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Toronto police to honour their old adversary Rob Ford at his funeral on Wednesday

Richard Warnica

It will be in many ways a fitting end to a relationship that was by turns strained and strange — both combative and close, like so much during the Rob Ford years.

On Wednesday, the former Toronto mayor will be carried from city hall by an honour guard of Toronto police officers. His body will be led to a nearby church accompanied by a mounted police unit and the police service pipe band. Dignitaries at the funeral will include police Chief Mark Saunders and Mike McCormack, the head of the Toronto Police Association.

The former mayor’s casket is set to be taken from city hall at 11 a.m., after an hour of greetings inside the rotunda. He will be marched through Nathan Phillips Square and through downtown to the Cathedral Church of St. James.

Once at the church, honorary pallbearers, including Ford’s brothers Randy and Doug, nephew Michael, former staffers Amin Massoudi and Dan Jacobs and friend Dom Sgambelluri, will walk the casket inside for a full service, overseen by Rev. Colin Johnson, the Anglican Archbishop of Toronto. Former premier Mike Harris will be among those paying tribute to Ford during the service.

Mourners stream in to see casket of Rob Ford at City Hall

Afterward, the family will bury Ford in a private ceremony before reconvening for a public celebration of Ford’s life at the Toronto Congress Centre in Etobicoke.

The police display will mark perhaps the most unexpected honour for a man who spent so much of his mayoralty under investigation — and one who, in a secretly recorded video, hurled expletives at former police chief Bill Blair.

Ford’s relationship with the police service, from the time he was a city councillor, through his 2010-14 mayoralty and even into his darkest days, was always complicated, though.

He long had a reputation as a friend of the rank and file. But as mayor he earned the ire of the police union and the police brass by backing calls for a freeze and eventual cut to the police budget.

Ford was subject to an expensive investigation into his conduct, and that of his associates, following revelations on a crack video. But he also maintained deep wells of support within the force.

(Ford’s former chief of staff, Mark Towhey, wrote last year that two separate senior police sources told him officers “had pulled over (Ford’s) car late at night on multiple occasions and driven him home rather than charging him with driving under the influence.”)

“He was a very complex person,” said McCormack, who clashed with Ford at times on budget issues, but praised him Tuesday as a “forthright” politician who spoke plainly about his views.

McCormack said he planned to attend Ford’s funeral Wednesday “out of respect.” Mark Pugash, a police service spokesman, confirmed that Saunders, too, would be in attendance. Members of the Chief’s Ceremonial Unit have also been standing guard over Ford’s casket at city hall since Monday morning.

Peter J. Thompson/National Post

Peter J. Thompson/National PostThen-mayor Rob Ford poses for a photo with Toronto police officers after handing out community safety awards in 2014.

Alok Mukherjee, who served as police board chair throughout Ford’s mayoralty, said Ford always backed his efforts to modernize the police budget. He said he has no real issue with the police honouring Ford now, despite his assorted troubles as mayor.

“The fact remains that while he was investigated by the police, there were not any charges,” Mukherjee said. “To that extent there is no reason for police to be not honouring him now.”

Ford maintained that the police investigation was payback for his attempts to cut the budget. “It should never have happened in the first place,” he said in an interview with the National Post, conducted last fall. “It all came down to politics.”

Blair, whom he blamed for that investigation, is now a Liberal MP in Scarborough. A spokesman for Blair was unable to say Tuesday whether the former chief planned to attend Ford’s funeral.

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