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 firstname.lastname@example.org.