Harper says he won't help Black return to Canada
Published Wednesday, July 18, 2007 8:31PM EDT
Conrad Black will return to a Chicago courtroom Thursday for his bail hearing. But the prime minister said Black won't receive any special treatment should he attempt to return to Canada.
Black renounced his Canadian citizenship in order to enter the British House of Lords after a dispute with former prime minister Jean Chr�tien.
Speaking from the Chilean capital of Santiago, where he is on a Latin American tour, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Black would have to go through regular channels if he wants to enter Canada or regain his Canadian citizenship.
"I have made it clear to our officials that there will be no political recourse," Harper told reporters during a news conference.
"We will handle this case as we handle the vast majority of these cases, through the law that is written and the decision of officials.''
Black, a former media baron, was convicted last Friday of mail fraud and obstruction of justice in a Chicago courtroom.
On Thursday, Judge Amy St. Eve will decide whether he should be remanded into custody or be allowed to stay free on bail until his Nov. 30 sentencing on fraud and obstruction of justice charges.
Black surrendered his passport pending his bail hearing.
Harper was asked whether he would rescind Black's status as a Privy Councillor. He responded by saying he wasn't aware that former prime minister Brian Mulroney had named Black to the Privy Council.
"Obviously the court process would have to be completed before we take any decisions," he said.
Harper said he would not make any decision until the court case has been settled. He added Black is free to use normal avenues to attempt to return to Canada if his bail is extended until his sentencing hearing in November.
CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife said Black's strong allegiance to conservative parties won't change Harper's position.
"Mr. Black had been a very strong financial supporter of the Canadian Alliance when Mr. Harper was involved in that party, not only in terms of money, but also through his newspaper chain, supporting the Canadian Alliance as a political party," Fife told Newsnet.
One of Canada's top immigration lawyers, Lorne Waldman of Waldman and Associates, said Tuesday that Black stands a good chance of getting a temporary resident permit to return to Canada if he is released at his bail hearing.
Waldman, whose firm represented Maher Arar, said it would be a normal course of events if the citizenship and immigration minister allowed Black to return as a visitor.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesperson Karen Shadd-Evelyn said that "in general, a person convicted of a serious crime is inadmissible to Canada."
This means that a convicted felon is barred from visiting Canada even for a day.
However, Immigration Minister Diane Finley has the discretionary authority to give Black permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
If Black is allowed to come back, he would be among nearly 1,000 foreign nationals with criminal convictions punishable by sentences of 10 years or more who are granted such permits to live temporarily in this country every year.
As for Black's Order of Canada, Harper isn't going to get involved, saying it is "largely within the purview of the governor-general."
The NDP has submitted an official request to the Chancellery of Honours at Rideau Hall to have Black removed as officer of the Order of Canada now that he has been convicted of criminal offences.
NDP Heritage critic Charlie Angus said allowing Black to hold on to Canada's highest civilian honour undermines its integrity.
"You have this extremely unusual situation of a man who turns his back on his country, but is still a member of the Order of Canada," said Angus. "And now he's a convicted felon. I'm sorry, the precedent is if you're a convicted felon you're no longer a member of the Order of Canada."
Black biographer George Tombs said the loss of any titles would be particularly devastating for the man.
"Conrad Black cares a lot about his social standing and a lot about the various honours he has received," said Tombs.
Black's leading defence lawyer, Edward Greenspan, said in a statement that any move to strip his client of his Order of Canada should wait until the judicial process is completed.
Black was originally inducted as an officer, the second highest level of the Order, for his achievements in commerce, literature and the arts, as well as charitable works. His business ventures have ''enhanced Canada's visible presence internationally,'' the announcement from his appointment read.
Only two other recipients of the Order of Canada have ever been stripped of the honour since it was introduced in 1967.
Former hockey czar Alan Eagleson lost his in 1998, shortly after he was jailed on fraud charges connected to his leadership at the National Hockey League Players Association.
Aboriginal leader David Ahenakew, once the chief of the Assembly of First Nations, had his appointment terminated in 2005 after he was found guilty of wilfully promoting hatred by a Saskatoon court. He had referred to Jews as a "disease.''
Black faces decades in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for his convictions.
With a report from CTV's Rosemary Thompson and files from The Canadian Press