Ontario Premier Doug Ford has proved once again that he does not worry about being "politically correct", after saying on Friday that he does not regret calling a mental health detainee a “nutcase” and a “meat-cleaver murderer.” Far from apologizing for his comments last month, which led to widespread condemnation from mental health experts, Ford added that the escaped patient was “an animal.” Ford's comments on these mental health issues have led Canadians to call him "The New Trump".
The comments made by Ford last month refer to mental health patient, Zhebin Cong, who was found not criminally responsible for murdering his roommate in 2014, due to serious mental illness. Cong was a patient at the secured forensic unit of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto but managed to escape the facility on July 3. When Cong failed to return from a routine, unaccompanied trip into the community, Toronto police learned that the man had left the country. He is now believed to be in China.
In July, Ford spoke with Jerry Agar on Newstalk 1010 radio about the incident, calling the escapee a “nutcase,” a “meat-cleaver murder” and saying that “crazy, crazy people” like Cong should be locked up, with the key thrown away. Despite widespread criticism from the Canadian public for these comments, when asked on Friday if he regrets the comments that he made, Ford simply said, “no.”
Speaking on Friday Ford said, “It’s about time politicians stop hiding behind podiums and being politically correct.” Speaking again of Cong, Ford added, “He grabbed a meat cleaver and chopped up his roommate … just imagine if it was your daughter that this animal chopped up.”
Ford went on to explain that he believed people with mental health issues should not be exempt from prison, saying, “We’ve got to put these people away and if they have mental health issues they can be dealt with in jail — simple as that.”
The Ontario Premier went on to claim he was “passionate about helping people with true mental illness,” but told the Canadian public to “stop sympathizing with axe-wielding murderers and all this bleeding heart stuff.”
Similar to when Ford made his comments about Cong in July, Ontarians were quick to call out their premier on his use of language. In a number of tweets, Canadians compared Ford to U.S. President Donald Trump. One user wrote, “Straight out of the #Trump playbook. Take a good look at this, Canada. This is the new #conservatism and its [sic] terrifying.”
Another added, “Exactly like his American hero.”
In response to a post about Ford’s most recent comments, one Canadian wrote, “This is the type of casual hate & incitement I tweeted about just moments ago. This is why so many people live in constant fear, those w/ mental health issues, homeless, POC, LGBTQ, muslims, etc...Our politicians breed hate with such politically fashioned flippancy.”
Another person agreed with this sentiment, adding, “Our Premier is referring to mentally ill people as "animals". His own family is riddled with mental illness and this is how he feels. Terrifying.”
A number of users also pointed out that while they agreed it was not ok that Cong managed to escape the mental health facility, Ford’s language was unacceptable.
An external review is underway by CAMH to address how a number of patients have managed to evade their facilities recently. However, they have defended the use of ‘community passes,’ saying that they’re an essential part of rehabilitation and recovery for their patients.
Toronto police are also conducting a separate review into Cong’s escape.