In response to the many good wishes I have received over my departure from the Order and Privy Council of Canada, I will, as I always do, reply to everyone who has contacted me by email -- but their numbers are such that it will take a while, and I ask for patience. I take it as an omen that for the first time, at any stage of this long and relentless persecution, I have not received a single negative message.
Two important issues emerge from this controversy. It had been obvious for two years that the honours and awards staff that administers these matters were rabid in their ambition to remove me, and I publicly referred to their ambitions in this regard as "orgasmic." I learned long ago that honours do not make a man, any more than the withdrawal of honours unmakes one. It was obvious that no Canadian court would have even been seized of such spurious charges as I faced in the United States, and certainly no guilty verdicts would have been returned, and even the American system effectively pitched all the counts. But the grinding of the notorious Chicago court system managed to circumvent the U.S. Supreme Court.
From their very first abrupt and officious communication, it was clear that the honours bureaucrats had deemed me to be a convicted criminal who merited not even the most basic courtesies or due process regarding my Order of Canada status. I quickly realized that these prancing figurines in the governor general's entourage who manipulate this honours system did not wish to be confused by the facts and were scandalized by the notion that anyone might seek a hearing on this matter, though the statute establishing the Order provides for one.
After the Canadian courts decided that they could not impose a hearing, I wrote the following letter to the governor general of Canada, David Johnston, on December 18:
Your heraldic officials have successfully litigated to prevent a hearing on the matter of my status as an Officer of the Order of Canada. I am reliably advised that it is the practice of the Advisory Board of that Order to approve the recommendations of staff whose adamant opposition to a hearing on this matter, which the Order's rules would permit, together with the tone of their correspondence, makes their bias perfectly plain.
Though it seems futile to repeat what has been made evident in previous letters [to his staff], I cannot dismiss this calumny without a final summing up. Perhaps it is inevitable that given a little power and no accountability, some officials will be unable to resist the excitement of using it arbitrarily and spitefully. There is nothing before those officials that could give legitimate cause for denying my status had they seriously examined the matter. All counts against me were abandoned, rejected by jurors, or unanimously vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court. That two counts were revived against me only speaks to the flaw in the U.S. Justice system, which allows a lower court judge whose reasoning has been excoriated by the high court to resurrect two of the minor counts vacated in order to save his own reputation. None of this could have happened in the courts of this country.
I won the largest defamation settlement in Canadian history ($5-million) from the sponsors of the prosecution. In all of the circumstances, I decline to continue in a process that I consider to be vitiated in respect of an honour, the retention of which, as matters have evolved, appears to rest largely in the hands of unaccountable officials of inflexible views, in an ex parte proceeding. I will not seek to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada; will not activate the efforts a number of friends in each echelon of the Order of Canada have offered to press on my behalf with the advisory board; and will not communicate further with the Herald Chancellor.
I enclose a copy of my book, which covers the events that gave rise to this issue (not one aspect of which has been disputed), and copies of the letters sent to the Chief Justice of Canada in her capacity as chairperson of the Advisory Board of the Order of Canada by the principal trial defense counsel, Mr. Safer, and by my former corporate colleague, Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, should you wish to consider the matter if and when it gets to you. If my surmise of the process is correct and you receive a recommendation that my continuation as an Officer of the Order of Canada is not appropriate, and you accept that recommendation, I would be grateful if you would take this letter as my retirement as an Officer of the Order of Canada. If you decline to have any suspensive aspect to the issue, please accept this letter as my resignation as an Officer of the Order of Canada effective on your receipt of this letter.
As we have known each other for many years, I hope you will pardon my adding that it is not the least disappointment I have suffered in my persecution by the U.S. prosecutors to discover that my native country, in matters of its highest civil decoration, follows the vagaries of the U.S. justice system with such undeserved deference, drastic though its variance indisputably is in this case with any procedure or practice that would occur or be in the least acceptable in this country. It has been a painful episode and I hope it is not an unjustified liberty for me to ask you to close it as you see fit as decorously as possible.
