Black's return hardly proof of racism in government 0
Love him or hate him - perhaps that should be, shake-your-head-in-awe-and-wonder or hate him - Conrad Black has always been a larger-than-life lightning rod for Canadians.
Now, about to be freed from a Florida prison and looking for a home, he's at it again.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is outraged that Black has been granted a one-year temporary residence permit allowing him to return to Toronto and perhaps eventually to life as a Canadian citizen.
Black will have expected the firestorm, or should have.
Many Canadians are still seething after he dumped his Canadian citizenship a decade ago to become a member of Britain's House of Lords - the Lord Black of Crossharbour, no less.
Black, famous for his own verbal barrages, might even have some grudging admiration for Mulcair's dubious claim that allowing him back in the country is evidence of racism.
Mulcair compares Black to Gary Freeman, a black American who fled here in the early 1970s after shooting a Chicago police officer. Freeman lived a productive life in Toronto for nearly 40 years before he was caught. He pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and hasn't been allowed to return to Canada since.
If Black, a British citizen with a criminal record, can get back in, why can't Freeman?
Racism, Mulcair says.
The Tories say Freeman was banned as a former member of the Black Panthers, a terrorist organization. A criminal record makes it difficult to get Canadian citizenship - terrorism, treason and attacks on Parliament make it nearly impossible.
While there is some doubt about Freeman's Black Panther affiliation, the Tories accept the U.S. law enforcement version of events.
In the same way, a white would-be immigrant with links to Italy's Red Brigades would be rejected.
Mulcair's racism argument plays nicely into the notion of the Conservative Party of Canada as a nest of secret rednecks, but there is no credible evidence that Stephen Harper wants to keep African-Americans out.
Lord Black, if he really wants back in, would be wise to renounce his peerage and apologize for abandoning his country.
Even bureaucrats pay attention to public opinion.
- Jim Hendry