Stand up for Fonyo, but not Lord Black

Brian Jones
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Even people who detest Conrad Black have to admit the guy is a walking, breathing, living lesson in political philosophy. Citizens of multiple countries can learn more from him than they could in any university’s political science classes.

Take Lord Black’s recent return to Canada. A non-citizen and convicted fraudster, he waltzed back into his Toronto mansion and instantly proved Canada is too often a wimpy and gutless nation that stands for almost nothing, without even the wherewithal to defend the value of its own citizenship.

Black’s most recent contribution to the further education of the Canadian body politic is his fight to not be ousted from membership in the Order of Canada.

If the latter were to occur, not only would he have to return some prestigious bling, it would provide further evidence to doubters of his Lordship’s greatness.

To recap: Black, a former media baron, stole — “defrauded” would be the polite, legal term — millions of dollars from shareholders of his companies, and served slightly less than four years in a U.S. prison, all the while protesting his innocence and proclaiming he was a victim of the American justice system, whose judges are apparently unaware CEOs have the right to stick their fingers into the company till.

Black has sent his lawyers to Federal Court to argue the advisory council that oversees the Order of Canada should allow him to make an oral — rather than merely written — presentation about why he should not be kicked out of the order. “Kicked out” is the colloquial term.

“Termination of appointment”

is the official euphemism, as described in the order’s own rulebook for kicking people out.

Must pomposity automatically accompany greatness?

Do rich people really enjoy rights not available to those with fewer financial holdings and flimsy wallets?

Should courts of law post prices on their doors, the way restaurants post menus?

“Full justice: $1 million.”

“Large helping of justice: $500,000.”

“Partial justice: $200,000.”

“No justice: free.”

These are all questions Lord Black can help us answer.

The fact he is even able to mount an argument against the Order of Canada’s advisory council is instructive.

Steve Fonyo had no such luxury. When one of Canada’s true heroes was kicked out of the Order of Canada in 2009, it was a sudden, shocking announcement from Ottawa, without an expensive court battle leading up to the denouement.

Unfortunately, Fonyo has extensive experience being on the bad side of the law, with multiple convictions for fraud, assault and drunk driving.

But here’s the essential fact: none of Fonyo’s subsequently bad behaviour negated the greatness of what he did.

No other one-legged cancer victim has run across Canada, east ocean to west ocean. Terry Fox

tried it, and famously got as far as Thunder Bay, and understandably became Canada’s main hero.

Fonyo, like Fox, departed from St. John’s. He actually reached Victoria, B.C., but too many Canadians resented that he succeeded, rather than died. That could have been the start of his tragic story. Unlike Fox, Fonyo has had to live it.

Canadians, including Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians), were shamefully quiet when Fonyo was unceremoniously heaved from the Order of Canada. There should have been a raucous national debate about whether his actions negated his great achievement. But there was none.

The Order of Canada’s rules say only that bad behaviour can lead to a member’s expulsion. They don’t say bad behaviour must lead to expulsion.

By kicking Steve Fonyo out, Canada denied its own history and a measure of its own greatness.

By kicking Lord Black out, Canada will perhaps regain a small measure of that potential greatness.


Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at



Organizations: Federal Court, The Telegram

Geographic location: Canada, Toronto, U.S. Ottawa Thunder Bay Victoria

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Recent comments

  • David
    July 16, 2012 - 07:55

    Excerpts from a July 16 National Post article by Robert Fulford ... "Being outrageously outspoken and supremely confident in his views, Black has never been a contender in a popularity contest. He’s also a felon, though he became one through a highly dubious process. The case began with a rebarbative campaign of outlandish pre-trial leaks by the Chicago prosecutor, encouraging headline references to a “$500-million corporate kleptocracy.” Then the charges began dwindling. Many were dropped before the trial, others rejected by the jury, still others eliminated on appeal. The more one reads the case, the weaker it appears. Black’s persistent claim of not guilty grows more credible"....... "During his jail years we learned a great deal about Black, above all about the strength of his spirit. He not only wrote regularly for publication but also taught courses to other prisoners. His writing showed no hint of self pity but much compassion for his fellow inmates. His sense of humour remained alive, in a way that seems astonishing. He wrote that jail was a big change in his life but “I can report that a change is not always as good as a rest.” :

