By Daniel M. Ryan
Now that Conrad Black has been found guilty of four charges, pending his appeal, there's the question of what will happen to him subsequently should his appeal fail. The U.K. government has already reserved a spot for him in a U.K. prison. If all else should fail him, Conrad might very well end up doing time in the same prison that Bertrand Russell did time in when convicted of anti-war activities in World War 1.
This may be callous of me, but Conrad in an American prison would be an interesting watch. It's almost a certainty that he'll do easy time, no matter what kind of prison he's sent to. He was too much part of the inner circle in his prime; even if he no longer has the friends and connections that he used to have, he still has a lot of insider's knowledge. The average prisoner would be too impressed with that status to give him any kind of a rough time, even if he'll almost inevitably see Conrad as a kind of Mafia boss. So, by "easy time," I mean that Lord Black will be unharmed and unmolested, and probably unruffled. The humiliation that comes with being cast in such a role is another factor. Certainly, his protestations of innocence will make him a popular fellow amongst the inmates if he winds up in a United States jail.
Putting callousness aside, though, the fascination over this (at the moment, hypothetical) scenario of a Canadian "jailed by the American" taps into the plain fact that Conrad is a Canadian, no matter what his present citizenship is. He's a Canadian through and through, one of Canada's more known sons if often a less than favourite one. He's too much a part of the fabric of this land for him to be chucked out of the national consciousness in the same way that Ben Johnson was.
This fact being acknowledged, I offer this proposal for general consideration: Conrad Black should be granted Canadian citizenship by Cabinet order.
As I sketched out above, this proposal isn't for the purpose of rescuing Conrad from a wicked U.S. jail. The U.K. government has already seen to that chore, and Lord Black now has the option of going to Brixton. Even if, by some odd chain of circumstances, this option should fall through, then Conrad will find a U.S. prison sufferable if his appeal falls through too. It's not really for Conrad's sake that I offer it, but for Canada's. It would send a real message to the world: Canada takes care of its own.
The title issue is largely nugatory, anyway. Canada already has a resident Baron, David C. Thomson. If you make inquiries, you'll find that even in the U.K., a title doesn't mean very much nowadays. The Harper cabinet extending citizenship to Lord Black would also put a further end to the Chrétien era, and send a message that fighting the good fight isn't always countered with official pettiness.