No doubt, Conrad Black would like nothing more than to make like Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz.
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If only he could click his heels and whisper “I want to go home” a few times and see his nightmare end.
However, when he renounced his Canadian citizenship he became a “foreign national” in Canada and subject to the immigration rules governing them.
Now that he has been found guilty of mail fraud and obstruction of justice in Chicago, unless he successfully appeals the convictions, visiting here will definitely be problematic for the next 15 to 20 years if prosecutor Eric Sussman gets his way.
After he completes his sentence, Black, like any other foreign national, could be found to be inadmissible to Canada if he attempted to visit here.
Our Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) renders foreign nationals inadmissible to Canada on the grounds of “criminality” for committing an act outside of Canada that is an offence in the place where it was committed and that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offence under an act of Parliament. Canada’s Criminal Code includes an indictable offence for “mail fraud.” Since our Criminal Code is an act of Parliament and the equivalent Canadian offence is indictable, Black could easily be found inadmissible on the grounds of “criminality.”
Our Criminal Code also includes an indictable offence for “obstruction of justice,” which carries a penalty of “imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.” IRPA renders foreign nationals inadmissible on the grounds of “serious criminality” if the foreign offence is equivalent to a Canadian offence, which is “punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years.” Since Black was convicted of an offence in Chicago, which is arguably equivalent to a Canadian offence for which a person can get 10 years in jail, Black could be found inadmissible on the grounds of “serious criminality” even if he is not sentenced to a single day of jail.
Few Canadians view Black as a “serious criminal.” If he is found to be inadmissible on this basis, it will not be a reflection of the acts he committed that led to the conviction, but a reflection of the maximum conceivable sentence he could have got in Canada for committing that offence.
This bizarre form of classification creates tremendous injustices by classifying people as “serious criminals” when they are nowhere near deserving of such a label. It may make Canada look tough on crime by labelling arguably minor criminals “serious criminals.” It may also get the Canada Border Services Agency a great deal of applause in Parliament for catching and deporting so many “serious criminals” each year.
But, in truth, calling a person a “serious criminal” doesn’t make them so. People who are denied access to Canada should be assessed on what they did and what they might do in Canada and not what they theoretically could have received in a worst-case scenario.
We should save harsh labels for those who truly deserve it.