The Caribbean Diaspora came, sang their hymns and choruses and Bob Marley’s One Love as thousands in Toronto said farewell to former mayor Rob Ford yesterday, including a joyful moment at St. James Cathedral when his daughter Stephanie, 11, told mourners, “He’s the mayor of Heaven now.”
Ford’s funeral procession wound from City Hall where he had lain in repose for two days as hundreds solemnly walked past the coffin to the cathedral where Stephanie reminisced about her father’s love and last days and said, “I know my dad is in a better place now.”
Stephanie, thanked the community and added, “It means so much to my brother Dougie and I” as she and their mother Renata stood before the crowd in the cathedral.
“I remember at the hospital, he smiled at me and he said, ‘Stephanie, I might not be here for too much longer. I want you to remember that I’ll always love you. I need you and your brother to be strong for your mom’.”
Ford’s one-term mayoralty was troubled by cocaine use, bouts with alcohol and raw verbal outbursts but many mourners yesterday were reminded that as a councilor he kept trying to make Toronto a better place, returning phone calls, visiting those who needed help and providing municipal politics with his everyman touch.
Many of those in the procession and lining Queen, Yonge and King streets as it passed by carried Ford election signs or banners and flags declaring Ford Nation. Members of Ford’s family rode in a funeral car while others walked behind the hearse. An honour guard acted as pallbearers at the cathedral.
Stephanie underlined the outpouring of support when she said her dad was “a great man, he helped a lot of people. He would buy us the best toys and take us to amazing places. But what matters is we were happy together.”
That was the theme for many who walked the distance from City Hall to St. James Cathedral, including Dr. Sylvanus Thompson, committee chair of spelling bee at the Jamaican Canadian Association.
Thompson told The Camera “It’s a sad day to say goodbye to a former mayor of Toronto. So I am here like everyone else to pay my last respect.”
Many politicians and members of Ontario’s elite, including many from the Conservative fold were on hand as were Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor John Tory. Former Ontario premier Mike Harris delivered a eulogy praising Ford who died March 22 after battling a rare soft-tissue cancer for 18 months. He was 46.
Some news commentators noted the irony of elite members of the community being at the funeral as Ford was elected as mayor partly on a platform of controlling “downtown elites” at City Hall and ending “the gravy train” as he saw it of municipal spending.
As Jennifer Broomes summed up as she walked the route, “I know there are a lot of critics where Rob Ford, the former mayor was concerned, but he was a people’s person. He kept his promise. If he told you he will call you back, he will call you.”
Broomes said, “We all have flaws, at the end of the day, lots of love poured out of former mayor Ford.”
Christina Persaud, said, “I will remember him, Rob Ford, as one who took a stand for the rights of Christians, served the community and loved people.” Persaud is married to Pastor Donnie Persaud who has Guyanese roots.