Caylan Ford, co-writer and co-producer of a documentary movie called Letter from Masanjia, poses for a photo at her home in Calgary, on Wednesday October 10, 2018. Leah Hennel/Postmedia

Caylan Ford opens up in new film pushing back against cancel culture

Her promising political career dematerialized abruptly in a pre-2019 election mobbing

On May 5, an important documentary film, “When the Mob Came,” was released by producer Caylan Ford. The well-crafted and absorbing film chronicles Ford’s 2019 political cancellation saga. I recommend it highly.

Considering the innocence of the target, the apparent spite that sparked the all-consuming wildfire surrounding her and the complicity of political elites and some members of the media in fanning its flames, I regard Ford’s ordeal as a singularly disgraceful blot on Canada’s civic landscape.


In 2019, Ford was considered a star candidate for Alberta’s United Conservative Party in the Calgary-Mountain View riding. Her promising political career dematerialized abruptly in a pre-election mobbing, set in motion by a former “friend” and political rival, Karim Jivraj.


Jivraj’s contention that Ford held views that were sympathetic to “white supremacists” — based on a superficially damning, but incomplete fragment of a private 2017 Facebook conversation about political radicalism — was fed to, and published by, Press Progress (created by the Broadbent Institute as a pseudo-journalistic conduit for NDP self-promotion).

Attacks on Ford went viral on Twitter, with lusty participation by allegedly objective journalists. Film snippets show UCP Leader Jason Kenney disavowing her, as well as NDP Leader Rachel Notley and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi condemning her.


Ford had, allegedly at Jivraj’s request a year previous to the leak, deleted the long Facebook dialogue that would have provided exonerating context, including Ford’s unequivocal denunciation, according to her account, of white supremacy as an “odious” and “perverse” form of reasoning — comments not included in the Press Progress report. Virtually overnight, Ford became a political persona non grata and a social pariah.


The decision in a restraining-order case that Ford brought against Jivraj paints a picture of a man who appears to be responsible for an egregious string of lies and hostile acts designed to clip Ford’s political wings.

According to the decision, Jivraj “spread a rumour” that Ford had accused another candidate of sexual harassment; the judge agreed Jivraj had “lied” about this. Jivraj purchased the internet domain name, and he was accused of sending anonymous emails to electors and party members, urging them to vote against Ford and questioning her eligibility to run.

The judge in the case found “a deliberate course of harassment” in Jivraj’s behaviour, and noted that, “Jivraj’s obvious malice toward Ms. Ford makes consideration of the (Facebook) messages unnecessary and strongly points to the need to protect Ms. Ford from him.” (Ford says she eventually recovered Jivraj’s record of the Facebook transcript from Meta, Facebook’s parent company.)

The great irony of this case is that Ford has long been a student of anti-democratic regimes and human rights. At 16, she began volunteer work with refugees and asylum seekers, in the process becoming the youngest Canadian to be blacklisted by the Chinese Communist Party. She has testified before United States congressional commissions on human rights issues, and worked with Iranian dissidents on internet freedom. Is this the profile of a white supremacism sympathizer?

“When the Mob Came” details Caylan Ford’s personal story, but the narrative arc, climaxing with the humiliating isolation of the target by self-serving authority figures, will be familiar to anyone who has endured the cancellation process.

Ford says she didn’t make the film to get revenge. While firmly rejecting the word “victim” to describe herself, she wants to make sense of her suffering, to reassure herself that “things are not so bad as they seem and that redemption is possible.” Ford describes just how bad “things” were:


“It’s like being turned into a ghost, basically. You’ve been socially murdered. Fully. I mean, like, character assassination is not a hyperbole in this case. As a public person, you have been completely vaporized and replaced by some evil doppelganger version of yourself that’s totally unrecognizable. Yeah. Your friends leave you, your community leaves you. You have no purpose, no work, no way of earning a livelihood.


“So it’s like you’re a ghost, because you’re sort of half dead and yet you’re still here. There’s no relief from the pain. It’s as though the thread that connects you to your past and to your future has been severed and you just sort of linger in this purgatory, watching what would have been your life play out, and you’re not part of it anymore.”

The pain she felt included suicidal thoughts, of course. That’s what mobs can induce. “I felt like this was going to last forever,” Ford said, “that it would just be better if I ceased to exist. Like, not by my own hand. I wouldn’t do that. But wouldn’t it be better if I just didn’t wake up one morning? … I stared into a void, and I liked what I saw.”


That void is happily behind Ford now. Today, she’s the founder and chair of a flourishing charter school in Calgary. She is no longer alone. She can hold her head high.


Ford also filed a $7-million defamation claim against the NDP, the Broadbent Institute (Press Progress has no independent legal standing), the CBC, the Toronto Star and others. The tide of cancel culture will only begin to recede if the literal cost of institutional irresponsibility is too high.