Conrad Black has been given permission by immigration officials to return to Canada for a year, even though he gave up his citizenship in 2001 and has a criminal record in the United States, CBC News has confirmed.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has granted Black a temporary resident permit, which would allow him to live in Canada from May 2012 until May 2013. He's expected to live in Toronto, where his wife lives in their residence.
Black, the former head of Hollinger International and owner of Canada's Southam chain of newspapers, would normally be inadmissible to Canada because he isn't a Canadian citizen and has a criminal record. Southam, which became Canwest, is now Postmedia.
Black paid a $200 fee for a temporary-resident permit on March 20, 2012.
According to a government website, a temporary resident permit temporarily overcomes inadmissibility.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in question period he couldn't comment on specific cases, but that he had removed himself from any case concerning Black.
"Matters such as this are a matter of personal privacy," he told MPs.
However, he did confirm he was expecting an application from Black, telling reporters later he learned of it last February.
"I can advise the House, with respect to this individual, I indicated to my department that I would not have any involvement in an application from that individual and that his application would be treated by highly trained members of our public service."
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the case shows there are two sets of rules, pointing to another case where the government won't let another man return to Canada after serving 30 days in U.S. prison.
Douglas Gary Freeman was arrested in Toronto in 2004 for a 1969 police shooting in Chicago. Freeman says he acted in self-defence, but pleaded guilty to aggravated battery and served 30 days in jail in the U.S. He served three years in jail in Toronto prior to going to the U.S. for his court case. Freeman raised a family in Canada and was working at a library in Toronto when he was arrested.
"It's a clear case of a double standard. One for an American black man from Chicago, another for a British white man coming out of federal penitentiary," Mulcair said.
Kenney said officials can approve temporary resident permits if they believe the applicant is at low risk to reoffend and if the offence wasn't violent. Other criteria include long-standing ties to Canada and humanitarian and compassionate grounds. He said 10,000 permits are issued every year, some of which help people overcome inadmissibility. Kenney later said on Twitter that officials issued 6,541 permits to allow people with criminal records into Canada in 2011, with 907 of them having records for serious offences.
Kenney, who referred to Freeman in question period as a cop killer, corrected himself when speaking to reporters later. "I should have said cop shooter, not cop killer," he said.
Black due for release
Black, 67, is due to be released from a Florida prison by next weekend.
He was resentenced last June to 42 months in prison on fraud and obstruction of justice charges related to his work at Hollinger.
Black served 29 months in the Coleman federal prison in Florida before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down some of his initial convictions, citing a misuse of the "honest services" provision of the U.S. fraud statute. His original sentence was for 78 months in prison after multiple convictions on fraud and obstruction of justice charges.
The court agreed to accept the 29 months he had already served as part of his new sentence of 42 months.
In an interview with Matt Galloway of CBC Toronto Radio's Metro Morning last August, Black talked about the possibility of eventually getting back the Canadian citizenship he renounced in 2001 to take a seat in the U.K.'s House of Lords.
"I can see quite clearly, looming larger every day, the end of this horrible sequence of events," he told Galloway.
He said he wants to return to Toronto, because that's where his wife, journalist Barbara Amiel, lives, but he won't try to get his Canadian citizenship right away.