By this time next week, the rebranding of Conrad Black will have begun in earnest.
This Friday, May 4, 2012, Conrad Moffat Black, Lord Black of Crossharbour, is being released from the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex.
Coleman, Florida, is in the middle of the state. It’s south of Wildwood and east of Lake Panassoffkee. In other words, in the middle of nowhere.
When he’s released, Black will head for Toronto. Immigration Canada has determined that the likelihood of him reoffending is low, he is not violent and his family is here. So, like thousands of other ex-cons that meet these criteria, he has been given a “Temporary Resident Visa.” Seems reasonable, NDP opposition leader Mulcair’s posturing and bluster notwithstanding.
Though born in Canada and having lived most of his life here, he infamously gave up his citizenship in 2001, in order to accept a British peerage. It should be noted that he did not give it up without a fight. The well-established animus between Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Conservative Mr. Black culminated in an Ontario Court of Appeal decision (Conrad Black v. Jean Chrétien et al, docket # C33887) that found in favour of Mr. Chrétien.
In fact, Black had intended to become a dual Canadian and British citizen at the time and Chrétien could have elected to stay out of the issue altogether. Nevertheless, the Canadian Prime Minister, no fan of Black and his National Post, reached deep into the musty vault and came up with the Nickle Resolution of 1919, a non-binding request to King George not to give British honours to residents of Canada. For the record, Black was then a resident of the UK.
In any case, Black’s renunciation of his Canadian citizenship to facilitate membership in the planet’s pre-eminent old-boys club, the British House of Lords, generated much resentment here at home. As such, there was no sympathy when, a few years later, his legal trouble began. With his release from incarceration imminent, the vitriol directed at Black and the prospect of his return is palpable.
The rebranding of Conrad Black began with the release last year of his jailhouse opus, A Matter of Principle, all 709 pages of it. To be fair, the last 41 of them are appendices. (!)
It’s an extraordinary book. Black’s “Reflections on the American Justice System,” the tome’s postlude, is alone worth the price of admission. To whit:
“The American criminal justice system is based on the plea bargain, which is hideously abused, and it could not possibly be otherwise. Prosecutors single someone out and threaten all sorts of acquaintances or colleagues of the target with prosecution if they do not ‘cooperate,’ which in practice means producing inculpatory evidence against the target, with negligible concern for its veracity, and an immunity against prosecution for suborned or extorted perjury.” Whew!
Black makes a compelling case for prosecution run amok as central to his own legal travails. He convincingly paints himself as an innocent man wronged, stoic, head held high throughout 42 months of incarceration. Indeed, all but two of his eight convictions were overturned on appeal. Black, whatever his flaws, is made of strong stuff.
It must be said, his book is a gymkhana of vocabulary excess. His command of the lexicon is beyond formidable, and he’s quite prepared to go out of his way to let us know this. Nevertheless, hubris and bombast are no reason to keep Mr. Black out of the country. Furthermore, I submit it’s a more interesting place with him in it.
If A Matter of Principle was phase one, phase two will be personal appearances on carefully chosen venues to tell his story. Check John Tory’s radio program on CFRB and, of course, The National Post.
As for phase three, a unanimous judgment by the Supreme Court of Canada on April 18th allows Black to bring a libel lawsuit against other former Hollinger International directors in Ontario, even though the alleged offence occurred in the US. Is Black’s nemesis, Richard Breeden, looking over his shoulder yet?
This is the rebranding of Conrad Black. It’ll be a great show.