Mayor Rob Ford visits the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall where a shooting took place, in Toronto June 2, 2012.
Mayor Rob Ford visits the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall where a shooting took place, in Toronto June 2, 2012. Reuters/Mark Blinch

Rob Ford, Canada’s most colourful mayor, has passed away at 46. The former Toronto mayor succumbed to abdominal cancer on Tuesday.

The controversial politician, whose mayoral term ended in November 2014, had been battling the rare cancer pleomorphic liposarcoma since 2014, forcing him to withdraw his mayoral candidacy. His health further deteriorated this month, with his disease progressing to a terminal phase.

His chief of staff, Dan Jacobs, released a statement, saying the Ford family has requested for privacy during this difficult time.

“A dedicated man of the people, Councillor Ford spent his life serving the citizens of Toronto. The family asks that you respect their privacy and join them in their grieving and their prayers. The family will not be making any statements to the media or taking any questions. Information will follow at a later time regarding memorial services.”

His life in the public eye was besieged with controversy, with news of his drug use and frequent intoxication reaching international spotlight. His comments often incited controversies and sometimes accused as racist and homophobic.

Ford is survived by wife Renata Brejniak and children Stephanie and Doug. Flags have been lowered to half-mast at city hall and civic centres to honour Ford.

Reactions on social media

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered a short statement at the House of Commons shortly after the announcement of Ford’s death, calling the late councillor’s fight courageous.

“Rob Ford fought cancer with courage and determination. My condolences and best wishes to the Ford family today,” he tweeted.

Toronto Mayor John Tory also paid tribute to his “gregarious” rival.

“The City is reeling with this news, and my thoughts are with his wife Renata and their two children, as well as Rob’s brothers Doug and Randy, his sister Kathy, his mother, Diane, and the rest of their tight-knit family, including TDSB Trustee Michael Ford.

“I have known Rob for many years. He was a man who spoke his mind and who ran for office because of the deeply felt convictions that he had. As a councillor, mayor and private citizen, Rob Ford reached out directly to people across the city with a phone call, an offer of advice or support, and I know there are many who were affected by his gregarious nature and approach to public service,” Tory wrote in a statement, adding that Ford’s time in the City Hall included moments of kindness and generosity. “He was, above all else, a profoundly human guy whose presence in our city wil be missed.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that while he didn’t know Ford personally, he knew he was a “passionate defender of everyday people who deserve a good life in their city.”

He said in a statement, “Rob Ford and I were elected one week apart in 2010. After that, the temptation to tie together our fates through our ups and downs was irresistible to some. But what I saw in Rob, above all, was a fierce love for his city and a driving desire to do better for people every single day.”

Toronto Councillor Norm Kelly, on the other hand, called Ford’s death “not fair.”