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November 22, 2014
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Bieber vs. Ford: Canada’s bad boys

Justin Bieber turns himself in to city police for an assault charge, in Toronto, on Wednesday.
By Charmaine Noronha
AP (*)

Pop star Justin Bieber is giving Toronto Mayor Rob Ford a brief respite as Canada’s favourite bad boy and butt of all jokes.

Ford has admitted smoking crack while in a drunken stupor and is being sued for supposedly orchestrating the jailhouse beating of his sister’s ex-boyfriend. The 19-year-old teen idol is facing the equivalent of a misdemeanour assault charge.

The incident, which comes on the heels of Bieber’s Miami arrest while apparently drag racing and driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs, is the latest to sully the image of the singer who has been drawing more attention for his brushes with the law than for his music.

“He had to fly to Toronto to turn himself in. Boy, this kid is really on a crime spree. He’s become a menace to society. I liked him better when he was just a menace to music,” said TV comedian Jimmy Kimmel. “By the way, when you have Justin Bieber and Rob Ford together in the same place it’s like Gotham City got attacked by the Joker and the Penguin at once.”

Others feel a comparison with Laurel and Hardy more appropriate. On Wednesday, former Globe and Mail reporter Steve Ladurantaye tweeted an image of Bieber and Ford decked out to resemble the classic comedy duo. “Seems as good a time as ever to look at this picture again,” Ladurantaye, who now works for Twitter Canada, said in the tweet.

Even some members of the Toronto city council — all too familiar with Mayor Ford’s foibles — were compelled to weigh-in on the battle of the country’s bad boys. “Both Justin Bieber and Mayor Ford need to get their lives together,” said Toronto City Councilor Joe Mihevc yesterday on the sidelines of a council meeting.

Amidst all the hullabaloo, it’s perhaps not surprising the Toronto mayor has rushed to Bieber’s defence.

“He’s a young guy. I wish I was as successful as he was. He’s 19 years old. Think about when you were 19,” Ford opined during one of his regular call-in appearances on a Washington D.C. radio show called The Sports Junkies.

A side-effect of Bieber’s scuffles with the law has been to remind Americans that the teen idol is not a US citizen. Advocacy groups, acutely aware of how less famous immigrants are treated upon arrest in the United States, have started an online petition with over 100,000 signatures demanding that the Obama administration “deport Justin Bieber and revoke his green card.”

Errol Nazareth, a pop culture commentator for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, says he thinks deportation is a bit much and that the whole comparison is probably being blown out of proportion.

“It’s really just an imperfect storm of two people who seem to be up to no good at the same time. It’s really just more of a circus than a statement on our reputation,” Nazareth said. “Bieber is trying to project this bad boy image. They (Bieber and Ford) are both projecting weird images and it’s not surprising they become the butt of jokes. They’re easy targets.”

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