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Judge rules to unseal Project Traveller documents

Project TRaveller Etobicoke raids police
Police raided the apartments at 390 Kingsview on Thursday morning and arrested this man. Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images

TORONTO – Lawyers for several Toronto media organizations will get to see documents related to the recent raids dubbed “Project Traveller.”

But first Crown lawyers have two months to redact them.

In June, police raided several addresses in north Etobicoke, including 320 Dixon Road. They arrested 28 people and seized dozens of firearms, over $500,000 in cash and approximately $3 million worth of narcotics.

The north Etobicoke apartment complex had been identified by several media outlets as the location of an alleged video of someone matching Mayor Rob Ford’s appearance smoking what could be crack cocaine.

The media outlets –  Global News, The Canadian Press, The Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, CBC, CTV and Postmedia among them – argued the warrants are a matter of “great public interest” given a possible link Mayor Rob Ford.

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“This would not be the release of information to the media but rather to us – the counsel – so we can make informed arguments about whether or not the material ought to be made available to the public,” media lawyer Peter Jacobsen said.

The Crown argued that it needed six to nine months in order to vet the documents. Judge Phillip Downes rejected that idea and gave the crown until August 27 to submit a redacted version.

“In my view, the Crown’s position is unjustified and unreasonable,” Downes said in the decision.

The Crown can, however, request more time to turn over the 205 pages to media lawyers.

Jacobsen said Downes’ decision “promotes transparency.”

“The judges ‘ decision is both welcome and timely and provides for media counsel to get the redacted materials from the Crown by August 27 with a substantive argument  to be scheduled no later than September 12, 2013.”

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair refused to confirm or deny any connection the mayor may have had to the Project Traveller raids.

But Sources  have told Global News that police learned about the alleged video before the Toronto Star and American website Gawker originally reported on it in May.

Global News has not seen the video and cannot verify its authenticity.

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The mayor has called the allegations “ridiculous.” According to his brother Councillor Doug Ford, they are “untrue.”

Ford also denied using crack cocaine at a press conference a week after the allegations originally surfaced.

I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I addicted to crack cocaine,” he said in late May.

–        With files from The Canadian Press