Strip Conrad Black of Order of Canada, NDP urges

Calls are mounting for former media baron Conrad Black to be stripped of his Order of Canada after his recent conviction on mail fraud and obstruction of justice charges.

Edmonton members among those calling for Rideau Hall to rescind honour

The reputation of former media baron Conrad Black, who fell from fortune to felon last week, could plummet even further now that the federal New Democrats are asking Rideau Hall to strip away Black's Order of Canada.

Conrad Black waits to receive his order of Canada in a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Oct. 26, 1990. ((Man Alive/CBC))

The NDP has put in an official request to take away Canada's highest civilian honour from the former head of Hollinger Inc., reasoning Black's convictions for three counts of fraud and one count of obstruction of justice in Chicago onJuly 13 undermine the integrity of the award.

NDP heritage critic Charlie Angus told the Canadian Press that the Order of Canada was meant to represent the noblest achievements of Canada's men and women, but "when someone falls below that standard by being convicted, in the past they've been removed from that order."

Black's leading defence lawyer, Edward Greenspan, e-mailed a statement to the Canadian Press saying that any move to strip Black of the order should wait until the judicial process is completed.

"Since we have announced that there will be an appeal, the only appropriate thing to do is to await the result of the appeal before any motion about his Order of Canada should be brought," Greenspan wrote.

'The only appropriate thing to do is to await the result of the appeal before any motion about his Order of Canada should be brought.'—Edward Greenspan, lawyer for Conrad Black

Black's 1990 medal, a stylized six-pointed snowflake etched in gold, distinguishes him as an officer of the order — the second-highest standing.

The original citation for the award praises his charity work and achievement in the arts. It states the Montreal-born Black's various business ventures "have enhanced Canada's visible presence internationally."

If Rideau Hall withdraws Black's appointment, it would be the third such case since the first Order of Canada honour was awarded 40 years ago.

Only 2 recipients ever stripped of Order

Of the more than 5,500 Canadians who have accepted the honour, only two have had their memberships terminated: Alan Eagleson, aformer head of the NHL Players Association, lost his in 1998 after being jailed for defrauding players out of money, and former Assembly of First Nations chief David Ahenakew lost his in 2005 after a Saskatoon court found him guilty of promoting hatred with anti-Semitic remarks.

At least two Edmonton residents who are members of the order have told CBC News that they feel Black no longer belongs in the elite group.

"This is something where one is upholding the honour of our country, and you don't do a very good job of it if you are not an honest business person,"said Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour, aUniversity of Alberta professor who became a member a year ago for encouraging young people to consider careers in the sciences.

'He renounced his Canadian citizenship. Why should he be the member of an order of a country that he is not a member of?'—Order of Canada member David Schindler

Another member, ecologist David Schindler,said he can't think of any reason why Black should be allowed to retain the honour.

"He renounced his Canadian citizenship. Why should he be the member of an order of a country that he is not a member of, and is prevented from visiting because they don't allow convicted felons?"

Any Canadian can request withdrawal

While a spokesperson with Rideau Hall said the office cannot disclose the names of people who might be considered for termination of their Order of Canada, she said any Canadian can approach the deputy secretary of the Chancellor of Honours to request a person's appointment be withdrawn.

NDP MP Charlie Angus says there is a precedent for removing those who have "fallen below" the Order of Canada's standards. ((Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press))

If the deputy secretary determines there are enough grounds, the case is forwarded to the secretary general and to a 11-member advisory council.

The council will conduct a study, and if they think there is a basis for the allegations, it will inform the person that his or her appointment is being reviewed for termination. The person can either voluntarily resign or make their own representations to the council.

With files from the Canadian Press