The Ellipsis – Black-listed

Who does Conrad Black think he is? I’m really asking.

He built one of the world’s largest news conglomerates in Hollinger International Inc. He’s been published in print media as well as numerous biographies and personal memoirs. In 1990 he was recognised by and appointed an Officer in the Order of Canada. Membership to the Order is based up “the highest degree of merit, an outstanding level of talent and service, or an exceptional contribution to Canada and humanity.” 2001 saw him awarded a seat in the British House of Lords as Baron Black of Crossharbour. Before accepting the honour, at the insistence of the then Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chrétien, with the backing of the Federal Court of Canada, he had to abandon his Canadian citizenship.

6 years later the American courts ruled against him as well. He was convicted on charges of mail fraud and obstruction of justice and sentenced to serve 6 1/2 years in prison. He repeatedly appealed, successfully dropping two of the three mail fraud charges he was convicted of. His sentence was reduced to 42 months (of which he served 37) even though it had been based on the obstruction of justice charge that was upheld.

As a result of his status as a convicted felon, the Advisory Council of the Order of Canada are now considering revoking his membership. As he has done before, he is fighting to represent himself to the council in person, asserting his case is too complex to be judged on the written submissions of defense mandated by the Order. He lost his first battle when the council rejected his request. The case could now move on through the courts.

So who does Conrad Black think he is? By his actions and comments, he seems to think he is the victim, a man persecuted by a corrupt court system, demonised by the public and accosted on all sides by villains who delight in bleeding him dry of his hard-earned status and well-deserved commendations.

. . . Who the heck does Conrad Black think he is?!

In submissions to the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois seeking further financial penalties against Black, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission included passages from his latest memoir, A Matter of Principle. The courts that tried and convicted him are a “fetid, ward-heeling political bazaar” that is “made no less sinister by the Little Red Riding Hood demeanor of (Judge Amy) St. Eve and the stertorous and insolent biases of (Court of Appeal Judge Richard) Posner.” Is there any surprise Judge William Hart who received and ruled on the SEC’s submissions Black has no respect for the securities laws he broke or “any regret for the losses or costs his violations have caused.” He further wrote Black “is intransigent in his denunciation of the courts and the justice system.”

A little advice, Mr. Black. If you want to be perceived as a victim it helps to show some humility. Merely stating you’re penitent does not make it true. Threatening the journalist interviewing you immediately afterwards makes it even harder to believe. The Black we’ve seen is a psychopath. How dare anybody besmirch his good name?! From Chrétien to the Order of Canada’s Advisory Council, the American courts to British journalists, how dare you?! Everything Black has done gives the impression he feels he’s above the law. He claims to have done nothing wrong. The courts conspired against him and invented laws to charge him with. Forget that those laws had been in place for decades before he deigned to ignore them. The same is true of his battle with Chrétien. It was the Nickle Resolution of 1919 that the PM was citing and the FCC held up against him. As for the Order of Canada it was 16 years ago that the policy for revoking members no longer deemed worthy and accepting only written submissions in defence. These organizations aren’t in working in cahoots to destroy him. They are merely applying the rules that we all must live by.

As a horribly litigious individual, Black seems to take pleasure in a verbal sparring match. That is until he finds himself up against the ropes, as he is now. Then the gloves come off. Legal wrangling is supplanted by verbal abuse and veiled threats. He may believe he’s the victim but we’re not buying it.

The medal awarded to Officers of the Order of Canada

Is there any surprise the vast majority of Canadians (61%, Forum Research) would see his bid to regain his citizenship fail? An even greater number (63%, Forum Research) would see his Order of Canada status stripped. While the former is still in question, the latter is growing more and more likely to go against Black. The first member ever cast from the Order, Alan Eagleson, was charged and convicted of crimes similar to but less serious than Black’s. Of course, Black still maintains his innocence and I’m sure he has a crack legal team working around the clock to have his final two convictions overturned. If he manage to do so or at least convince the Advisory Council it will or should be done, should he keep the medal? I think not.

There are actually two reasons that the Council can apply to cast out a member. The first and most common is a criminal conviction. If Black gets his way then that cause would no longer apply. The second cause, however, gains further merit with every appearance Black makes. The reason? “If the conduct of the person constitutes a significant departure from generally-recognized standards of public behaviour which is seen to undermine the credibility, integrity or relevance of the Order.” Accosting journalists, insulting judges and a complete lack of repentance in the face of criminal convictions are not the behaviours one would expect from an Officer of our highest civilian order. He has even insulted the very people who will judge his worth. “I would not wait for giving these junior officials the evidently almost aphrodisiacal pleasure of throwing me out.” Beyond the impropriety, that’s downright stupid.

With all that said, there is one case to be made for Black. He does live by the Order’s motto, emblazoned on the snowflake medal he received. “Desiderantes meliorem patriam“. Translation: “They desire a better country.” He does wish for a better country… Better for Black.

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