Bill Blair (police chief)

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Bill Blair
Bill Blair.JPG
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Assumed office
December 2, 2015
Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould
Preceded by Bob Dechert
Robert Goguen
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Scarborough Southwest
Assumed office
October 19, 2015
Preceded by Dan Harris
Chief of the Toronto Police Service
In office
6 April 2005 – 25 April 2015
Preceded by Mike Boyd
Succeeded by Mark Saunders
Personal details
Born William Sterling Blair
1954 (age 61–62)[1]
Scarborough, Ontario
Nationality Canadian
Political party Liberal Party of Canada
Spouse(s) Susan Blair
Alma mater University of Toronto[2]

William Sterling "Bill" Blair,[3]:870 COM MP (born 1954) is a Canadian politician and the current Member of Parliament representing the federal electoral district of Scarborough Southwest. He is also the current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. Before federal politics, he served as the chief of the Toronto Police Service from 2005 until his April 25, 2015 retirement. Prior to his time as chief, Blair had a three decade career in the service.

Early life and education[edit]

Blair was born in Scarborough, Ontario. Blair's father had served as a police officer for 39 years.[4] Blair considered pursuing a degree in law or finance, when he initially enrolled at the University of Toronto Scarborough in the mid 1970s.[4] Blair initially studied economics at the University of Toronto. He left to follow his ambition of being a police officer, but returned later and completed a Bachelor of Arts in economics and criminology.[1]

Police career[edit]

Blair joined the Toronto Police Service while in university to make money and began taking courses on a part-time basis.[4] Blair walked a beat near Regent Park and later worked as an undercover officer in Toronto's drug squad.[4]

After Blair earned his bachelor's degree in criminology, he advanced his career in the police service in the late 1980s, taking part in drug busts involving the seizure of millions of dollars of cocaine.[4] Chief David Boothby assigned Blair to improve the poor community relations between the officers of 51 Division, which patrolled Blair's old beat near Regent Park.[4] Blair normalized police relations with the community by measures such as sending cops to read to kids in local elementary schools and engaging with local businesses and churches.[4]

In 1999, Blair was considered as a candidate to replace outgoing chief Boothby, but mayor Mel Lastman, with the support of Premier Mike Harris, chose to hire Julian Fantino, then head of the York Regional Police.[4] After reorganization of the senior ranks after Fantino's ascension as police chief, Fantino became head of detective operations.[4]

Chief of the Toronto Police Service[edit]

Blair was selected in a 4–2 vote of the Toronto Police Services Board in early April 2005,[5] and formally appointed Chief of the Toronto Police Service on April 26, 2005.[2] He succeeded Mike Boyd, who had served as interim chief after the expiry of Julian Fantino's contract.[5] Prior to his appointment as chief, Blair worked for approximately 30 years as a Toronto police officer, with assignments involving drug enforcement, organized crime and major criminal investigations.[2] Blair served as president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.[2] In 2007, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces[6]:840–841 and in 2012, he was elevated within the Order to the level of Commander.[7] He is a Member of the Venerable Order of Saint John.[3]:870

At a June 28, 2010 rally, protesters called for Blair's resignation, because of the detention of nearly 1000 people during the 2010 G-20 Toronto summit protests.[8] In a December 8, 2010 interview, Blair indicated that he would not resign, despite growing criticism of his leadership during and after the summit.[9]

Blair responding to media questions at the scene of the Toronto Eaton Centre shooting in June 2012

Responding to questions about a controversial regulation enacted by the Cabinet of Ontario to increase police powers during the summit, Blair was supportive, stating that "[i]t was passed in exactly the procedure as described in our legislation in Ontario".[10] Post-summit reports revealed that on June 25, prior to the start of the summit and shortly after Blair defended a widely reported misinterpretation of the regulation in a press conference, the police department received a government bulletin clarifying the misinterpretation and explaining that the new regulation accorded them no additional power to demand identification outside of the summit perimeter.[11][12] Blair's spokesperson stated that as of the press conference, Blair was unaware of the clarification;[11] however, Blair did not retract his prior remarks to the press after receiving the bulletin.[12] When interviewed after the summit, Blair confirmed that there was never an extraordinary legal requirement for the public to present identification within 5 m of the perimeter fence, but that he "was trying to keep the criminals out".[12] In December 2010, following a critical report by the Ontario Ombudsman, André Marin, Blair admitted regret that he had initially interpreted the regulation at face value, and did not promptly clear up confusion about the meaning of the regulation.[9]

