Friday, May 4, 2012

Special treatment for Conrad?

So Conrad Black ... um, Baron Conrad Black is out of jail.   On the one hand it's good to see his time in prison has mellowed His Lordship out somewhat and that he's actually starting to see some of the issues of a day with a much more open and thoughtful frame of mind, if Black's running commentary at Huffington Post  does reflect his true views nowadays.   Getting the sense of real people with real views -- i.e. inmates doing time for federal drug charges -- does have a tendency to do that to those who've lived too long in an ivory tower and suddenly had to face reality, whether one believes the charges made against Black himself are actually true, or not.

On the other hand, I find it more than just a bit suspicious he was able to get a temporary resident permit to Canada so quickly.    Many people wait for months and even years for such a pass.   And even if he does get deported to the UK it won't be long before he shows up here anyway -- after all the UK could include any overseas territory including the Caymans, Turks and Caicos, or Bermuda and all have direct flights to Canada.

There is a good reason why immigration and refugee files are usually secret -- because the régimes many flee from have a penchant for torture, bribery, intimidation and so forth.    Not that most democracies are innocent of those practices either but the tolerance level for them is much lower in "The West".   But it's hard to justify secrecy for someone on the A list.   And we're not talking Baryshnikov who defected to the US by way of Canada with the famous help of David Peterson.

I'm sorry, but Black renounced his citizenship here in Canada.   Even if he does have family here he needs to start at the back of the line just like everyone else who wants to come here, whether it's for a work permit or "temporary" residency.   And The Government in power right now needs to give us a reasonable answer as to why he got fast tracked.   Normally only defecting athletes who want to change their flag in time for an upcoming world championship or even the Olympics gets that kind of privilege; and even sports governing bodies have clamped down on this one -- especially FIFA (the International Soccer Federation).

The other option is to come here as a "visitor" which he can do, for up to six months before applying for an extension at a Customs office in any major Canadian city, such extension which is usually given as a matter of course except for those who pose a national security threat; and fighting words uttered orally or cursively in the past don't necessarily always constitute that.

Is Black a changed man?   I'd have to say more likely than not.   Does that mean he deserves a quick welcome back?   Not unless he appreciates the gravity of the offense to which he was convicted, even after the "honest services" law on which basis Black was convicted was rightly emaciated by the US Supreme Court and he got a lesser sentence.   Whether he committed the crime or not (depending on your point of view) his conduct was still rather quite unconventional for standard business practices.   For a country (Canada) that mostly has better B2B transparency laws than even the United States, we have every right to demand answers.   If he knew Hollinger had become a runaway train to disaster, when did he know and what if anything did he do to try to stop the train wreck?

Much too soon, and much too fast.   Give the file to a truly impartial immigration clerk, with a clear firewall between Black and the executive.   Put a time certain on a decision (six months at most) but give Black the same treatment as anyone else who wants to repatriate to Canada.

No more, no less.

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