Monday 27 August 2012

Should  Lord  Conrad  Black  get  his  Canadian  citizenship  back?

The text that has white backing is merely an anomaly in the printing of the text.

There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Conrad Black is an extremely intelligent man. However, like many really bright persons, he did some very stupid and disreputable things in his life. I will get to those stupid and disreputable things a little later in this article, but first, I will give you some background information about this complex man. 

He was born on August 25, 1944 in Canada which makes him 68 years of age at the time of this writing. At one time, he controlled Hollinger International Inc. Through affiliates, the company published major newspapers including The Daily Telegraph  (UK), Chicago Sun Times (U.S.), Jerusalem Post  (Israel), National Post  (Canada), and hundreds of community newspapers in North America. For a time he was the third most powerful newspaper magnate in the world.

Black is also an author and historian, having written two memoirs A Life in Progress and A Matter of Principle and biographies of Maurice Duplessis, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon.   He writes a regular column for Canada’s National Post  and contributes to The American Spectator, Natiuonal Review Online, The Huffington Post and The Catholic Herald.  

As you can see from the aforementioned, anyone that can achieve what this man has done with his life has to be an extremely intelligent man. However, as I said earlier, his stupidity was his downfall. His stupidity sent him to prison. More on that later.

Black was born into a rich family. He acquired the family home and 7 acres (28,000 square meters) of land in Toronto's exclusive Bridal Path neighbourhood (where very rich families live) after his father's death in 1976. Black and first wife Joanna Hishon maintained homes in Palm Beach, Toronto and London. After he married Barbara Amiel, (a newspaper columnist) he acquired a luxury Park Avenue apartment in New York. When it was sold in 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice seized net proceeds of $8.5 million, pending resolution of several court actions. His London townhouse   in the Kensington district sold in 2005 for about USD$25 million and Black’s Palm Beach   mansion was listed for sale in 2004 at USD$36 million. In late April 2011 this Florida property was also sold by Black for approximately USD$30 million. He also had two private jets.

Black's critics have suggested it was Black's second wife, Amiel, who pushed him towards a life of opulence, citing her extravagant expenditures such as items billed to Hollinger expenses that included $2,463 on handbags, $2,785 in opera tickets, and $140 for Amiel's jogging attire.

Did living a life in extreme luxury make Black a nice rich man who had the best interests of others in mind? Consider what follows before you answer that question.

He was previously the owner of the Dominion Food Store Chain in Canada. He closed down the chain and in 1984, Black withdrew over CAD$56 million from the pension plan’s surplus without consulting the plan’s members (employees). Black considered the surplus as his own rightful property since he was their employer. But the RWDSU union local objected and challenged his decision in court saying the surplus belonged to the members. A huge public outcry against Conrad Black followed.

Let’s consider what appears to be his excuse for taking the surplus as his own. During the pension dispute, he accused the grocery chain's employees of stealing $30 million in produce each year. During a 1986 Globe and Mail interview, he said in part—

 “It's sometimes difficult for me to work myself into an absolute lachrymose (tearful) fit about a work force that steals on that scale. We are not running a welfare agency for corrupt union leaders and a slovenly work force.”

In Canada, even if an employee steals from you, you cannot deduct the loss from his wages. You can only fire him and sue him for the money back.

The case was heard in one of the Supreme Courts in Ontario and it ruled against Black and ordered him to return the money to the pension fund, claiming that although the most recent language in the plan suggested that he as the employer had ownership of the surplus, the original intention of the plan was to keep the surplus in the plan to increase its members' benefits. Does this mean that he changed the language of the plan to suit his own interests without getting the OK from his employees who would have had to agree to the change—which obviously they wouldn’t have agreed?  Was this the actions of a nice man? I hardly think so.

It was back in 2005, that Black was the subject of a highly publicized prosecution in the United States. Black has maintained his innocence since the beginning of the legal saga. Having initially faced 17 charges of misconduct and of defrauding his company (Hollinger International) of $60 million, he was convicted of three counts of fraud  and one count of obstuction of justice  in a U.S. court in 2007 and sentenced to six and a half years' imprisonment.

On July 19, 2010, Black was granted bail following a unanimous judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States in which Black succeeded in having the scope of the honest services fraud   statute narrowed. Subsequent to that decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit  overturned two of the three remaining mail fraud counts against Black in October 2010. The sole remaining mail fraud count was in the amount of $600,000, of which Black’s share was $285,000. On June 24, 2011 he was resentenced on the one remaining count of mail fraud and on the one count of obstruction of justice to a prison term of 42 months and a fine of USD$125,000. As the 29 months Black had already served were included in this sentence, he returned to prison on September 6, 2011, to serve his remaining term of thirteen months. Black was released from prison on May 4, 2012.

