TORONTO – The Federal Court of Appeal has dismissed an application by Conrad Black to personally address an advisory council weighing whether he should be stripped of the Order of Canada.
In a decision Monday, the three-justice panel upheld a lower court ruling that denied the former media baron his request for an opportunity to plead his case in person.
Defence lawyer Peter Howard argued that Black should be allowed to defend himself before the council, and not just in writing as the rules set out, because his credibility is being questioned.
“We say the decision before the panel is a personal assessment… (that) could not be made without hearing him,” he said. “Mr. Black’s reputation in Canada is at stake.”
Howard said the process is flawed, because it assumes a foreign conviction is “dishonourable misconduct.”
The 11-member advisory council is deciding whether Black’s Order should be revoked following his 2007 convictions for fraud and obstruction of justice in the United States. Black was given Canada’s highest honour in 1990.
In its ruling, Federal Justice John Evans said the panel does not see the advisory council’s decision as potentially damaging because it only makes a recommendation to the Governor General, who has discretion to make a final decision.
“Any reputation damage from him (Black) flows from his convictions,” said Evans.
Only four people have lost their Order of Canada honours and, in each case, the individual was later convicted of crimes.
Black filed the appeal a year ago, after the Federal Court ruled against his bid to make a personal pitch in October 2012.
He has argued written submissions won’t give him a fair opportunity to make his “complex” case to the council.
Black has been fighting a series of legal battles related to his U.S. convictions on fraud and obstruction of justice charges when he was the head of the Hollinger newspaper business.
He has argued repeatedly that the U.S. case against him was the result of an unfair prosecution, pointing to the fact that an appeals court later tossed two of the three fraud convictions against him and two other Hollinger executives.
In the end, he served 37 months of a 42-month sentence in a Florida prison and returned to Canada in May of 2012. He returned under a special temporary permit given that he is no longer a citizen, having renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001 so he could accept a peerage in the British House of Lords.
Black, who is now in Toronto, is a columnist for the National Post and co-hosts a current affairs talk show. He was not at the hearing on Monday.
The Federal Court dismissed the application with costs. Lawyers for both Black and the advisory council turned down requests for further comment.
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