Foreign influence in Canadian affairs

di Joe Volpe del May 17, 2019

TORONTO - I don’t know Conrad Black, personally. In many respects, he is a figure in Canadian society who is “larger than life”. He has many admirers - for reasons which can pass most objective criteria.

The rigor of his intellectual reasoning and academic analysis, especially when compared to the lesser mortals who pine to be associated with him professionally in the Media world, is impressive.

The British, for example, were so taken by his redoubtable achievements in finance and Media that, in 2001, they were moved to offer him a Lordship in the British House of Lords.

A rare and singularly significant way to recognize the value of a citizen “from a former colony”. Black was and continues to be a citizen of England.

The bestowing of such an honorific on a Canadian citizen by a foreign government unfortunately requires the consent of the Canadian government.

Then Prime Minister Jean Chretien would not give it. It matters little that I, as a member of caucus, did not have a fulsome appreciation of the rationale, real or contrived.

Significantly, Mr. Black chose a solution to work around the impasse that involved him voluntarily giving up his Canadian citizenship.

It could not have been an easy decision for a scion of Canada’s Establishment. Once no longer a Canadian, and Chretien’s barrier removed, Mr. Black was installed as a Lord in the relevant Chamber of the British Parliament.

He remains such, notwithstanding his absence of several years.

That absence was a consequence of legal problems, trial and conviction in American Court, in 2007.

He served his time in American jail. Other consequences saw the revocation of Canadian titles and recognitions.

As a convicted felon, he could no longer aspire to regain residency much less residency in Canada. The law is quite clear on this issue.

Only Ministerial intervention can permit the granting of temporary residence and work permit in such cases.

Former Minister of Immigration Jason Kenny, five years ago, exercised his Ministerial discretion to allow Mr. Black to re-enter Canada.

The country has not suffered for this decision, or from Mr. Black’s subsequent work and involvement in our society.

Without belittling the decision, it is a use of Ministerial discretion not afforded to families like the Demitri, the Neves or the Vicente whose applications for residency and work are not encumbered by a legacy of contrary Court decisions for cause.

These do not have “friends in high places”. Blessed are they that do. Mr. Black has many. He is a prolific writer and often sought- after political commentator.

Recently, he published an apparently favourable book extolling the virtues of one Donald Trump. I must confess to not having read it. No matter, “the Donald” did, and, being a “friend in a high place”, Mr. Trump exercised his power to “pardon” Mr. Black.

So far, however, the convictions stay on the record and Mr. Black, not being a Canadian citizen, is still ineligible to gain permanent residency in Canada. He still has friends in high places, as well as my respect for his intellectual prowess.

The Demitri, Neves and Vicente have only their desire to work and improve the lot of their families and children in Canada. I add my personal respect and best wishes for a positive decision on the part of a Minister with the courage and wisdom to use his discretion in their favour.

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