Conrad Black Wants to be Canadian Again

So Conrad Black wants his Canadian citizenship back. Hubris has caught up with him in the form of a US court. On the one hand, he claims complete innocence of all charges; on the other, he hedges his bets by applying to be a Canadian again since our jails are comfier than American ones. Suddenly it pays to be Canadian; it's no longer "an impediment to [his] progress."

The Toronto Star in its editorial states that "Ottawa should be prepared, however grudgingly, to repatriate this Made-in-Canada baron of business." Why? We're so grateful anyone wants to be a Canadian, we'll say yes? This is a man who tossed his citizenship aside in favour of being British. Four years ago, he expressed contempt for being a Canadian, albeit he wasn't any different than many Canadians who espouse greener grass across the border, usually the American one. He differed only in which country he felt inferior to.

This diminishing of things Canadian, translating to diminishing of citizenship in this country, should not be taken lightly. My niece thinks American Idol is superior to Canadian Idol. She puts down her own fellow citizens in favour of citizens of a foreign country, yet both shows are franchises of the British Pop Idol. They have the same graphics, the same theme, similar staging, the same format. They differ only in the judges (predictable and cliched in the American Idol, more entertaining in the Canadian one) and talent (overall better talent in Canadian Idol, some of the Americans make you want to hide your ears) and attitude, all of which is a reflection of our cultures. Yet she thinks the entire American version is better than the Canadian one. She isn't tone deaf, so the only explanation is that she has already got the filters in place that says things Canadian are never as good as things American -- or in Conrad's case, things British. Those filters morph reality to meet this fantasy. The sad thing is that my niece is just reflecting many Canadians' views.

Letter writers in The Star are split on this issue of Conrad's citizenship. Some think it should be given back to him because he was born in Montreal; others think he debased it and doesn't deserve it back. Ric East of Mississauga said it best: "For those who died for this country, for those who worked to make the great place it is and for those who want to come to Canada in the future and make it their home, citizenship has to mean something. Black regaining his citizenship for his convenience would be an insult to all of us."

So I'm not as generous as The Star. I think Conrad should publicly explain why he wants his citizenship back. He should apologise for denigrating Canadian citizenship. And he should make amends, that is, speak to young Canadians about why aspiring to Canadian citizenship is a worthwhile goal, why they should be proud to be Canadian, why Canada is the best place to live. In short, stand up and thump his chest for something that matters.

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