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Conrad Black among 50 Canadians deemed suitable for framing

Conrad Black, 1979. Library and Archives Canada .

Al Gilbert, 1978

He's locked away in a Miami prison and may lose his Order of Canada, but Conrad Black will be among 50 "intriguing Canadians" recognized next year in a new national travelling exhibit.

The $250,000 portrait display hasn't been officially announced, but Library and Archives contracting records obtained by The Globe and Mail offer glimpses of what's in store.

The former media baron, who renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001 in order to accept a British peerage, isn't the only controversial figure on the list (he has since signalled a desire to reapply for Canadian citizenship when his sentence for fraud ends in late 2012). Disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who had his 1988 Seoul Olympics 100-metre record erased after testing positive for steroids, will be included. Another among the 50 is Grey Owl, whose writings on nature from an aboriginal perspective had a high profile in the 1920s and 1930s. It was later revealed that he was a British immigrant and his aboriginal persona was a fraud.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made efforts to highlight certain figures of Canadian political history – particularly former Tory prime minister John Diefenbaker – but the list compiled by the Archives skips the Chief in favour of a few individuals who likely wouldn't top Mr. Harper's list.

Among the 50 are two Liberal prime ministers – Jean Chrétien and Pierre Trudeau – and two Conservative prime ministers, Sir John A. Macdonald and Kim Campbell.

Ms. Campbell has been overlooked by the Harper government as it renames buildings and ships to honour Canada's Tory heritage, but she gets top billing in this exhibit. Photographer Barbara Woodley's iconic 1990 photo of a bare-shouldered Ms. Campbell standing behind her justice minister robes graces a draft poster titled: "Double Take: Portraits of Intriguing Canadians."

The display also includes a life-size statue of environmentalist David Suzuki, according to the documents.

Marc Comeau, a spokesman for Library and Archives, confirmed the exhibit will launch next year in Charlottetown. Future stops will be confirmed later.

"The exhibition will create an opportunity for visitors to meet a diverse range of people who have helped shape Canada, to explore their stories, and perhaps to discover something new about them," he wrote in an e-mail. "Subjects were selected based on the availability and quality of works in the national portrait collection and an effort was also made to select personalities with intriguing stories to tell."

Mr. Comeau explained that Lord Black was included because he "has left a mark on Canada."

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Beyond former politicians, the list of 50 includes several authors and artists – including Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tom Thomson – as well as pre-Confederation figures such as Marquis Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, James Wolfe and Mohawk Catholic leader Kateri Tekakwitha, a figure from the 1600s whose name has been put forward to the Vatican for sainthood.

NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus questioned whether Lord Black should be included among people like Samuel de Champlain, Dr. Frederick Banting and Dr. Norman Bethune.

"Those are famous and intriguing Canadians. The last time I checked, Conrad Black isn't a Canadian," Mr. Angus said. "He didn't want to be a Canadian. He went to the extraordinary effort of getting rid of his Canadian citizenship and now he's doing time in Miami. That's intriguing, but it's not exactly Canadian and it's not exactly in the same element as the Dionne quintuplets or Glenn Gould."

50 Canadians found suitable for framing

The 50 intriguing Canadians who will be recognized next year in a new national travelling exhibit.

Margaret Atwood, Dr. Frederick G. Banting, Dr. Norman Bethune, Conrad Black, J.R. Booth, Frances Brooke, Rosemary Brown, June Callwood, Jacques Cartier, Caubvick, Cassie Campbell, Kim Campbell, Marie-Thérèse Casgrain, Samuel de Champlain, Jean Chrétien, Adrienne Clarkson, Leonard Cohen, Douglas Coupland, Roméo Dallaire, Dionne quintuplets, Maurice Duplessis, Arthur Erickson, Gratien Gélinas, Glenn Gould, Grey Owl, Elijah Harper, Ben Johnson, Pauline Johnson, Tom Longboat, Sir John A. Macdonald, Irshad Manji, Nellie McClung, Thomas D'Arcy McGee, Norman McLaren, Marshall McLuhan, Joni Mitchell, Marquis Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, Norval Morrisseau, Alanis Obomsawin, Patriots of the Lower Canada Rebellion, Mary Pickford, Jacques Plante, Mary Pratt, Mordecai Richler, Louis Riel, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Laura Secord, Robert Service, Joseph Smallwood, Donald Sutherland, David Suzuki, Kateri (Catherine) Tekakwitha, Tom Thomson, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Madeleine de Verchères, Gilles Villeneuve, James Wolfe

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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