Canadian disOrder

It’s 2014, and most Canadians are tired of hearing about controversies surrounding Conrad Black.

The former media mogul has been making headlines again recently, not only because of his fluff interview with embattled Toronto mayor Rob Ford, but because of his removal from the Order of Canada.

According to the Governor General’s website, the Order of Canada was established in 1967 to recognize a “lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.” Translated from Latin, the motto of the Order is “they desire a better country.”

That Black wasn’t removed from the Order when he renounced his citizenship in 2001 is odd enough. How can a man who would rather receive a peerage from Britain than remain a citizen of his home country desire a better Canada?

Fraud convictions aside, Black hardly seems like a man dedicated to the Canadian community.

This isn’t the first time a Canadian has been removed from the Order. One of the most famous cases was in 2005 when native leader David Ahenakew was removed for his controversial remarks about the Holocaust. The body that advises the Governor General about who to induct or remove from the Order said that his actions brought “disrepute” to the Order.

The problem with giving out an award for lifetime achievement, and one that requires nebulous “dedication” and “service,” is that it’s typically given in the middle of someone’s life, when they still have the potential to do disreputable things.

The Order’s advisory council likely couldn’t have foreseen that Black would give up his citizenship and hopefully didn’t know he’d be convicted of fraud. For Black, at least, it seems like desiring a better Canada was just a phase that he abandoned when a better, British honour came along.

The only time most Canadians pay attention to the Order of Canada is when people are being removed or are willingly giving up their membership, as Black is now claiming he did in December.

Most of us can’t recall the names or accomplishments of members of the Order of Canada, but we can recall those later deemed unworthy of the honour.

When Canadians can only define their highest civilian honour by what isn’t acceptable, the Order has brought disrepute on itself.

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