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Canada Oral argument Conrad Black’s best bet in Order of Canada review: lawyer

Conrad Black at the Empire Club in Toronto on June 22, 2012. Today’s topics: allowing Conrad Black back into Canada; the great Clara Hughes, Badmintongate; gun control ... and more

Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Conrad Black should be allowed to speak in person in order to defend his officership of the Order of Canada, his lawyer told a Federal Court in Toronto Friday.

Peter Howard told the Honourable Justice Yves de Montigny that a standard written defence would not sufficiently enable Mr. Black to defend his "credibility, reputation and integrity" before an advisory council that will make a recommendation to the Governor General on the fate of his investiture.

"You do need to see the man to believe him or disbelieve him," Mr. Howard said. "A fundamental assessment of Black's state of mind ... cannot be done in his absence."

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Mr. Justice de Montigny did not announce a decision to the court, but said he would consider the arguments and provide a ruling as fast as possible. During Mr. Howard's arguments, however, he noted that should Mr. Black be entitled to an oral hearing, it might open the floodgates for any others challenging the advisory council if they claim their reputation is at stake.

Mr. Black was not present at the hearing. The former media baron was named to the Order of Canada in 1990, but his status is being reviewed after two U.S. convictions relating to fraud and obstruction of justice during his time heading Hollinger International newspaper company.

Christine Mohr, who represented the Order of Canada advisory council at the hearing, argued that if the advisory council were to just consider the facts behind the legal cases that led to the Order's review, they would most easily be presented in a written manner.

The constitution is "silent on process," and policy "does not require an oral hearing," she said, which would make the fairness of Mr. Black defending himself orally extremely low.

Ms. Mohr contested the necessity of Mr. Black conveying his "state of mind" and said his reputation "should not determine an oral hearing." Instead, she said, the convictions themselves should simply be taken as fact.

But Mr. Black, who has lashed out at the U.S. justice system alleging mistreatment, fiercely wishes to maintain his reputation. Mr. Howard said that "it is not the nature of the man" to "go quietly into that good night."

Mr. Howard cited various cases in which oral defences were found to be most effective. Now Mr. Black, having served his time, wants an oral hearing with the advisory council "to tell them to their faces, 'I didn't do anything wrong.'"

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Mr. Black returned to Canada in May after serving 37 months of his 42-month sentence. He has not been a Canadian citizen since 2001, when he revoked his citizenship after being named to the British House of Lords; the federal government, though, granted him a one-year temporary resident permit before his arrival.

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