Jason Kenney refuses to talk about Conrad Black. And he refuses to talk a lot about it.

According to sources our newsroom spoke to, Conrad Black’s application for a Temporary Residency Permit (TRP) was pretty straightforward and he got one. So, when my former boss gets out of jail in Florida, he will be able to come back to Canada on his TRP. The TRP is good for a year.

During that year, one presumes he will apply for “permanent resident’ status and, assuming he gets that, he will proceed to apply for full Canadian citizenship.

His application for citizenship is not without controversy. I, for one, am saddened, most of all, by the fact that, in 2001, he quit on me, you and every other Canadian when he chose another country over ours simply to receive a foreign honour. There are tens of thousand of foreign nationals around the world who would love to join the tribe that is Canada. When all of those who have never committed a crime or turned their back on this great country have become Canadian citizens, then, by all means, let those who renounced their Canadian citizenship and went on to acquire a criminal record in another country be considered for membership in our tribe. 

I realize there are a great many unique circumstances to Lord Black’s case. As I mentioned, he was my boss when I was at the Hamilton Spectator and I was on his inaugural staff at the National Post. He was an excellent newspaper publisher because he loved good newspapers and wanted his to be the best in class. He is a polite, gentle man and, while some find his writing a bit too flowery, I enjoy being challenged by his erudition. He created jobs and he created jobs in my industry.

But still: He quit on us. An apology perhaps for that rash act? In retrospect, was being a British peer more important than being a Canadian citizen?

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in the House of Commons
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney receives a standing ovation during Question Period in the House of Commons on May 1, 2012. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

In any event, he comes back to the land where he was born but he comes back as a citizen not of our country but as a citizen of the United Kingdom seeking Canadian citizenship. Naturally, journalists on Parliament Hill asked Immigration Minister Jason Kenney about Lord Black’s case and, naturally, Kenney was unable to speak directly about Lord Black’s case. Still, he managed to say quite a lot about the case that he cannot talk about. From his scrum with reporters in the House of Commons foyer today, my lightly edited transcript:

Reporter:  Why would you even consider Conrad Black, a man who has rejected Canadian citizenship, for residency in Canada?

Kenney: Well, first of all, foreign nationals are eligible to apply for temporary resident permits to come to Canada. I cannot comment on an individual case without that person’s explicit permission. Otherwise, I’d be violating the Citizenship Act. I know it’s not an answer you want to hear but it’s the only legal answer I can give. I can tell you that in this case I thought there might be an application forthcoming and so I instructed my officials last February to deal with any such application on their own without any input from myself or my office to ensure that it was handled in a completely independent fashion.

Reporter: Is it standard to issue temporary residency permits for foreigners with criminal records though?

Kenney: Every year officials from my ministry approve well over 10,000 Temporary Resident Permits for foreign nationals. A very large number of those actually help to overcome inadmissibility for foreign nationals who have criminal records if an immigration official or CBSA officer determined that it’s a nonviolent offence with an individual who has a low risk to re-offend and that they do not pose a risk to Canadian society. They also look at other criteria such as whether the person has longstanding ties to the country, family connections, humanitarian and compassionate considerations. So those are some of the criteria that are considered. [Black still owns a home in Toronto and, of course, his wife Barbara Amiel Black is a Canadian. He would very easily be able, in my opinion, be able to establish “longstanding ties” to Canada – Akin] But, yes, every year thousands of Temporary Residents Permits are issued by officials operating under delegated authority to foreign nationals who have had criminal convictions if, in their opinion, they do not pose a risk to Canadian society.

Reporter: If a person denies any wrongdoing, is he not more at risk of re-offending because he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong in the first place?

Kenney: Again, I can’t comment on a particular case.. but I can tell you that each application for a Temporary Resident Permit by a foreign national is considered according to certain well-established legal criteria and one of them is whether there is a risk of re-offending and whether the person might pose a risk to Canadian society. Highly-trained, independent public servants make these decisions based on well-established criteria and the facts of each case and they will only issue permits to foreign nationals if they believe that person is at a low risk to re-offend and does not pose a threat to Canadian society.

Reporter: So you’re saying essentially whether or not Conrad Black comes back, it will be a decision made by bureaucrats and you will have had nothing to do with it.

Kenney: In February, I was, by media reports, made aware of the possibility that he would be applying for a Temporary Resident Permit and in order to avoid any appearance of political involvement, we underscored for officials that if there was such an application they should consider it in the normal way without any involvement from myself or my office. They should apply the normal criteria in the normal independent fashion which is done over 10,000 times a year by officials using delegated authority. …  In order to become a citizen, you have to be a permanent resident in Canada for three years. You can’t be a permanent resident if you have a relatively fresh criminal record. You need to go through a period of rehabilitation that typically takes five years. So for a foreign national with a criminal record, even one that’s nonviolent, there is a fairly lengthy process to re-establish – or to establish — Canadian citizenship.

