Premier Doug Ford’s chief of staff ordered senior political aides to direct police to raid outlaw cannabis stores the day marijuana became legal and to show “people in handcuffs,” the Toronto Star has learned.
The edict from Dean French — an unelected political aide — in two conference calls the morning of Oct. 17 met stiff resistance from staff in the community safety ministry and the attorney general’s office, said four Progressive Conservative sources familiar with the situation.
“We’re not a police state. We don’t have the right or the ability to direct police to do anything,” said one insider who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
There is a longstanding tradition in western democracies — reinforced in Ontario by the Ipperwash tragedy in 1995 — that government stays clear of day-to-day police operations.
Some staff did call several police forces to ask about enforcement plans that day but did not issue any orders, the PC sources said. Police replied their priority is to shut down illegal supply lines to the outlaw shops.
“We could do no more than ask and we did no more than ask. But Dean’s expectations were that we were going to actually tell them to do it and they would do it,” one insider added.
The Toronto Star has agreed not to name the sources as they feared retribution.
In a statement to the Star on Tuesday, the premier’s office did not deny French issued the instructions and said “the government’s priority has been protecting communities, children and combating the illegal market.”
“A key part of that includes shutting down illegal dispensaries that were operating post-October 17,” Ford spokesman Simon Jefferies said.