Almost a year after Conrad Black learned that he could lose his Order of Canada, the former media baron has gone to court to force the council reviewing his membership to hear him in person.
His membership in the order is in jeopardy because he had to serve a 42-month prison sentence in the United States for fraud and obstruction of justice.
In an application his lawyers filed Monday in Federal Court, Mr. Black said his case is too complex to be argued only through written arguments.
He asked for an oral hearing before the Advisory Council of the Order, the 11-person panel which governs membership to the country’s highest civilian honour.
“The facts relating to the issue of terminating the applicant’s appointment to the Order of Canada are complex and lengthy and cannot be appropriately dealt with in written submissions only,” the application said.
“Moreover, given that the relevant facts will engage issues of credibility and prompt questions from the Advisory Council, the principles of fairness make an oral hearing necessary.”
The court filing reveals that Mr. Black was first notified that the council was considering terminating his honour in a July 20, 2011, letter.
The application says Mr. Black asked in August of 2011 to have an oral hearing but was only told through a letter from the council’s secretary general last Friday, on July 6, that his request was denied.
“No reasons were provided for the decision. A request for reconsideration of this decision was denied without reasons.”
Mr. Black was made an officer of the order in 1990.
Along his efforts to regain Canadian citizenship, Mr. Black’s efforts to keep the honour has been one of the contentious issues dogging him since his release from jail on May 4.
Mr. Black wore his Order of Canada pin when he gave a speech at Toronto’s Empire Club of Canada last month, his first public talk since he has been back in the country.
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.
However, Mr. Black has repeatedly argued that he was a victim of overzealous American prosecutors and that he could never have been convicted in a similar fashion in Canada.
“It is my counsel’s and my contention that such an intensely Canadian matter as the holding of this country’s highest civilian honour should be determined by the application of Canadian legal standards,” he wrote in a column last March.
Mr. Black was convicted in Chicago in 2007 of fraud and obstruction of justice over the misappropriation of money at the newspaper giant Hollinger International Inc.
Because he had given up his Canadian citizenship to sit in the House of Lords in Britain, he needed a one-year temporary-resident permit, to fly back to Canada on May 4 after being released from a Florida prison.