Unwelcome signs upon jail exit

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Imagine, a man without a country today - yet a decade ago a powerful and, some would suggest, rather arrogant man.

Conrad Black, the disgraced former media baron, exits prison this week. While the usual ex-inmate is in need of some sort of safety net, Black's dilemma is where to make his home, as an ex-Canadian citizen and now a convicted criminal who wants to return to Canada where he and his wife own a home.

Not surprisingly, his situation has captured plenty of attention and a healthy share of controversy. This after all is a man who was filthy rich and then was convicted of corporate fraud and obstruction of justice.

Needless to say, Black won't get a lot of sympathy - from the average joe or from much of the upper echelons.

Yet, as Canada's immigrations officials have approved a temporary one-year resident permit, debate has erupted in the Commons. Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair accused the government of giving Black special treatment - presumably because Black's political leanings are small-c conservative.

Not so, replied Prime Minister Stephen Harper. His government would be just as happy if Black had been denied entry. The OK was the decision of public servants.

Much of what people are feeling about Black's predicament - and imprisonment - comes from seeing how the mighty have fallen.

But more so, people take a dim view of how Black, Montreal-born, trod upon his Canadian citizenship. He surrendered it in 2001 - a condition insisted upon by then prime minister Jean Chrétien - to accept a peerage in Britain's House of Lords.

So does Britain want him? The U.S. is done with him.

But really, this was white-collar crime, although granted of a high dollar value. Most ex-cons are evaluated for their risk to reoffend. We don't know what the risk is for Black, but at any rate he wouldn't be a likely threat in the neighbourhood.

And, who knows? Maybe the once fabulously wealthy can be rehabilitated and still make their contribution to society.

Organizations: House of Lords

Geographic location: Canada, Britain, Montreal U.S.

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