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Another time a world leader acted on Conrad Black's fate

Newspaper owner Conrad Black had a clear path to a seat in Britain's House of Lords -- until Jean Chrétien blocked it.

Black sued Prime Minister Jean Chrétien for blocking his appointment to British House of Lords

The Canadian newspaper owner was all set to be appointed to the House of Lords -- until the Chrétien government stopped it. 3:09

Conrad Black, a former media baron who was convicted in the U.S. in 2007 on charges of fraud and obstruction of justice, has been pardoned by U.S. President Donald Trump. 

It's not the first time a world leader has intervened in Black's fate.

Back in August 1999, CBC's The National led with the story that Black was suing then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, for allegedly abusing his power "by preventing him from taking a seat in the British House of Lords."

Host Peter Mansbridge said it was Black's allegation that Chrétien did so because he was "annoyed" by coverage of him in Black's newspapers, which included the Ottawa Citizen and the National Post.

"He's suing Jean Chrétien for $25,000 for abuse of power for blocking his lifetime appointment to Britain's upper house of Parliament," said reporter Saša Petricic.

A 'heated conversation'

Conrad Black, at left, is seen in his role as the honorary head of the Governor General's footguard at a 1997 Ottawa event with Queen Elizabeth. (The National/CBC Archives)

Black's statement of claim said he had met every requirement set out for him by the British and Canadian governments before he could obtain the peerage — most notably, obtaining British citizenship.

But, it added, something happened the day before Queen Elizabeth was to announce his appointment.

"Black says [then-British Prime Minister] Tony Blair phoned him with the bad news," reported Petricic. "Jean Chrétien had intervened with the Queen, urging her not to make Black a lord." 

Black's next phone call was to Chrétien himself, and the pair had a "heated conversation."

Chrétien refused to change his mind, and also complained "that he was not kindly treated by the National Post," according to Black's statement of claim.

Chrétien had already said he had legal backup for the block.

"Canadian citizens, since the Nickle Resolution of 1919, could not become a lord in the House of Lords of Great Britain," he said.   

After announcing his lawsuit, Conrad Black explains why the Canadian government has no right to block his appointment to the British House of Lords. 1:28

In an interview taped a month later for CBC's Mansbridge One on One, Black rejected Chrétien's reasoning.

"[The Nickle Resolution] asked the Canadian government not to request the British monarch to appoint Canadian citizens, resident in Canada, to titles," he said. "So even on that basis it has no application to me."

Chrétien countersued in September 1999 on the day after the Mansbridge-Black interview aired.

After renouncing his Canadian citizenship and selling all of his interests in Canadian newspapers, Black was sworn into the British House of Lords on Oct. 31, 2001.

According to a CBC News report from that day, the government had spent $170,000 "in the legal wrangle with Black."

He had lost his lawsuit and a subsequent appeal, resulting in his decision to give up his citizenship and paving the way to his appointment to the House of Lords.