It’s been a while since the last embarrassing video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, but the mayor is back in the spotlight again thanks to a YouTube video that was posted on Tuesday.
In the video, Ford appears to be standing in a fast-food restaurant and speaking in a fake Jamaican or Caribbean accent.
“For five months… you’re trying to tell me…you’re counter-surveilling me… He’s hiding here, I’m hiding here,” Ford says in the video.
Ford mumbles, swears and is incoherent at times, but does mention “Jane and Finch,” a neighbourhood in northwest Toronto and “Malvern,” a neighbourhood in the east part of the city.
At one point, Ford interacts with a man in the restaurant, who tells the mayor, “we got the best mayor in the world right here. This guy deserves to be even better than Prime Minister Harper.”
On Instagram, user Herman Atwal posted a photo of himself with Ford with the hashtag steakqueen early Tuesday morning, referring to a restaurant Ford has been known to frequent. Ford appears to be wearing the same clothes in the video and in the Instagram photo.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, Ford admitted that the video was shot the previous night and that he was drinking.
“I was with some friends and what I do in my personal life and with my friends, this really has nothing to do with you guys. It’s my own time,” Ford told reporters.
This latest video raises questions about the mayor’s commitment to sobriety, after he apologized repeatedly for his bad behaviour, admitted to smoking crack and blamed his crack smoking on a “drunken stupor.” Ford has said he doesn’t have a drinking problem, that he has stopped drinking and that he doesn’t need a break from his duties as mayor to seek treatment.
Earlier in the day, the mayor’s brother, city Councillor Doug Ford, said that he spoke to his brother Monday night, so the video couldn’t have been shot then. He also said that his brother weighed more in the video, indicating that it was shot at an earlier date.
This isn’t the first time Ford has made news at the Steak Queen. When Toronto police were surveilling Ford and his associate, Alexander Lisi, they followed the pair and a third man to the Steak Queen in August. “All three appeared to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drug[s] but not to the state of impairment,” reported a plainclothes officer who watched Ford on Aug. 21. “Mayor Ford appeared dishevelled with a large sweat stain circling his stomach, sweating profusely from his forehead, his eyes were squinting as he walked, his suit jacket was wrinkled and he wore it without a tie. He was observed leaving with what appeared to be three Styrofoam food containers in bags.”
Late Tuesday night, the Canadian Press moved this story on the words spoken in Ford’s video:
TORONTO – The words are slurred and drawled, trailing off haphazardly into the middle of a barely coherent tirade.
But the Jamaican swear words peppering the latest controversial video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford would pack a much more definite punch if uttered in everyday conversation.
Jamaican Canadians familiar with the patois spoken on their native island say the words “bumbaclot” and “rassclot” have the potential to be extremely offensive when used in the right context.
They said the latest Ford video, which depicts the scandal-plagued mayor hurling the expletives, may well be one of those situations.
It’s difficult to pin down specifics in the video, which was taken late Monday night in a northwest Toronto restaurant.
Ford, who admitted he had been drinking the night the video was shot, references both Toronto’s police chief and unspecific surveillance efforts as part of a minute-long rant. Jamaican obscenities feature in the video more than once, though never in direct reference to a clear subject.
NOTE TO READERS: The following discusses Jamaican swear words and references English equivalents.
Those words, however, are offensive in the vast majority of situations in which they’re commonly used, experts said.
Bob Arthurs, a retired school teacher and current president of the Jamaican Canadian Association Alberta, said “bumbaclot” and “rassclot” have become common slang in Jamaica’s poorer communities.
They are essentially synonyms that equate to hurling a particularly vehement f-bomb, he added.
“If you met someone on the street you didn’t know and you said, ‘you’re a bumbaclot,’ that could be a very trying situation for you,” Arthurs said in a telephone interview from Calgary.
Both words have their origins in African languages imported from eras when Jamaica was a hotbed of slavery, said York University Jamaican Creole professor Clive Forrester.
“Bumbo,” meaning vagina in some languages, was combined with the word “klaat” or cloth, he said, adding the final result would literally translate to calling someone a sanitary napkin.
As it was adopted into Jamaican dialect, however, the word took on other connotations and even had serious ramifications for those who used it, he said.
“This is simply a straight up curse word,” Forrester wrote in an email. “Not suitable for use in polite company or in the presence of children, and performers have been fined in the past for using the word on stage.”
Junior Ford, owner of a business in Toronto’s Jamaican community, said direct English equivalents for the words are difficult to pin down.
Apart from being a run-of-the-mill swear word, he said “bumbaclot” and “rassclot” are sometimes used as low-level threats when people are spoiling for a fight.
“It is aggressive. Sometimes you’re saying ‘F off’” or ‘F you.’ It’s almost the same thing,” he said.
Both Forrester and Arthurs said more positive interpretations of the words do exist, adding context is everything.
Arthurs said either term becomes socially acceptable when used as an exclamation of surprise rather than as a description of an event or person.
“You see a nice girl, you could use that phrase as well. You suddenly found out you won the lottery you could use that very same phrase and exclaim,” Arthurs said.
Rob Ford’s uses of the slang, which came under fire from Toronto city council members on Tuesday, do not appear to fall into this category.
Arthurs interpreted Ford’s statements to pertain to an unknown situation, while Forrester suggested proper context is impossible to pin down without knowing who the mayor was speaking to.
But Coun. Michael Thompson, the city’s only black councillor, did not mince his words when he described the mayor’s interpretation of “supposedly being Jamaican” as offensive.
He called it another unfortunate situation in the “unravelling of Rob Ford,” saying many fellow councillors were skeptical of Ford’s claims of sobriety.
“We’ve been fairly silent in just waiting for the next thing to occur,” Thompson said. “I think we all had sort of concluded it was only a matter of time.”
When questioned about the video on Tuesday, Ford defended his right to drink on his own time and said he did not think the language he used was offensive or discriminatory.
“It’s how I speak with some of my friends,” he said.
After viewing the video multiple times, Arthurs said that last claim, at least, rings true.
“It wasn’t too bad at all,” he said of the mayor’s attempt at Patois. “Obviously he’s got Jamaican friends and he’s been around Jamaicans quite a bit, because that’s exactly how Jamaicans on the street would describe the situation.”