With personal best wishes and compliments of the season to you,
Yours sincerely, Conrad Black.
Whether I continued to hold these distinctions was not significant, but the process of Canada demeaning itself by robotic conformity to injustices inflicted in the United States (or any foreign country) on the holders of Canadian honours without any real review, is a matter of some general interest. If Canada's highest honours can be stripped away from someone because of processes that would not be acceptable in Canada, and thus validated in Canada without any due process or by qualified people-only by gnomish and nasty officials clinging like limpets to their own prejudices and piously declining to "relitigate," the consequences reflect poorly on Canadian sovereignty and credibility as a country.
I do not believe that Canadians, if they thought about it, would accept that the unknowable, and in this case meticulously documented, caprices and irregularities of a foreign justice system at great variance with their own, should be able to determine without any due process or accountability the status of holders of Canadian honours, and especially not in a Molièresque parlour-room farce conducted by a poltroon styled as a herald chancellor.
That brings up the other point that is significant: As readers can see from the letter reproduced above, I in fact resigned, but gave David Johnston the opportunity to do the right thing -- not accept the advice to withdraw my honours, which he was free to do -- if he wished. I correctly predicted that the bobble-headed worthies of the official snobocracy called the Advisory Board of the Order of Canada would nod the herald chancellor's sanctimonious misinformation on to Johnston.
(I am confident none of them could give any explanation of my ostensible conviction except the malicious fantasies of the libel defendants who originally uttered them and whom I relieved of $5 million.) And I expected that he would be resistless against the tug of the strings attaching his articulating joints to the hands of the hovering officials.
The Federal Court of Appeal had declined to require the hearing that may be requested, on the very grounds of the governor general's right to decline the recommendation. I had said I would retire if denied a hearing, and I did so, but in deference to the court and the governor general, I thought I should leave open the option for him to decline the juggernaut of rubber-stamps the herald chancellor would solicit and propel into his lap. As I wrote in my letter to him, I tried to wind the matter down, by forgoing an appeal or any lobbying by my supporters in the Order, and I invoked decades of casual but cordial acquaintance to ask Johnston to do what he thought best, but do it decorously.
The herald chancellor himself called my counsel on the late afternoon of Friday afternoon, January 31, to be sure that he had my email address; to be sure, that is, that they expelled me before I confirmed my resignation (though I did not believe there was any need to confirm it). Government House issued a statement that was in fact, false, as I had already resigned; presumably to inflict as much irritation and affected consequentiality as possible. (The Privy Council issue, of which I had no notice whatever, was at least consistent, and was so insultingly communicated by Johnston's own email, and in the name of the prime minister, it was almost piquant.)
The second issue raised is whether Canadians really want these functions exercised in this secretive, tortuous, dishonest way by such churlish people. My history of Canada will be published later this year. The sub-title is "The Rise of a Great Nation," and it is often a gripping and prideful tale, but I am afraid the country's institutions and the people who operate them have not entirely kept pace with what Canadians as a people have accomplished.
This incident will pass quickly and Canadians will sort the process out. I am moving on; this has been an annoying sideshow, but I have won 99% of the battles and, as I told the trial judge, always try to take success like a gentleman and disappointment like a man. Though I would not accept these honours if they were offered under this regime, I will try to behave in a way that will cause fair-minded people to think I have earned them. And, not that too much weight should be attached to these either, I am content with the honours I already have from countries less obedient to the perversities of a half-demented, much-criticized Chicago judge than Canada is.
For my opponents, no further argument on this subject from me will be useful, and for my friends, I trust none is necessary. Perhaps the most eloquent of the very large number of messages I have received was signed "Tim": "F-k 'em." Good thought, Tim, whoever you are, but my contempt for them is so profound and complete that I don't think they deserve even that sensation.
This piece originally appeared in the National Post.
Readers who want a copy of the letters that Henry Kissinger and Ronald Safer sent the chief justice may obtain them by emailing Conrad Black at email@example.com
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