TORONTO – Mayor Rob Ford has stepped into scandal again after it was revealed he posed for a photo with a neo-Nazi in January and then met with him in March to talk “transit issues.”
Liberal insider Warren Kinsella called Ford out Thursday on the photo, going as far to post it on his own website, warrenkinsella.com, and asking, “Why is Toronto’s mayor pals with a former neo-Nazi icon?”
Kinsella, who is a regular contributor to the Sun News Network and writes columns in the Toronto Sun, points out Jon Latvis was a former member of the neo-Nazi band RAHOWA (Racial Holy War).
A Facebook profile under Latvis’ name posted the picture on May 6 with the caption: “Me meeting with Toronto’s Mayor, Rob Ford to get an endorsement for the Latvian Homeguard — at Toronto City Hall.”
In the photo, Ford is smiling and wearing his chain of office.
In response to QMI Agency questions about the photo, the mayor’s office confirmed it was taken at City Hall in January during the mayor’s New Year’s levee.
George Christopoulos, Ford’s press secretary, stressed Ford didn’t endorse the Latvian Hom Guard and condemns all forms of racism.
“The mayor of Toronto meets and poses for photos with thousands of residents each year,” Christopoulos said. “Over the past two years, he has hosted two New Year’s levees. Both of these events welcomed thousands of visitors to City Hall. Many of those visitors were greeted and posed for a picture with the mayor.”
During this year’s levee, Ford shook hands with around 800 people in the City Hall rotunda.
“I can confirm he did not endorse the Latvian Home Guard,” Christopoulos said. “(Mayor Ford) condemns all forms of racism.”
The mayor’s office issued a statement late Thursday about the photo and revealed the mayor met with the man in March as well.
“During both the levee and the March meeting, the gentleman identified himself using a name different from the one attributed to him in the recent blog article,” the statement read.
“Once the photograph was posted online today, mayor’s office staff recognized the individual as someone who had met with the mayor at the levee and again in March.”
“At no time was the mayor aware of allegations that this individual had made racist, hateful or otherwise offensive comments, nor were any such comments made during his meeting with the mayor. Mayor Ford is a strong supporter of Toronto’s Jewish community and strongly deplores anti-Semitism in any form.”
The statement indicated during the March meeting “the gentleman met briefly with the mayor to discuss his concerns which primarily focused on transit issues.”
The photo-op isn’t the first time a Toronto mayor has had to explain why they were standing beside someone.
Former mayor David Miller posed for a photo with Daniel Katsnelson — then Daniel Kaye — in August 2009. Katsnelson was part of a company that the city partnered with to create the Live Green Toronto Membership card. He pleaded guilty in January 2010 to two counts of sexual assault for attacks in York University’s Vanier residence during frosh week 2007.
In January 2002, then-mayor Mel Lastman met with a throng of Hells Angels who were in the city to celebrate the biker gang’s one-year anniversary in Ontario.
Lastman’s handshake with a gang member appeared on the front page of a Saturday edition of the Toronto Sun.