After announcing he was taking time off to go to rehab, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford boarded a plane to Chicago last Thursday, landed, but then turned around before officially entering the United States.
“He voluntarily withdrew his application to enter the USA,” Consul General of Canada in Chicago, Roy Norton, confirmed to The Globe and Mail in an e-mail, saying the Toronto mayor “was not denied entry, per se.”
Mr. Norton said his office was not involved and that U.S. Customs and Border Protection informed him of these limited details after the fact. He said he could not speculate on the circumstances of Mr. Ford’s abrupt departure.
Asked for specifics, CBP spokesperson Kris Grogan said the privacy act prevents officials from commenting on “an individual’s processing,” but he pointed out that anyone hoping to enter the United States must “overcome all grounds of inadmissibility” – which include criminality, security reasons and documentation requirements, among dozens of others.
Mr. Ford’s whereabouts are still unknown. Councillor Doug Ford would not comment on his brother's whereabouts but said he has spoken with him and he is "doing well."
"For the one-millionth time, Rob Ford is in a rehabilitation program," he told reporters on Tuesday as council met for the first time without the mayor.
The Etobicoke councillor said he will not give his brother's location because the media will "stake it out." He said he had no comment on Globe and Mail reports that the mayor had not crossed the border in Chicago Thursday.
"He's in rehab and that is all everyone cares about. No one in Toronto cares about where he is. They are concerned about him getting rehab," he said.
The mayor’s lawyer, Dennis Morris, maintained his client has checked into a treatment facility, although he, too, would not say whether he was in the United States.
“The bottom line is he’s in rehab, he’s getting rehab and he’ll be there for a number of weeks – and that’s the answer. It’s not like he’s at a baseball game in Los Angeles or something.”
Last week, after The Globe and Mail reported on the existence of a new video showing Mr. Ford smoking what is alleged to be crack cocaine, and after the Toronto Sun obtained an audio recording of the mayor making racist, sexist and homophobic remarks, Toronto’s beleaguered chief magistrate took a step many close to him have said he would never take: He stepped aside – temporarily – to get help.
“I have a problem with alcohol, and the choices I have made while under the influence. I have struggled with this for some time,” Mr. Ford said in a prepared statement late on Wednesday. “I have tried to deal with these issues by myself over the past year. I know that I need professional help and I am now 100 per cent committed to getting myself right.”
The next day, several news outlets reported that Mr. Ford was headed to Chicago via Buttonville Municipal Airport, north of Toronto, where several charter companies are headquartered. The Ford family business, Deco Labels and Tags, has an office in Chicago, and Councillor Ford has kept a home there for many years.
Only one of the jets that took off that day from Buttonville was bound for Chicago, a Dassault Falcon 10 operated by a company called Flightexec, according to publicly available data about flights that are shared by government aviation authorities.
The jet arrived at Chicago’s Midway International Airport at 11:29 a.m. EST.
A representative of Flightexec said the company is not commenting on whether Mr. Ford was on that flight or if he returned to Canada. A spokesperson with the Chicago Department of Aviation also said she could not provide details.
Mr. Ford’s lawyer said that, last week, it was his “understanding” that the mayor headed to Chicago to enter such a program, but he was never definitive with the media about Mr. Ford’s whereabouts and destination.
Last week would not have been Mr. Ford’s first trip stateside since the crack cocaine scandal came to a head November, 2013. Two months ago, he flew to Los Angeles for an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Just a month later, British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson – who recently admitted to occasional cocaine use – was barred from a U.S.-bound flight. The U.S. embassy would not disclose why.
Mr. Ford has never been convicted of a drug-related crime, although in 1999, he was charged with possession of marijuana in Florida. That charge was dropped after he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in the same incident.
With a report from Elizabeth Church