Despite what he tried to do to his former employees at Dominion, he was awarded an extremely coveted award in Canada. Black was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada  (OC) in 1990.   This award is only given to men and women who have served Canada as extremely distinguished citizens worthy of such a high award.

In September 2011, after Black returned to prison due to the failure of his appeal in the United States, Rideau Hall  (home and office of the governor General of Canada) confirmed that Black's award was under review by the 11-member Advisory Council of the Order of Canada which has the power to recommend “termination of a person's appointment of the Order of Canada  if the person has been convicted of a criminal offence.” The order’s advisory council can recommend that the order be revoked should a member be convicted of a crime or act in “significant departure” from regularly acceptable behaviour. Black had asked for an oral hearing before the Advisory Council which governs membership to the country’s highest civilian honour.

On July 6th of this year, he was informed by letter that his request was denied. He has taken the matter to Federal Court to force the Council reviewing his membership to hear him in person. In his application prepared by his lawyers and filed in Federal Court, Black said his case is too complex to be argued only through written arguments. So far, as of the time of this writing, the Advisory Council hasn’t yet made its decision.

When Black learned of the attempt to rescind his award, he said that it would heap “insult upon injury” to strip him of membership in the Order of Canada over U.S. criminal convictions when no Canadian court would have found him guilty of the same charges. That statement doesn’t make any sense at all.

First of all, he was not tried in Canada and acquitted so he can’t presume that he would be acquitted of his crimes in Canada. Second of all, he was convicted of obstruction of justice in the USA. This is because after being ordered not to enter his office in Toronto by the American court, he disobeyed that order and then entered his former office in the dead of night and removed boxes of documents that later never saw the light of day. If he was facing his charges in a Canadian court, he would have been charged and convicted under section 127(1) of the Canadian Criminal Code which states in part—

127. (1) Every one who, without lawful excuse, disobeys a lawful order made by a court of justice or by a person or body of persons authorized by any Act to make or give the order, other than an order for the payment of money, is, unless a punishment or other mode of proceeding is expressly provided by law, guilty of (a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. unquote The words ‘indictable offence’ is equivalent to a felony in the USA.

Further, he could have been charged with and convicted of Obstructing Justice. Section 139.(2) states in part—

 Every one who wilfully attempts in any manner other than a manner described in subsection (1) to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years. unquote That section of the Criminal Code is merely illustrative and not necessarily exhaustive. 

He also could have been convicted of fraudulent concealment, which is contrary to section 341 of the Canadian Criminal Code which states in part—

Every one who, for a fraudulent purpose, takes, obtains, removes or conceals anything is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

Had he had his trial in Canada with respect to the misappropriating the money from his company, he would have been charged with and convicted of fraud. Section 380.(1) states—

(1) Every one who, by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means, whether or not it is a false pretence within the meaning of this Act, defrauds the public or any person, whether ascertained or not, of any property, money or valuable security or any service, is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. Misappropriating $600,000 is fraud in both Canada and the United States.

Black’s statement that rescinding his Order of Canada award would be an insult upon injury is about as weak as a newborn baby.

As he had previously renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001, Black was granted a one-year temporary resident permit to re-enter Canada upon his release from prison. The permit is valid until May 2013.

First, I will tell you why he renounced his Canadian citizenship. In 2001, British Prime Minister, Tony Blair advised Queen Elizabeth II  to confer on Black the dignity of a life peerage with the title of Baron Black of Crossharbour in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.  Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien   gave the conflicting advice that a Canadian citizen could not receive a titular honour, citing the 1919 Nickle Rewsolution.  

The Nickle Resolution was a motion brought forward in 1917 by William Fogler Nickle in the Canadian House of Commons.  There had been controversy before World War I over the honouring of Canadians—especially the appointment of Sam Hughes as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (a non-hereditary honour) in 1915 and the elevation of Hugh Graham  as the Baron Atholstan (a hereditary honour)—and the qualifications of recipients.

Prime Minister, Robert Borden disapproved of the process by which Canadians were nominated for honours and in March 1917, his government drafted a policy stating that all names had to be vetted by the prime minister before the list was sent to Westminster.  Nickle, however, at the same time, alleged that the granting of hereditary titles to Canadians was itself inconsistent with democratic values. As a result, Canadian citizens cannot be awarded a peerage.

When Prime Minister Blair offered Black the peerage, Black had both Canadian and British citizenship. After the Federal Court of Canada ruled against Black in his suit against Chrétien’s decision, Black renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001, remaining a citizen of the United Kingdom. Now he wants his Canadian citizenship back.

