Toronto Mayor Rob Ford spoke at the city’s Remembrance Day ceremony in his first official public address since he was engulfed in controversy after admitting last week he had smoked crack cocaine. Mr. Ford delivered the main remarks at the Old City Hall cenotaph on Monday morning after two minutes of silence, a flypast by vintage aircraft, reveille and a hymn.
A “boo” erupted from the crowd as Mr. Ford took the stage to light applause. Wearing his chain of office, the mayor noted that the country’s first Remembrance Day was held in 1919 to mark the first anniversary of the end of the First World War.
“And so as we have done for the last 94 years, the people of Toronto join all Canadians to remember and honour those who have fought for our freedom. We honour and remember the service and sacrifice of more than 1.5 million Canadians,” he said.
Mr. Ford, who also laid a wreath, sat beside federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt. Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair also attended the ceremony.
After the event, Mr. Ford told a supporter: “I’m not going anywhere, guaranteed,” as he dashed back to City Hall. He refused to answer journalists’ questions.
As the mayor mingled with veterans during a lunch-time reception at City Hall, one expressed displeasure at Mr. Ford’s participation in the event. “I definitely do not think it’s appropriate,” said Ronald Hill, 91, who served as a code breaker during the Second World War.
However, Fraser McKee, 88, who served in the navy during the Second World War, said it would have been insulting to veterans if a councillor or deputy mayor represented the city at the service. “He should have been there and he was,” he said. “He spoke well and he spoke briefly.”
While some councillors said Mr. Ford should not have attended the ceremony, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said it was important for the city’s mayor to be there.
“This is a very solemn ceremony. I don’t think it’s a place where you discharge your personal feelings or take the travails of the political system into that context,” he told 680News on Monday before the event. “I think this is a time where we step down or step aside from that conflict and join each other into a solemn remembrance of the sacrifice that others have made so that we can enjoy the system that we have today.”
Hockey commentator Don Cherry, who introduced Mr. Ford at his investiture ceremony three years ago, seemed at a loss for words on Monday when asked if he felt let down by the mayor.
“I just don’t know what to say to that. Yes, I am disappointed. I think as a mayor, if you could just cut out all the rest of the stuff, as a mayor he’s done a great job. And everybody thinks that,” he told Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “I am disappointed, that’s all I’m going to say on that.”
Last week, Mr. Ford apologized after acknowledging he had smoked crack during a drunken stupor. He also apologized for a video that emerged showing him issuing obscenity-laden threats, saying he was extremely inebriated.
Mr. Kelly said he believed Mr. Ford did “a lot of soul-searching” over the weekend. During two meetings with Mr. Ford late last week, Mr. Kelly said his body language had changed.
“I had a feeling that it was finally sinking in, this need to understand the issues, to understand the feeling that’s out there among so many people. So I think he is beginning to come to grips with the situation he’s in personally and politically,” he told the radio station.
On Friday, Mr. Ford’s lawyer and close adviser said the mayor was seriously considering seeking treatment for substance abuse.