Toronto councillor called police night before arrest

Wife's 'irrational behaviour' prompted call to authorities, Ford's lawyer says

From Friday's Globe and Mail

New details emerged yesterday in the storm around City Councillor Rob Ford as the often-controversial politician returned to work a day after being arrested and charged with assaulting his wife and uttering a death threat.

Mr. Ford, who has said he will fight the charges, told reporters in his city hall office yesterday that he actually phoned police himself on Tuesday night, the night before he was arrested, and asked them to come to the Etobicoke home he shared with his wife, Renata, and their two young children.

Officers arrived, and Mr. Ford said that when police "saw the situation" they asked him to leave and take his two children, one aged 3 and the other six months, out of the house.

At the home yesterday, Ms. Ford was not available to comment. A neighbour described her as reclusive and rarely seen out of the house.

Mr. Ford's lawyer, Dennis Morris, said in an interview that Mr. Ford called police on Tuesday because he was alarmed at his wife Renata's "irrational, out-of-control behaviour" and concerned about the safety of his children. Mr. Ford was arrested after he returned to the house Wednesday morning to get his clothes, and a dispute occurred, Mr. Morris said.

Television news footage showed Mr. Ford holding his three-year-old daughter on Wednesday night and prompting her to tell reporters "no comment" in a doorstep interview about the charges. His lawyer said the Children's Aid Society had granted the politician custody of the children, which he said is unusual in a case where a man is charged with assault.

Mr. Ford has won few friends at council. He has campaigned relentlessly against city spending, frequently attacking the office budgets of other councillors.

In council meetings, he has been known to make points with loud outbursts and controversial comments.

And Mr. Ford was pilloried in the press after a drunken, obscene harangue saw him ejected from a 2006 Maple Leafs game. He first denied, then later apologized for that incident.

Few of Mr. Ford's city council colleagues had much to say, on or off the record yesterday. None contacted by The Globe and Mail - even his many opponents - called for him to step aside.

"That's a decision he'll have to make," Mayor David Miller said yesterday. "Past that, I really can't comment. He's been charged with some very, very serious offences, and it's up to the courts to decide whether those charges are upheld or not."

Mr. Ford, who is to appear in court next week, was at work in his office yesterday and adamant that the charges would not affect his duties.

"I'm elected to do a job," Mr. Ford told reporters in his office, where he said he was still planning to attend a council debate on the city budget on Monday. "I'm here, I'm setting meetings, I'm returning calls like I always do, taking care of my constituents."

The episode is another chapter in a troubled, and often public family story, acknowledged Mr. Ford, whose father was the late Tory MPP Doug Ford.

"There's no secret, our family's had many trials and tribulations over the years," Mr. Ford said.

"Stick together and, you know, forge ahead. It's all I can do. I'm here to do a job. I've never run away and hid from any of my problems.

"I take 'em on. And that's how you have to do it. I'm not going to take a leave of absence or something crazy. That's just not my style."

His trials include harrowing incidents in the life of his sister, Kathy. In 2005, she was shot in the head, but survived in an incident at her Etobicoke home. In 1998, her ex-husband killed her then-boyfriend with a sawed-off shotgun, right in front of her.

In an emotional speech during a 2005 council debate over a "harm-reduction" drug-abuse strategy that included safe-injection sites, Mr. Ford alluded to the 2005 shooting.

"When you talk to a person that was actually shot," he said on the council floor, "and they tell you the story, and you know what? ... This is the last thing they want, is to make this a place where they can go get high at taxpayers' expense."

The home in Etobicoke where the alleged assault occurred is perched on the edge of Lambton Golf and Country Club.

The white-brick bungalow on Edenbridge Drive bears the hallmarks of a cheerful home: A plastic snowman stands in the front yard, children's toys adorn the front windows and on the front door hangs a banner bearing the legend "Love conquers all."

But the blinds were drawn yesterday, and a knock at the house drew a brusque response from Renata Ford's father.

"No, we don't need it," he replied to a question seeking comment as he closed the front door. It was unclear whether his 37-year-old daughter was home.

The Fords jointly purchased the house in November, 2002, for $490,000, mortgage documents show.

Several neighbours lauded Mr. Ford, who seems to be popular on his street.

Neda Gagr, 73, who lives immediately next door to the Fords, was effusive in her praise for him. "He's a good person, tell him he can have a key to my house any time," she said. But she described Ms. Ford as unfriendly and rarely venturing outside.

"Nobody ever saw her out on the street with the kids and she never talked to anybody. Nobody."

With a report from Megan Grittani-Livingston