A special budget meeting at Toronto city hall was interrupted on Monday in order to hear an apology from Councillor Rob Ford for a perceived racist comment made recently.
Ford held his ground when confronted with a petition signed by 260 people asking for him to apologize for racist comments made towards Asians while discussing whether to extend holiday shopping hours.
Councillor Adam Vaughan of Trinity-Spadina, read a letter from the members of his constituency, directed at Ford and the comments made.
Ford had said that during a trip to the “orient” he had witnessed ‘oriental workers sleeping by their sewing machines.’ Ford claimed he thought he was giving them a compliment.
“What I might have done is refer to them as Orientals, and that I did not know was a racist comment,” Ford said. “What I should have said is Asian.”
Ford stated that he has no problem apologizing for this and claimed that he already has at least “50 times” through the media.
Ford also claimed that he did not mean any harm when he said that Asians ‘work like dogs.’
“My father told me everyday to get up out of bed and work like a dog,” Ford stated. “That means that you are a hard worker.”
Council speaker Sandra Bussin stated that she believed Ford’s comments to be derogatory and asked for him again to apologize.
However, despite her requests, Ford continued to defend his comments.
Oxford offers ‘Oriental Studies’
“I have travelled to the Orient and I saw how hard they do work,” he stated again.
He also raised a No Frills flyer that an Asian constituent had given him.
“At No Frills they are advertising Oriental Flavour, 100 per cent pure corn starch.”
Ford questioned why it is acceptable to use ‘Orient’ when referring to Oriental Studies at Oxford University and it is acceptable to use Oriental Flavour at No Frills, but he can’t use the term in council meetings.
Speaker Bussin, still unsatisfied with Ford’s apology, asked again for him to retract and apologize
“Coun. Ford, I have indicated that your remarks were inappropriate and should be withdrawn and you should apologize,” Bussin said. “You have indicated ‘if I have offended’ and I have ruled that you have offended and you must apologize.”
Ford continued to stand his ground refusing to apologize stating that he had retracted his statements and that this should be considered satisfactory.
Speaker Bussin was forced to bring it to a recorded vote which carried 33-8 in favour of the speaker and Ford apologizing.
Ford finally muttered a ‘sorry’ into his microphone, which Bussin accepted.
“I will accept that as his apology,” she said.
The meeting then continued as scheduled to discuss the operating budget for the city.