POLITICS

Conrad Black wants his voice heard in fight to keep Order of Canada

07/10/2012 05:07 EDT | Updated 09/09/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Conrad Black, the convicted former media tycoon who voluntarily gave up his Canadian citizenship, is now fighting to be heard in his battle to remain an officer of the Order of Canada.

Black is asking Federal Court to force the Order of Canada advisory council to allow him to present his case orally.

The case, his lawyers argue in an application filed this week, is too complicated to be dealt with only in writing.

"The facts relating to the issue of terminating the applicant's appointment to the Order of Canada are complex and lengthy and cannot be appropriately dealt with in written submissions only," his application states.

"The advisory council and/or secretary general (of the order) failed to observe principles of natural justice, procedural fairness or other procedure that they were required by law to observe."

The application asks Federal Court to declare that decision invalid or unlawful, and set it aside. In the interim, it wants the court to block the council from taking any further steps toward deciding his case.

Black's 1990 appointment to the Order of Canada was thrown into jeopardy by his convictions in the United States in 2007 for fraud and obstruction of justice committed as head of the Hollinger International media empire. He served 37 months of a 42-month sentence in a Florida prison.

He was released in May and returned to Canada under a special temporary permit given that he is no longer a citizen.

Under the rules, termination of an appointment to the order can occur in the event a recipient is convicted of a criminal offence. Black has always maintained he was victimized by the American justice system, and that Canadian courts would never have convicted him.

The order's 11-member advisory council, which is reviewing Black's status, has told him he can make his case in writing, but not orally.

Once the council makes its decision, it will forward its views on whether to strip him of the honour — something that has only happened in four previous cases — to Gov. Gen. David Johnston, who is obliged to act on the recommendation.

"Given that the relevant facts will engage issues of credibility and prompt questions from the advisory council, the principles of fairness make an oral hearing necessary," Black's application states.

Only through an oral hearing, he argues, will the council make its fair recommendation based on "evidence."

Black was not immediately available for comment.

The Order of Canada recognizes "a lifetime of achievement and merit of a high degree, especially in service to Canada or to humanity at large."

In a highly publicized battle in 2001, Black renounced his Canadian citizenship so he could accept a peerage in the British House of Lords. He has said he wants to regain Canadian citizenship.

According to the application — filed in Ottawa but to be heard in Toronto — the council first told Black about its review almost a year ago. In response, Black asked for an oral hearing "based on the nature and complexity of the matters under consideration" but was turned down without reasons.

"A request for reconsideration of this decision was denied again without reasons by letter dated July 6, 2012," the application states.