TORONTO - Mayor Rob Ford ended two months of self-imposed exile Monday when he returned to City Hall from a stint in rehab to resume what mayoral duties he still has, apologizing for his past offensive behaviour, pleading for a second chance, and promising an "unwavering" commitment to living clean.
In a nearly 20-minute statement, Ford spoke passionately of his addictions and his belated realization that they were destroying him.
"For a long, long time, I resisted the idea of getting help," Ford said. "I was in complete denial. I had become my own worst enemy."
Ford heaped praise on the rehabilitation facility he entered two months ago for saving his life and forcing him to "confront his personal demons."
He said he knows he will require treatment for the rest of his life but that getting help had changed him forever.
"I can proudly say I have begun the process of taking control of my life," Ford said.
Ford's role as mayor has been largely symbolic since November, when city council stripped him of most of his power following his admissions of alcohol abuse and drug use during "drunken stupors" that came after months of denials — along with offensive and profane comments he was recorded making.
The mayor apologized to those hurt by his words and actions, saying he regretted some of his past choices but said he blamed no one but himself for his misconduct.
Looking back, he said, "I'm ashamed, embarrassed and humiliated."
The mayor also made it clear he would stay on as mayor and fight for re-election in October.
"I want to thank the people of Toronto for their understanding and continued support during this very difficult time," Ford said. "I look forward to serving you for many, many more years."
With less than four months left in his term, Ford is expected to devote most of his time to his re-election bid.
One city councillor criticized the mayor for moving from a statement of apology into a re-election speech, complete with mentions of stopping the "gravy train" and other changes Ford considers his accomplishments.
"He should have just stopped with the heartfelt 'I'm sorry,'" Coun. John Filion said.
Ford, whose outrageous behaviour has earned him international notoriety, abruptly left for rehab May 1 after almost a year of insisting he didn't have a substance abuse problem and would not take time out for treatment.
Saying he was "blind to the dangers" of some of the company he kept — he has been photographed with known drug dealers — Ford said those associations were now emphatically over.
Even before his announcement Monday, the mayor was under fire for restricting media access to his announcement — ostensibly for space reasons — and letting it be known through his brother and campaign manager, Coun. Doug Ford, that he would be taking no questions.
His departure for rehab came just hours after the Globe and Mail said a drug dealer had shown two of its reporters a video of Ford allegedly smoking what was said to be crack cocaine. Around the same time, the Toronto Sun published audio of Ford at a bar making anti-gay remarks, using an ethnic slur, and saying he would like to "jam" a rival female mayoral candidate.
Ford had publicly sworn off alcohol late last year, but was forced to admit he had been drinking in a videotaped incident in January in which he used Jamaican swear words. At the time, he called the incident a "minor setback."
John Tory, one of Ford's rival candidates for mayor, was unimpressed with the mayor's speech Monday, saying Ford had "massively embarrassed" the city and should resign.
"His refusal to answer questions today is further indication that he doesn't get it as yet," Tory said.
"There are so many questions that are unanswered from the media, from the police and from the public and we need answers to those questions."
Apart from lingering questions about his substance abuse, Ford is under continuing police investigation after a guns and gangs probe allegedly captured conversations about a video that kicked off the controversy surrounding the mayor.
Ford's friend, Alesandro Lisi, has been charged with extortion related to attempts to retrieve the video — initially reported by the Toronto Star and U.S. website Gawker in May last year as appearing to show the mayor smoking crack cocaine. Lisi has been committed to trial next year.
Also, Democracy Watch has asked the city's integrity commissioner to investigate media reports that both Ford brothers allegedly lobbied on behalf of two companies with ties to their family's label business.
Ford's stint at rehab in Bracebridge, Ont., came after he apparently tried without success to enter the United States for treatment. Days later, he told the Toronto Sun that rehab was "amazing" and said he was making calls to constituents.
He was also photographed with members of the community during excursions into Bracebridge.
— With files from Will Campbell
DAY BY DAY: A TIMELINE OF TORONTO MAYOR ROB FORD'S "CRACK VIDEO" SCANDAL
TORONTO - Since May 2013, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been embroiled in controversy that began with published reports of a video that allegedly shows him appearing to smoke crack cocaine. A confession of drug use came months later, followed by other videos showing him in expletive-laced tirades and eventually a stint in rehab for substance abuse. Here are some notable moments in the Rob Ford controversy:
May 16 - The Toronto Star and U.S.-based news site Gawker report that Mayor Rob Ford was seen on video smoking what appears to be crack cocaine and making racist and homophobic comments. They also say the video is being shopped around by a group of men allegedly involved in the drug trade.
May 17 - Ford calls the allegations ``ridiculous'' and accuses the Toronto Star of ``going after'' him. Ford's lawyer Dennis Morris calls the reports ``false and defamatory'' and says it's impossible to tell what a person is smoking by watching the video.
May 24 - Ford issues a short statement insisting ``I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.'' He adds he can't comment on a video that he has never seen and does not exist.
May 26 - On his weekly radio show on Newstalk 1010, Ford says he's ``moving forward'' from the allegations and plans to run for re-election. He attacks the media for their coverage of the growing scandal, calling them ``a bunch of maggots.''
May 30 - The Toronto Star alleges Ford told senior aides not to worry about the alleged video because he knew where it was. The mayor refuses to comment, but says he won't step down.
June 13 - Toronto police raid several homes including an apartment building where reports have said the alleged video was located. Police Chief Bill Blair won't say if there's any connection to Ford.
June 15 - Reports in the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail say two of the suspects arrested in the raid also appear with Ford in a widely publicized photograph connected to the alleged crack video scandal. Ford has said he poses for photos with ``everybody.''
