July 25th, 2010

forums, me, non blog

[FORUM] Should Conrad Black come back to Canada?

Conrad Black, Canadian-born press magnate, has recently been released on bail after three of his four fraud-related convictions were dropped. A British subject and member in standing of the House of Lords, having chosen to jettison his Canadian citizenship when he was forced to choose by the hostile Liberal government of Jean Chrétien between his nationality and his prestigious position, he now has no claim to enter Canada. Indeed, as a convicted felon, Canadian law automatically excludes him. Some, like David Frum, call for mercy.

Black renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001. Some represent this decision as some kind of insult to Canada, almost next door to treason. (See for example the very ugly editorial in Thursday’s Sun newspapers: “[Conrad Black] is no Canadian patriot. He gave up his birthright, relinquished his Canadian passport, and sneered his way past lesser mortals as he donned the title of Lord Black of Crossharbour.”)

This view is wrong and unfair. Black renounced his Canadian citizenship because the federal government of the day pursued a unique vendetta against him. Black had acquired British citizenship, too. As a British citizen, Black was offered a seat in the House of Lords. The Chretien government took the view that no Canadian could accept such an honour. The legalities of the situation were complex, but let’s just say: This view was an extreme interpretation of Canadian law — and probably not an interpretation that the Chretien government would have taken had the case involved a Conrad White or Conrad Green rather than Conrad Black.

But at the same time as Black was living much of the year in Britain, he was also generously supporting Canadian institutions: sustaining this newspaper, building a wing at the Hospital for Sick Children.

There is that. Then again, Black did quite knowingly drop his citizenship, writing publicly that he was leaving for a more "amenable" jurisdiction and condemning his natal country for a lack of courage and competence. Should we rescue Black from the consequences of his short-sighted decisions? No one forced him to become a British lord, after all.

What say you?