TORONTO – The mystery of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's whereabouts deepened Tuesday, following reports that he did not enter the United States as expected but instead returned to Canada after landing at a Chicago airport.
Ford's lawyer said last week that the mayor had left Toronto for rehab after a video surfaced that appeared to show him smoking a crack pipe late last month — nearly a year after reports of an initial video that appeared show him smoking the drug. The lawyer, Dennis Morris, said Ford's plane was headed for Chicago.
But Roy Norton, the Consul General of Canada in Chicago, told The Globe and Mail that Ford voluntarily withdrew his application to enter the U.S. when he landed and was "not denied entry, per se." Norton didn't return messages left by The Associated Press, and Canada's foreign affairs department deferred comment to U.S. officials.
Kris Grogan, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in an email that the federal Privacy Act prevents officials from commenting on "an individual's processing," but he noted that anyone hoping to enter the U.S. must "overcome ALL grounds of inadmissibility." He said there are more than 60 grounds for inadmissibility, including criminality, security reasons and documentation requirements.
Once a foreign visitor is formally denied entry, they have to receive special permission from the government to try to come back. If Ford decided on his own not to ask immigration authorities to let him in, future visits could be as simple as presenting his passport at the border.
Celebrity British chef Nigella Lawson, who acknowledged last year that she had occasionally used cocaine, was denied permission to board a flight to the United States earlier this year.
The last time Ford visited the United States was in early March, when he appeared on the "Jimmy Kimmel Live" television show in Los Angeles.
Morris and Doug Ford, Rob's brother, declined to discuss the Globe's report, but insisted Tuesday that the mayor is in rehab.
"The most important thing, everyone who is concerned if he's in rehab, the answer is yes," Doug Ford told the AP. "As for his whereabouts that's personal and that should stay with Rob."
Doug Ford said he has spoken with his brother since he entered the program and that he is doing well.
"He's feeling great actually. He's feeling good. He's bought into the program and he's getting the support he needs," Doug Ford said.
City councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong said Doug Ford spoke to Rob again on Tuesday and the mayor was on the phone when Doug passed the phone to him. Minnan-Wong said the mayor is in "good spirits" and is "working out."
"He told me he was in rehab," Minnan-Wong said. "I think Rob misses council and he would like to be here."
Shelley Carroll, a Toronto city councilor, said Ford's location should be made public. "I'm not buying that it can't be divulged," Carroll said.
Councilor Giorgio Mammoliti said the mayor should provide a doctor's note.
Even as Ford supposedly began his treatment at an undisclosed location, another report of the mayor behaving inappropriately while intoxicated emerged last week. A report written by City Hall officials said Ford turned up intoxicated at the front security office at City Hall on St. Patrick's Day and threatened a guard who had reported the mayor for similar behavior two years ago.
The scandal over Ford's crack use broke last May when news reports emerged of the first video. After police said they had obtained that video, Ford admitted that he smoked crack while in a "drunken stupor."
Although Ford has not abandoned his bid to seek a second term in October's elections, the revelation of a second crack video raised even more doubts about his chances of prevailing. His decision to seek treatment comes months after he announced he was finished with alcohol — only to be followed by a steady flow of reports of intoxicated behavior.
Toronto's City Council stripped Ford of most of his powers last year, and Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly is running the city.