Black has already learned just how mistaken he is about how average Canadians feel about his decade-old move to toss aside his citizenship in his lust to become a
member of the British House of Lords.

Now back in his luxury Toronto home on a temporary-resident permit despite his American criminal record and despite him previously calling Canada a ‘plain vanilla place to live in’ Lord Black of Crossharbour, a British citizen, now wants his Canadian citizenship back. I believe that what he really wants is both a duo citizenship and to hang on to his title of Lord Black of Crossharbour. In a more vulgar phrase, he wants to suck and blow at the same time. And if he sucks up to the federal government and gets his wish and acquires both of his ambitions, he will (if you will pardon my vulgarity) blown all the citizens of Canada.

In a heavily promoted interview with CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge aired on May 21st 2012 (Victoria Day) Black said he intended to apply for Canadian citizenship “within a year or two when it is clear that I don’t have cloven feet and wear horns.” I am not sure it is that clear as all of that.

Black further said in the interview—

“I have reached the age where I’m tired of being oppressed and I’m tired of being defamed and I am not going to do anything that is going to lead to gratuitously antagonistic people making apparently plausible claims that I am morally unsuited to be a citizen of this country.”

He doesn’t have to do anything else to convince people that he is morally unsuited to be a citizen of this country—in my opinion, he has done enough already.

I think his decision to renounce his citizenship of a country that treated him so well since his birth is a slap in the face of all Canadian citizens who had dear ones who loved Canada so much; they went to war in Canada’s name and lost their lives while fighting in the wars that Canada was involved in. For this man to now state that he felt oppressed because many Canadians are against him regaining his Canadian citizenship is another slap in our collective faces.

Despite serving a 42-month sentence for fraud and obstruction of justice, Black still insists he’s not a criminal and warns everyone not to call him a British criminal.

He is right about one point in his insertion that he is not a criminal. He was a criminal but if it is established that any criminal no longer commits criminal acts, he can no longer be referred to as a criminal in the present tense. It can however be said that at one time in Black’s life he was a criminal if he was convicted of a criminal act—which of course he was.  He cannot deny that he was in the past, a British criminal because when he was convicted of his crimes, he was a British citizen.

Both the United States and Canada have laws that prohibit convicted criminals from entering their countries. Since Black is only a British citizen who was convicted of two serious crimes in the United States, he had to leave the United States after his release from the American prison he was incarcerated in. He should have returned to England but instead he was permitted to enter Canada and reside in Canada on a temporary permit until May of 2013. I find that strange especially since Americans who have been convicted of only being in possession of an ounce of marijuana are not permitted to even visit Canada for even just a day.

The immigration minister, Jason Kenney's office maintains "neither the minister of immigration nor members of his staff were involved in processing Black’s file.

Harper, the prime minister said, “Kenney took every step to ensure that this matter was handled independently by public servants.” The prime minister added that it was “not in the government's interest to intervene in this matter, in any way, shape or form.”

But many immigration lawyers suspect that Kenney must have had some involvement in the controversial decision to grant the temporary permit to Black, who renounced his Canadian citizenship and served jail time in the U.S. for obstruction of justice and fraud.

Ana Curic, director of communications for the immigration minister, in a statement to CBC News said; “In fact, Minister Kenney directed his department multiple times to specifically exclude him and his staff from any deliberations regarding this application. This decision was made by independent public servants, based on Canadian law.”  

In June, records obtained by CBC News Network's Power & Politics under the federal Access to Information Act suggested there was no political interference  to fast-track or approve Black's application.

Of course the government has the option to make exceptions when it comes to permitting convicted felons to cross into Canada but generally that is only for a very short time such as giving a performance, attending a meeting, obtaining medical treatment, or attending a funeral and so forth but to permit a convicted felon from another country who isn’t a Canadian citizen permission to reside in Canada for a year is unheard of and quite frankly, unthinkable.

The real slap in the faces of Canadians will occur if government stooges grant Black his Canadian citizenship back again. If that happens, then why shouldn’t former foreign criminals who were convicted of only minor offences such as shoplifting especially when they were young many years ago be permitted to move to Canada and later become Canadian citizens? If Black is permitted to regain his Canadian citizenship back again, that fiasco will open the doors for foreigners who committed minor offences to have access to Canada.

If Black is permitted to regain his Canadian citizenship, it would have to be on the condition that he renounces his peerage and a further condition that an agreement on the part of the government of the United Kingdom will direct that Black will never be given that position again.

Preferably, I would rather see him booted out of Canada when his temporary residence permit expires. This man chose to be a peer in England rather than be a citizen in Canada. Anyone who makes that kind of choice is hardly the kind of person Canadians would want living in Canada as a Canadian citizen.



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