In 2013, Blair came into conflict with Toronto mayor Rob Ford after confirming to the media that the police had obtained a video of the mayor smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine. Blair said he was "disappointed" in the mayor,[13] As the investigation into the mayor and his friend Alessandro Lisi continued, Mayor Ford dared Blair to arrest him and accused him of wasting money in their surveillance of Ford.[14] Councillor Doug Ford claimed Blair had “gone rogue” and violated the Police Services Act when speaking out about the mayor during the ongoing police investigation.[15] On August 11 2014, Blair served councillor Doug Ford with notice of defamation. Doug Ford accused the police chief of using the suit as "payback" in retaliation against the mayor for not extending his contract, but apologized for his comments shortly afterwards.[16]

In his last years in office, Blair was in conflict with several members of the police board over resistance to proposed reforms as well as his resistance to cut the police service's budget. On July 30, 2014, the Toronto Police Services Board announced that it would not renew Blair's contract for a third, five-year term. He retired from the police service when his contract ended on April 25, 2015[17] and was succeeded by Deputy Chief Mark Saunders.[18]

Federal politics[edit]

Blair declined to comment on his future plans while he was still police chief.[19] The Liberal Party of Canada recruited Blair to be its candidate in Scarborough Southwest for the federal election held October 2015. A poll conducted by Forum Research suggested Blair would receive 39% of the vote against 29% for incumbent Dan Harris of the New Democratic Party and 27% for the Conservatives.

On April 25, 2015, Blair confirmed his intention to seek the Liberal Party nomination in Scarborough Southwest.[20] He won the Liberal nomination on June 13, 2015.[21]

On October 19, 2015, Blair was elected in the Scarborough Southwest riding.[22] On December 2, 2015, Blair was named parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice.[23] In January 2016, Blair was named as the head of the federal-provincial task force tasked with creating a plan for the legalization of cannabis in Canada.[24]

Awards and recognition[edit]

On January 19, 2013, Blair was honoured by the Canadian Tamil Congress, with their inaugural “Leaders for Change Award” for his exemplary leadership during the protests of 2009 in Toronto.[25]

Order of Merit of the Police Forces (Canada) ribbon (COM).jpg Order of St John (UK) ribbon.png QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Police Exemplary Service Medal Ribbon.png

Ribbon Description Notes
Order of Merit of the Police Forces (Canada) ribbon (COM).jpg Order of Merit of the Police Forces (COM)
  • Commander 5 January 2012.
  • Officer 11 January 2007.
  • [26]
Order of St John (UK) ribbon.png Order of St John
  • Member
QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
  • 2012
  • Canadian Version of this Medal
  • [27]
Police Exemplary Service Medal Ribbon.png Police Exemplary Service Medal
  • Medal 17 July 1997
  • 1st Bar 21 June 2007


Electoral record[edit]

Canadian federal election, 2015: Scarborough Southwest
Party Candidate Votes % ∆% Expenditures
Liberal Bill Blair 25,586 52.47 +23.13
New Democratic Dan Harris 11,574 23.73 -11.14
Conservative Roshan Nallaratnam 10,347 21.22 -10.46
Green Tommy Taylor 1,259 2.58 -1.48
Total valid votes/Expense limit 48,766 100.0     $204,615.99
Total rejected ballots 277 0.56
Turnout 49,043 67.96
Eligible voters 72,164
Liberal gain from New Democratic Swing +34.27
Source: Elections Canada[29][30]


