities he regularly insults because of his reputation as champion of the underdog. This reputation is a lie, of course, but one carefully constructed through years of repetition.

And so more Muslims will be attacked and insulted. More young Black men will be humiliated by police harassment. More First Nations people will be vilified for standing their ground. It will continue until we smash the lie, and stuff that dog-whistle down Doug Ford’s throat.

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