Conrad Black’s letter to governor general David Johnston, translated

Conrad Black’s letter to governor general David Johnston, translated

(Image: Julian Mason)

Conrad Black was stripped of his Order of Canada status last week, but, about six weeks before that, he wrote governor general David Johnston about his case. On Monday, Black published the letter in the National Post. Like much of his writing, the missive is confusingly verbose. Here’s some help.

Your Excellency: Your heraldic officials have successfully litigated to prevent a hearing on the matter of my status as an Officer of the Order of Canada. I am reliably advised that it is the practice of the Advisory Board of that Order to approve the recommendations of staff whose adamant opposition to a hearing on this matter, which the Order’s rules would permit, together with the tone of their correspondence, makes their bias perfectly plain.

[Your Excellency: So, I heard you said no to a hearing.]

Though it seems futile to repeat what has been made evident in previous letters [to his staff], I cannot dismiss this calumny without a final summing up. Perhaps it is inevitable that given a little power and no accountability, some officials will be unable to resist the excitement of using it arbitrarily and spitefully. There is nothing before those officials that could give legitimate cause for denying my status had they seriously examined the matter. All counts against me were abandoned, rejected by jurors, or unanimously vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court. That two counts were revived against me only speaks to the flaw in the U.S. Justice system, which allows a lower court judge whose reasoning has been excoriated by the high court to resurrect two of the minor counts vacated in order to save his own reputation. None of this could have happened in the courts of this country.

[Just so you know, I disagree with your decision.]

I won the largest defamation settlement in Canadian history ($5-million) from the sponsors of the prosecution. In all of the circumstances, I decline to continue in a process that I consider to be vitiated in respect of an honour, the retention of which, as matters have evolved, appears to rest largely in the hands of unaccountable officials of inflexible views, in an ex parte proceeding. I will not seek to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada; will not activate the efforts a number of friends in each echelon of the Order of Canada have offered to press on my behalf with the advisory board; and will not communicate further with the Herald Chancellor.

[But I’m not going to fight you on it.]

I enclose a copy of my book, which covers the events that gave rise to this issue (not one aspect of which has been disputed), and copies of the letters sent to the Chief Justice of Canada in her capacity as chairperson of the Advisory Board of the Order of Canada by the principal trial defense counsel, Mr. Safer, and by my former corporate colleague, Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, should you wish to consider the matter if and when it gets to you. If my surmise of the process is correct and you receive a recommendation that my continuation as an Officer of the Order of Canada is not appropriate, and you accept that recommendation, I would be grateful if you would take this letter as my retirement as an Officer of the Order of Canada. If you decline to have any suspensive aspect to the issue, please accept this letter as my resignation as an Officer of the Order of Canada effective on your receipt of this letter.

[Instead, I’ll send you my book and remind you that I know Henry Kissinger. If you decide to revoke my Order of Canada, can you maybe tell everyone that I “retired” it?]

As we have known each other for many years, I hope you will pardon my adding that it is not the least disappointment I have suffered in my persecution by the U.S. prosecutors to discover that my native country, in matters of its highest civil decoration, follows the vagaries of the U.S. justice system with such undeserved deference, drastic though its variance indisputably is in this case with any procedure or practice that would occur or be in the least acceptable in this country. It has been a painful episode and I hope it is not an unjustified liberty for me to ask you to close it as you see fit as decorously as possible.

[Your boy,]

With personal best wishes and compliments of the season to you,

[Merry Christmas, etc.]

Conrad Black.