Reporter: Doesn’t a minister have discretion in various cases? Ministerial permits, for example?

Kenney: There is such a thing as a ministerial permit. Last year, our department officials issued I think 11,000 Temporary Resident Permits and then I issued under my authority about a hundred. And those are typically for extreme cases of humanitarian compassionate needs where we at the last minute will become aware of a dying relative in Canada, for example, and someone’s been denied a visa to come in. But I wanted to be clear with officials that I would – that if there was an application for this individual for a Temporary Resident Permit, it should be considered exclusively by department officials using their delegated authority and that it would not be a ministerial application.


5 thoughts on “Jason Kenney refuses to talk about Conrad Black. And he refuses to talk a lot about it.”

  1. I disagree with you for the following reasons:
    • Conrad Black was forced into renouncing his Canadian citizenship by then-PM Chretien’s unwillingness to allow him to accept the honour of a British peerage. Given the close ties of Canada to the UK, why was Chretien so adamantly opposed?

    • Jean Chretien apparently based his refusal on this:
    “… since passing the Nickle Resolution in 1919, Canada has prohibited the British, or any foreign government for that matter, from conferring “any title of honour or titular distinction” upon any Canadian citizen. …”
    If that is the case, then strictly speaking Jean Chretien himself should have turned down the honour recently bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth, the Order of Merit.

    OK, some may interpret the “title of honour” referred to in the Nickle Resolution as restricted to knighthoods, baronetcies, and peerages. But the Nickle Resolution seems to have applied at the sitting PM’s discretion.
    Under the heading “Exceptions and Anomalies” here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_titles_debate#Granting_of_honours_resumed the following Canadians, among others, were allowed to accept knighthoods or baronetcies.
    Sir James Hamet Dunn and his son Sir Philip Dunn
    Sir William Stephenson
    Sir Frederick Banting

    For that matter, all of the Canadians listed here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_foreign_recipients_of_the_L%C3%A9gion_d%27Honneur#Canada should have refused to accept the Légion d’Honneur from France, Jean Charest being one of them.

    • Finally, I find some people’s position on allowing Canadians who committed a crime to return to Canada really inconsistent. They champion the return of violent offenders but they would ban Conrad Black, who did not commit a violent crime, from returning to Canada. Strange position, IMO.

  2. Agree with the above. The renouncing of his Canadian citizenship was just as much political as it was practical. Why didn’t Chretien allow him this honour? On top of that, his wife is Canadian and so are his children. On that basis alone he would be allowed entry to Canada if his name wasn’t Conrad Black.

  3. Good analysis Gabby, I just have one item to add; Lord Black was convicted in Chicago, he appealed his charges and had all charges overturned except for the removal of files for which he served a lesser sentence. Mr Freeman was an American who in 1968 had a warrant out for his arrest for the shooting and wounding of an American police officer, he subsequently fled and entered Canada illegal in 1974 to avoid prosecution; Mr Freeman avoid deportation until 2008 when this Conservative began their crack down on illegal immigrants with the help of Sunnews Media. Mr Freeman may have only served 30 days in the cook county jail because of a special plea bargain made by his lawyer. His punishment should have been more for the shooting and flight .

  4. Rich at 2:14 pm, thank you.

    However, may I add something about Mr. Freeman? He was interviewed on the CBC’s Power & Politics show yesterday. He came across as a well-spoken, even compassionate man in regards to his own as well as Mr. Black’s case, although he had quite a few harsh words to say about Minister Kenny.

    There may be some truth to what he said about the circumstances of his shooting the police officer back in the ’60s, that he was the subject of racial profiling. Let’s face it, quite a bit of that went on during the civil rights movement. Now, that doesn’t mean I condone shooting police officers, just as I don’t condone white collar crime.

    I appear to be contradicting myself, don’t I? But the violent criminals I had in mind in my previous comment were more of the Omar Khadr ilk.

    The NDP’s contention that the government’s decision in the Freeman vs. the Black case are based on racism, however, are completely unfounded, IMO. The NDP argumentation is nothing more than the usual over-the-top rhetoric about the mean-spirited, bigoted, evil conservatives … like me! … you know the drill. Strange, though, that they believe Mr. Freeman was able to be rehabilitated but not Mr. Black … because, you know, he’s supposedly a conservative, and a rich one, at that! That’s doubly evil!

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