Conrad Black says 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.
In an affidavit filed in the Federal Court of Canada, the former media magnate argues he must have an oral hearing – complete with witnesses – and look the Order of Canada’s advisory council representatives “in the eyes” as they decide whether to recommend revocation of the prestigious award he received in 1990.
Supporters including former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger, a long-time friend and former business associate, have also made written pleas on Mr. Black’s behalf, court records show.
Mr. Black, 67, stands convicted in the United States of fraud and obstruction of justice while he was head of media giant Hollinger International.
He served 37 months of a 42-month sentence, but contends he was unfairly maligned by the U.S. justice system.
He recently returned to Canada on a temporary resident permit following his May release from a Florida prison, as he renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001 to become a member of the British House of Lords.
The Order of Canada’s advisory council, chaired by Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, may recommend to the Governor-General that an appointment be rescinded when a member has been convicted of a criminal offence, or if their conduct strays significantly from recognized standards of public behaviour.
Mr. Black went to the Federal Court this month after the advisory council rejected his request for a chance to make oral arguments in his defence, saying he could file only written representations.
A half-day court hearing is set for Aug. 24 in Toronto to determine whether Mr. Black can appear in person before the advisory council.
“I remain fully convinced of the legal and moral propriety of my actions,” Mr. Black says in the court affidavit sworn last week.
“While I acknowledge that in many cases the Advisory Council might appropriately consider a criminal conviction from an advanced nation such as the United States to be much like a Canadian criminal conviction, in my case there are substantial grounds to demonstrate that I was treated inappropriately and unfairly throughout my lengthy interaction with the American justice system.
“Certainly I am fully confident that a Canadian court would not have returned any convictions on the basis of the facts adjudicated in the American proceedings.”
Mr. Black says he would present his position in an oral hearing of the advisory council “through witnesses as well as documentary evidence” about “the history of injustices” he experienced in the U.S. courts and related matters.
“In order to properly defend my honour and integrity, I seek the opportunity to present the very lengthy and complicated history of the past few years in person, looking the members of the Advisory Council in the eyes, answering any questions they may have and explaining to them why termination would be the unjust and inappropriate heaping of insult upon injury.”
In a response filed with the court, federal lawyers representing the advisory council say Mr. Black has no case.
“It is plain and obvious that the preliminary decision of the Advisory Council concerning whether or not to hold an oral hearing is not subject to judicial review,” they said.
The advisory council has agreed not to make a decision about Mr. Black until the Federal Court pronounces on the question of an oral hearing.
In a July 12 letter to Justice McLachlin, Mr. Kissinger says his respect for Mr. Black has not been diminished by the convictions.
“My very high regard for his integrity and character is unimpaired,” says the letter, now part of the court record. “Any finding by your advisory board that found otherwise would, I strongly believe, be unjust.”