  • Spencer
    July 14, 2012 - 01:23

    I think anyone convicted of a crime should be expelled from the Order of Canada. Jones' article fails to provide any argument for treating Fonyo better than Black. Jones says: "none of Fonyo’s subsequently bad behaviour negated the greatness of what he did." The same could be said of Black. The achievements for which he was inducted into the Order of Canada were not undone by his conviction. In fact, he still has the potential to contribute greatly to Canada as a thinker and author. That is not the case for Fonyo. It also matters that Fonyo is a serial offender, committing fraud multiple times and also committing other offences including some that endangered innocent members of the public. Black has a single fraud conviction. I agree that Black should be removed from the Order of Canada. But the case for Fonyo's expulsion was at least as clear cut.

  • politically incorrect
    July 13, 2012 - 15:56

    Never mind Steve Fonyo, how about Omar Khadar?

  • Doug Smith
    July 13, 2012 - 15:51

    Not only should Conrad Black be booted out of the Order of Canada, but he should be sent packing to England. He is not only a hypocrite but a snob of the first order. Imagine, giving up your Canadian citizenship so you can be known as Lord Black. Why we let a person with such a criminal background back into the country shows what money and connections can do for even despicable people. Doug Smith, Grand Falls-Windsor

  • Virginia Waters
    July 13, 2012 - 14:37

    So David you think Conrad Black still meets the standards of exemplary behaviour and selfless contribution to others demanded of candidates for the Order of Canada? Do you really think that the shareholders of Hollinger were the only victims of Black's criminal behaviour? Do you realize how much Conrad Black's name on the honour roll of the Order of Canada cheapens it in the eyes of the public and those in the past who have truly earned it? What kind of mind must you have to campaign for continued special treatment of someone who has so brazenly abused the trust of investors, pensioners and the public? You need a reality check David. Creepy!

    • David
      July 13, 2012 - 17:04

      I'm more impressed by an order of fries. But you live in your quasi-royalty club of idols and know: reality.

  • saelcove
    July 13, 2012 - 14:23

    any way you look at it he is an x con

  • Ed Power
    July 13, 2012 - 11:24

    Sorry, David, I don't dislike Sir Conrad because he is intelligent, opinionated or wealthy. I dislike him because he is a self-centred and arrogant convicted criminal. The only difference between Conrad and a regular criminal is that his Lordship wears a better suit, one paid for by the shareholders that he happily defrauded, I might add. The fact that he discarded his Canadian citizenship so that he might "earn" a peerage and sit in the House of Lords; fled his country of choice to the seek refuge from extradition in the country he abandoned; and then slithered back to Canada - under highly questionable circumstances - when his sentence was served, loudly complaining all the while about how sorely he had been mistreated, makes me seethe. You may consider Conrad a "devout capitalist", but I consider him a failed capitalist. One who resorted to fraud and deception to maintain the public persona that he built, and the adoration that he craved. The only thing that Conrad is devoted to is his ego. As he is a convicted foreign felon, I expect to see his appointment to the "Order of Canada" rescinded and his swift removal from Canada back to his adopted country. Justice will then have been served.

