Ruling reserved on Conrad Black’s bid for Order of Canada hearing

Former media baron Conrad Black will have to wait to find out whether he will be given the chance to explain in person why he should be allowed to remain as an officer of the Order of Canada.
Conrad Black speaks in Toronto on June 22, 2012. 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. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Former media baron Conrad Black will have to wait to find out whether he will be given the chance to explain in person why he should be allowed to remain as an officer of the Order of Canada.

Justice Yves de Montigny of the Federal Court in Toronto reserved his decision after hearing more than two hours of legal argument Friday.

Black's 1990 appointment as an officer of the Order of Canada is under review by an advisory council because of fraud and obstruction of justice convictions related to his tenure as head of the Hollinger newspaper empire. Black served 37 months in a Florida prison for those crimes and was released earlier this year.

Among their 10 points, Black’s lawyers argued that he was not convicted in Canada and said, contrary to the argument made by lawyers for the advisory council, Black does not intend to use his hearing to "re-litigate" his U.S. criminal convictions.

Lawyers for the council argued that no decision has been made to strip Black of his honour and that should that happen, he has the right to appeal the decision.

In the meantime, they said, the issue of his right to an oral hearing is not something the court has an interest in.

No one has ever challenged the decisions of the advisory council.

But it is bound by regulations which say it shall consider "the termination of a person's appointment to the Order of Canada if the person has been convicted of a criminal offence."

In an affidavit filed in Federal Court, Black said there are grounds to show he was treated inappropriately and unfairly throughout his "lengthy interaction with the American justice system."

He says no Canadian court would have convicted him and he wants an oral hearing to make that point, with the help of witnesses, so he can look the Order of Canada's advisory council members "in the eyes."

The advisory council has already turned down his request to appear in person to argue his case.


 4 Canadians who have had Order of Canada honours revoked:

  • Former NHL Players' Association head Alan Eagleson.
  • Controversial Saskatchewan First Nations figure David Ahenakew.
  • Disbarred Guelph, Ont., lawyer T. Sher Singh.
  • Cross-Canada cancer runner Steve Fonyo.

According to the rules governing the termination process, a person whose appointment is being reviewed has the right to "make representations in writing or as the secretary general may authorize." There is no specific mention of the right to an oral hearing.

The 11-member council, which is chaired by Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, is reviewing Black's case and will make a recommendation to Gov. Gen. David Johnston.

Appointment as an officer of the Order of Canada is meant to recognize "a lifetime of achievement and merit of a high degree, especially in service to Canada or to humanity at large."

Black renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001 to accept a peerage in the British House of Lords. While in prison, he applied for and was granted a temporary resident permit, which would allow him to live in Canada until May 2013. He has said he wants to regain his Canadian citizenship. 

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC's Mike Hornbrook