Yes, It Was an Abuse of Power: John Tory and Vitiation of Consent

Simone Samuels
9 min readFeb 14

On Friday night, the mayor of the largest city in Canada, John Tory, confessed that he had an “inappropriate relationship” with a younger (former) female staffer.

It concerns me that so many people do not see this as an abuse of power or abuse of authority.

I don’t know why we insist on seeing things in a vacuum. Our analyses are so myopic. “White lives matter!” “Blue lives matter too!” “Why don’t we have a White History Month?” “Imagine if I ever said that White Girls Rock — I’d be raked over the coals” — and rightly so, given how woefully ignorant these comments are in the context of our well-documented, ever still White supremacist society and the vestiges of centuries of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“They were both consenting adults so there’s nothing wrong here,” which would make sense if we didn’t live in the context of sexism and patriarchy. (I would also like to add that only one person — the mayor, who happens to be male—has said that this relationship was consensual. Heck — maybe it was, and for the woman’s own sake, I don’t expect her to come out and corroborate his words with her own public statement. We’ve only, however, heard the assertion of consent from one side, and, last I checked, one must give their consent to something, and to somebody. It takes two).

My point is, you can’t divorce this situation from the larger social context and systems of oppression always at play.

Consent and Vices

I don’t remember much from contract law, or law school more generally, but my life honestly changed the day I learned about consent. I was finally learning about something relevant to my life, something that had immediate application. I mean, we consent to things all of the time, so this pertained directly to me. Only then was I able to apply a more sophisticated knowledge of the principles of consent to other situations — agreements, yes, but also sexual relationships, sexual assault law, etc. — where consent is at issue.

Here’s the crash course in consent: In contract law, consent has to be clearly, actively and freely given (and ideally enthusiastically given) in order to be valid. There are a number of ways that consent can be “vitiated,”…

Simone Samuels

I like big stories and I cannot lie. Authentic, transparent musings & connecting with others so we can all feel less alone.