    • David
      July 13, 2012 - 12:21

      No one needs to like him. He was convicted and did his time...of a crime that didn't impact you in the least, unless you were a Hollinger who the bleep are you to hold anything over him? You couldn't have done a better job of proving my point. John Q. Public loves to see someone above them get taken makes their pathetically small day. Black doesn't deserve to be a punching bag in the media until the day he dies just because jealous idiots enjoy it. FYI, the reason he gave up his citizenship was becasue the most petty of petty people, Jean Chretien ---- who is being paid gobs of taxpayer money for the rest of his life and who deserves any amount of anger heaped towards him ---- seized on a chance to make some free hay with the left-wing crowd. No principle or fairness should EVER stand in the way of a Liberal victory! If you want to pick out anyone else who deserves even some amount of venom or bile, how about Shania Twain? She took of to Genvea at the height of her career to avoid paying Canadian income taxes. THAT was a material slur to every taxpayer...not a trumped-up, meaningless, symbolic one. But you don't care about that, do you? Crickets. Because you're as biased and easily duped as everyone else. Hence: today's media.

  • Jack
    July 13, 2012 - 10:19

    This article should say "Stand Up For Accomplished Disabled Persons Not Named To The 'Order of Canada'" as many accomplished disabled persons whom should be named to this order are not getting named to it. In the case of Special Olympics Canada, the athletes whom should be named to the Order of Canada including Marc Theriault (Figure Skating), Michael Qing (Swimming), Brita Hall (mainly Cross Country Skiing), Harvey Arcangelletti (Athletics), Catherine Partlow (Athletics), Julie Lynn Stanhope (Figure Skating), and even Newfoundland and Labrador's own accomplished Special Olympian, Jackie Barrett (Powerlifting).

  • Jack
    July 13, 2012 - 10:14

    In the case of Steve Fonyo, one of true Canadian heroes, he was likely a victim of the Order of Canada's discriminatory behaviour towards disabled persons, particularly "Double Standard". "Double Standard" is when the rules are enforced for one person, but not another. Although Lord Black is a convicted felon, he's still in the "Order of Canada", but Fonyo was convicted of mainly convicted of summary offences, and he gets removed from the "Order of Canada". Therefore, the "Order of Canada's" double standard behaviour proves that they discriminate against disabled persons. The "Order of Canada's" discriminatory behaviour are not only towards disabled persons with minor criminal records like Steve Fonyo, but also towards all accomplished disabled athletes. Take for example, Special Olympics Powerlifter, Jackie Barrett. He represented Canada at the Special Olympics World Summer Games three times as a Powerlifter in 1999, 2007, and 2011 respectfully. He won a total of ten gold medals and one silver medal at these three international level events, a feat that no Atlantic Canadian Special Olympian may never match. Jackie has also set numerous Special Olympics Canada and World Records, and in case you missed the 2012 NL Powerlifting Championships on July 7, 2012 in St. John's, he broke the Newfoundland and Labrador Men's Open Super-Heavyweight Record (120 Kilograms or Heavier) during the Deadlift event with a 300 Kilogram lift. This achievement makes him the first Special Olympics Canada Athlete to lift at least 300 Kilograms. While these achievements which puts Special Olympics on the map throughout the Atlantic Provinces would get Jackie named to the "Order of Canada" or even "Order of Newfoundland and Labrador", in reality, he hasn't received those honours at all. Jackie's lack of recognition for the "Order of Canada" and "Order of Newfoundland and Labrador" for his Special Olympics accomplishments, and Steve Fonyo being stripped of his honour for having minor criminal records while recipients with convictions for major offences proves that the "Order of Canada" discriminate against disabled persons.

  • David
    July 13, 2012 - 09:22

    It is sad to continue reading this endless Black hatred. Of all the corporate and political skullduggery to have occurred and reported in the past decade, why does anyone...anyone at about this piffle of one? Because seeing a powerful, educated, opinionated, wealthy man demonized makes petty, small-minded people happy. And that is magnified 50 times for someone who is a devout capitalist-- pure media catnip! They are jealous and vindictive, and schadenfreude satisfies them like nothing else. So if you have a deadline, and you can't think of something insightful or important to write about (a problem not shared by Mr. Black, I note) , a rant about Conrad Black is always a hit ..bravo.