After everything that has happened, it seems futile to ask Mayor Rob Ford to do the right thing. But could he at least have the grace to skip Monday's Remembrance Day ceremony?
The event is to take place at the cenotaph outside Old City Hall beginning at 10:45 a.m. It will be the usual solemn affair, made even more poignant by the fact that the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War is coming next year.
An artillery corporal will play The Last Post and Reveille. Vintage warplanes will perform a flypast. The gathering will observe two minutes of silence. The tower bells will toll the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
There will be a reading of John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields. ("We are the Dead. Short days ago/We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.") A hymn, The Supreme Sacrifice, will be sung. ("All you had hoped for/all you had, you gave/To save mankind – yourself you scorned to save.")
In the middle of it all, says the official program, "His Worship Mayor Rob Ford" will deliver an address. That is the same Rob Ford who admitted, after months of denial, to smoking crack cocaine; the same Rob Ford who explained he was probably in a drunken stupor; the same Rob Ford who has been caught in mysterious exchanges with a suspected drug dealer; the same Rob Ford who delivers an incoherent rant in a newly revealed video clip; the same Rob Ford who has so far refused every plea from his city council colleagues to put the city first and step aside.
That he is still in office a week and half after the police chief confirmed the existence of the infamous drug video is surprising enough. That he believes that he can go on just as before, business as usual, is shocking. That he thinks he has the moral authority to deliver a remembrance address is simply staggering.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly argues that it is important for the person who holds the office of mayor to attend, whatever the circumstances. "When you salute, you salute the office not the man," he says. But in this case, the man is overshadowing the office. By deceiving the people of Toronto for so long, by causing a scandal that has made headlines around the world, he has lost all credibility.
How can he presume to stand beside those veterans in medals and berets? How can he dare to speak about sacrifice and honour?
That word, honour, has an antique ring to modern ears. But it applies here. Oxford calls it "the quality of knowing and doing what is morally right." The vets who will stand in the cold at the cenotaph on Monday know what it means.