CBC did not violate its journalistic standards in reporting Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s 911 calls on Oct 24 last year, according to Kirk LaPointe, the broadcaster’s ombudsman.

CBC did not violate its journalistic standards in reporting Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s 911 calls on Oct 24 last year, says Kirk LaPointe, the broadcaster’s ombudsman.

By now, we’re all familiar with what happened when Mary Walsh – dressed as her long-time This Hour Has 22 Minutes character Marg Delahunty – surprised Ford on his driveway in a manner that Marg is well-known for. Ford didn't see the joke the way most politicians have in the past. The mayor felt threatened, went back inside and called 911.

Based on the accounts from sources from “many levels of the Toronto Police Service,” the ombud says, CBC reported Ford insulted the 911 dispatchers, calling them “bitches,” and using the f-word while identifying himself.

Both Ford and police chief Bill Blair denied the report.

But LaPointe notes, CBC could not retract their statement based on Blair’s account because the chief was “not a disinterested party,” and sources' recollections remained unchanged. The police had only recently concluded budget deliberations with the city at the time, and layoffs in the force had been avoided. In fact, the 2012 police budget increased by $6 million to $936.3 million –  though the force claims based on a new collective agreement, it was still a 4.6 per cent reduction. It was not quite the 10 per cent cut Ford had mandated, though. 


Releasing the tape would settle the matter, but the person who made the call — in this case, Rob Ford — is the only one who can approve its release. The mayor has never consented to releasing the tape, though he also has not asked for an apology or taken legal action against the CBC for their report, the ombud's report says.

“On the one hand, CBC News is a major media organization with a reputation for high quality investigative and precision journalism as part of its public mission,” LaPointe said in the statement. “On the other hand, the chief of police is a major public figure expected to perform impeccable service.

“In this matter only one of them is right. It just isn’t clear whom.”

LaPointe's investigation was impeded by the police's policy of non-disclosure of distress calls and the media's policy of non-disclosure of sources, and his finding that the CBC was not in violation of its journalistic standards is based on the information available.

Read the ombudsman's report in its entirety here