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Rob Ford did not enter the U.S., reports say; lawyer insists mayor is in rehab

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford leave his home early Thursday May 1, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford leave his home early Thursday May 1, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO - Rob Ford did not officially enter the U.S. when he flew to Chicago last week bound for rehab, reports said Tuesday, but his lawyer insisted "100 per cent" that the Toronto mayor is getting inpatient substance-abuse treatment.

Ford's whereabouts remain a mystery, and lawyer Dennis Morris said they should stay that way.

"The media should, I don't know, put things on pause a little bit," Morris said in an interview. "Let the man do his rehab. Once he gets out we can just see how it worked."

Ford left home last week after announcing he was taking a leave of absence and suspending his re-election campaign to seek "immediate" help for alcohol abuse.

He announced the decision hours after the Globe and Mail reported that a drug dealer had shown two of its reporters video of Ford allegedly smoking what was said to be crack, reportedly recorded days earlier in his sister's basement.

The Toronto Sun also published an audio recording of Ford at a bar making anti-gay remarks, using an ethnic slur, and saying he would like to "jam" rival candidate Karen Stintz.

Morris said at the time that it was not possible to know what was in the pipe seen in stills from the alleged new video.

He also said that the mayor flew to Chicago, but was not in a program in that city.

The Globe and Mail reported Tuesday that when Ford landed in Chicago he voluntarily withdrew his application to enter the country and quoted the consul general of Canada in Chicago as saying Ford "was not denied entry, per se."

Morris refused to say where Ford ended up, but said he is in a treatment facility.

"I can't comment other than saying 100 per cent," Morris said, adding that the mayor is "doing very well."

Ford flew to Chicago on a private flight, so the customs process would have been done in Chicago, rather than pre-clearance in Toronto.

Toronto-based immigration lawyer Evan Green said admissions of drug use — Ford has admitted smoking crack cocaine and using other drugs — can make someone inadmissible to the United States.

Border officers can direct people to a U.S. immigration doctor in Canada who can determine that someone is or isn't a drug abuser, Green said.

There is an exemption for drug users going to the U.S. for rehab, he said.

"They're going to want to know where you're going, how long you're going for, what is the plan, is it a closed or open facility, how is this all working, has it been paid for?" Green said.

"On the face of it, somebody going in to say, 'I'm going to try and figure out where I'm going to rehab,' they would not be admitted. They would be told to get their ducks in a row first and then they can try to get back in."

It wouldn't be a formal denial exactly, Green said, but the person would be told they could withdraw their application for admission and go home.

Someone could also withdraw their application before it gets to that stage, Green said.

"If you don't like the questions they're asking and you don't want to answer those questions and you're frustrated you can say, 'You know what? I don't need to go down. I'm not going down. I want to withdraw."

Ford was admitted to the U.S. in March, when he flew to Los Angeles to appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." Green said he was surprised the mayor was allowed entry to the country on that occasion.

Canadians have also reported being denied entry to the U.S. because of mental-health issues, such as one woman who said she was turned away because she had been hospitalized for clinical depression.

British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, who acknowledged last year that she had occasionally used cocaine, was denied permission to board a flight to the U.S. last month.

However, the U.S. embassy did not disclose the reason for refusing Lawson entry.

News that a video appeared to show Ford smoking crack cocaine broke nearly one year ago. When the scandal reared its head anew in November, following Ford's admission that he had smoked the drug, he said he was seeking help from a team of professionals, though did not elaborate other than to say he was exercising.

"I don't think he misled anybody at the time," Morris said Tuesday.

"But it wasn't the extensive help that he's getting now because as you saw, whatever help he received wasn't as inpatient, so now it's different."

Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong said Tuesday that he briefly spoke with the mayor when Coun. Doug Ford — the mayor's brother — passed him the phone.

"It was a friendly conversation," said Minnan-Wong, by turns a Ford ally and enemy. "He was in good spirits. (He) said he was working out and that he was in rehab."

It seemed as though Ford missed city council and wanted to return, Minnan-Wong said.

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