  1. ^ a b Carlson, Katherine Blaze (2013-11-09). "When 'the weight of the city' is on you". The Globe and Mail. p. M4. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Command Officers' biographies • William Blair". Toronto Police Service. 
  3. ^ a b "Canada Gazette, Part I" (PDF), Canada Gazette, 140 (17), pp. 868–871, 2006-04-29, archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-05-22, retrieved 2010-07-11 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Force for Change | Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair Interview, Crime in Toronto | By John Lorinc | Winter 2016 | University of Toronto Magazine". Retrieved 2016-01-12. 
  5. ^ a b Wanagas, Don (2005-04-14), "Bill Blair's inside job", Now Magazine, 24 (33), archived from the original on 2012-10-22, retrieved 2010-12-24, Blair won in what sources indicate was a four-two vote. Word is, he managed to appeal to Fantino fans Case Ootes and Hugh Locke without completely alienating the so-called progressive contingent. 
  6. ^ "Canada Gazette, Part I" (PDF), Canada Gazette, 142 (13), pp. 840–841, 2008-03-29, archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-05-22, retrieved 2010-07-11 
  7. ^ "Appointment by Order of the Governor General of Canada, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces". Canada Gazette. January 5, 2012. 
  8. ^ Tomasz Bugajski (June 29, 2010). "Peaceful protesters demand resignation of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair". BlogTO. FreshDaily. 
  9. ^ a b Poisson, Jayme (2010-12-08), "The buck stops here, Chief Blair says", Toronto Star, archived from the original on 2015-10-14, retrieved 2010-12-23, In the face of growing criticisms of his handling of the G20 and its aftermath, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair says he will not resign. 
  10. ^ Police powers expanded for G20, CBC News, 2010-06-25, archived from the original on 2012-02-17, retrieved 2010-12-24, Civil liberties groups are concerned about the new regulations, but Toronto police Chief Bill Blair defended the move to add the new powers and denied there was any attempt to deceive the public about how or when they were enacted. 
  11. ^ a b Anna Mehler Paperny (June 29, 2010). "Toronto police knew they had no extra arrest powers". The Globe and Mail. 
  12. ^ a b c "Police admit no five-metre rule existed on security fence law". The Globe and Mail. June 29, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Police Chief Bill Blair on the Rob Ford video" (CBC News). October 31, 2013. Retrieved July 30, 2014. 
  14. ^ "'Arrest me,' Toronto Mayor Rob Ford dares police chief" (Globe and Mail). February 28, 2014. Retrieved July 30, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Highlights of the Chief Bill Blair era" (Toronto Star). July 30, 2014. Retrieved July 30, 2014. 
  16. ^ Jennifer Pagliaro (August 12, 2014). "Toronto police Chief Bill Blair serves Doug Ford with notice of defamation". Toronto Star. 
  17. ^ "Toronto police board won't renew Bill Blair's contract". Toronto Star. Retrieved July 30, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Toronto gets new police chief". Toronto Star. April 20, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Campaign to recruit Bill Blair for Liberal party launched online". Toronto Star. April 15, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015. 
  20. ^ "Bill Blair wants to run for Liberals in fall election". Toronto Star. April 25, 2015. Retrieved April 25, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Former Toronto police chief Bill Blair wins Liberal nomination". Toronto Star. June 13, 2015. Retrieved June 14, 2015. 
  22. ^ Rushowy, Kristin (2015-10-19). "Toronto's former top cop was elected for the Liberals in Scarborough Southwest.". The Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 2016-01-11. 
  23. ^ "Trudeau names his 'middle bench,' as parliamentary secretaries assigned". Retrieved 2016-01-11. 
  24. ^ "Bill Blair faces 'formidable challenge' in leading marijuana task force". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2016-01-11. 
  25. ^ [1][dead link] on
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ Elections Canada – Confirmed candidates for Scarborough Southwest, 30 September 2015
  30. ^ Elections Canada – Preliminary Election Expenses Limits for Candidates

External links[edit]