Aug. 18 - The Star says two of Ford's associates tried to obtain the alleged crack video after the allegations surfaced. Doug Ford dismisses it as ``just another attack'' by the paper.
Oct. 1: Ford's friend and occasional driver, Alexander Lisi, is arrested and charged with four drug-related offences, including trafficking marijuana. Ford defends Lisi the next day, calling him a friend and a ``good guy.''
Oct. 31: Chief Bill Blair announces Toronto police recovered a copy of a video file that depicts images of Ford ``consistent with those previously reported in the press.'' Blair said police have no ``reasonable'' grounds to criminally charge the mayor based on the video. But he said they charged Lisi with extortion for allegedly making ``extortive efforts to retrieve a recording.''
Nov. 3: Ford apologizes on his weekly radio show on Newstalk 1010 for making mistakes including appearing in public while ``hammered'' and texting while driving. But he tells AM640 the next day: ``I'm not an alcoholic, I'm not a drug addict.''
Nov. 5: Ford admits he smoked crack cocaine about a year earlier while in one of his ``drunken stupors.'' Despite the admission after months of denials on the drug use question, he insists he had been truthful. ``I wasn't lying,'' he told reporters. ``You didn't ask the correct questions. No, I'm not an addict and no I do not do drugs.'' Ford says he has nothing left to hide.
Nov. 7: A video is posted online by the Toronto Star and Toronto Sun that shows Ford spewing obscenities and using threatening words, including ``kill'' and ``murder.'' The mayor tells reporters moments after the video is posted that he was ``extremely'' drunk and is ``extremely'' embarrassed.
Nov. 13: Newly released parts of a court document show former staffers of the mayor told police he was intoxicated at work, drank while driving and associated with suspected prostitutes. The release came shortly after Ford admitted buying illegal drugs while in office.
Nov. 14: Ford sends shockwaves through city hall when he spouts an obscenity on live TV while denying allegations in the court document that he told a female aide he was going to have oral sex with her. He later apologizes and says he is getting professional support. City councillors call on him to resign. Ford refuses.
Nov. 18: City council votes by a wide margin to slash Ford's mayoral budget and hand many of his duties to the deputy mayor. Ford calls it a ``coup d'etat'' and vows it will be war in the October 2014 municipal election.
Dec. 9: In a televised interview with Conrad Black, Ford claims that Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale was in his backyard in May 2012, ``taking pictures of little kids.'' He says ``I don't want to say that word but you start thinking what this guy is all about.'' Dale later serves Ford with a libel notice, alleging Ford insinuated he is a pedophile. He later announces he is not proceeding with the lawsuit after Ford apologizes and retracts his comments, though only after a first attempt at an apology that Dale found unsatisfactory.
Jan. 21 - After weeks of adamant vows that he had given up alcohol, Ford admits he had been drinking the previous night after a video emerged on YouTube of him in a rambling, profane rant using Jamaican patois. Ford says he had been on personal time at a west-end Toronto restaurant and did not think the language he used was offensive.
Jan. 31 - While visiting a Vancouver suburb for the funeral of a friend's mother, Ford gets a ticket for jaywalking. He says he was singled out by police. The Toronto Star reports that hours later, he was served drinks after closing hours at a pub in Coquitlam. It quotes an unidentified witness as saying Ford went into a tiny staff washroom only to emerge more than an hour later ``talking gibberish.'' Ford and the pub's owner do not comment.
Mar. 3 - Ford makes a highly-anticipated appearance on ``Jimmy Kimmel Live,'' with the host introducing him by saying, ``our first guest tonight has tripped, bumped, danced, argued and smoked his was into our national consciousness.'' Ford tells Kimmel he wasn't elected to be perfect but to clean up the financial mess at City Hall.
Mar. 14 - Ford's brother and fellow city councillor Doug Ford accuse actor Kevin Spacey of being an ``arrogant S.O.B.'' While the mayor was waiting to appear on the ``Jimmy Kimmel Live'' talk show in Los Angeles, Doug Ford says they were told they couldn't talk to or take a picture with Spacey. The comment is made on their ``Ford Nation'' show on YouTube. The next day Spacey posts a doctored photo on Twitter of himself between the Ford brothers on the ``Ford Nation'' set with the caption ``All you had to do was ask, guys. Here's your pic.''
Mar. 19 - A detailed description of the so-called Ford crack video is included in document released by a Toronto judge. The document, containing police allegations used to obtain search warrants in an ongoing investigation involving Ford, says the video was filmed on Family Day weekend in 2013. Police also allege another video shows an alleged gang member describing how to ``catch a mayor smoking crack.''
Apr. 3 - An Ontario Superior Court judge orders the release of information that police allege they heard on wiretaps, but has not been proven in court, including one between an alleged gang member and a woman whose home police allege is a ``frequent hangout for crack cocaine users.'' Police say it suggests the crack video was make at that home. And Ford said that he felt his name has been ``cleared'' when Ontario Provincial Police announced they had stepped back from a lengthy criminal investigation into his activities.
Apr. 30 - Ford's lawyer announces the Toronto mayor will take a leave of absence to seek help for substance abuse. The announcement comes just hours after the Globe and Mail reported that a drug dealer had shown two of its reporters a video of Ford allegedly smoking what was said to be crack cocaine. Around the same time, the Toronto Sun published audio of Ford at a bar making anti-gay remarks, using an ethnic slur, and saying he would like to "jam" a rival female mayoral candidate.
June 30 - Ford returns from rehab to resume his limited duties as mayor, saying that seeking treatment for substance abuse was a life-saving decision. He also promises his commitment to "living clean is unwavering." Speaking at City Hall, Ford said he was embarrassed and ashamed by his behaviour and apologized to the city and anyone he offended. He also made it clear he would continue his campaign to be re-elected.