Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Drabinsky going to court to win back Order of Canada

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TORONTO -- Disgraced theatre impresario Garth Drabinsky has been stripped of his Order of Canada appointment and is going to court to fight the decision he says is unfair, considering his imprisonment.

Drabinsky was released to a Toronto halfway house earlier this month after serving part of his five-year sentence for fraud.

He and business partner Myron Gottlieb were convicted in 2009 for a book-cooking scheme that ultimately resulted in the demise of now-defunct Livent Inc. -- the company behind such hits as Phantom of the Opera and Ragtime.

The Order of Canada advisory council sent Drabinsky's lawyers a letter in June saying they were considering removing him from the order and gave him a month to send in submissions.

As Drabinsky was still incarcerated in Beaver Creek Institution in Gravenhurst, Ont., he couldn't access necessary documents needed to put together his argument to stay in the order, his lawyers told the council.

They gave him one more month.

Drabinsky was still in prison, still without his documents, without Internet access and still only able to call people on a pre-approved list, but he nevertheless sent the council an impassioned, 17-page plea.

"It cannot be disputed that the economic impact to Canada of my entrepreneurial and creative activities was in the billions of dollars and the cultural impact was unparalleled in the history of this country," he wrote.

A criminal conviction does not mean automatic removal from the order.

It is not an award for good behaviour, Drabinsky said, noting that disgraced Olympian Ben Johnson is still a member of the Order of Canada.

Drabinsky's lawyers received a letter earlier this month saying that back in November the governor general accepted a recommendation from the council to terminate Drabinsky's appointment.

He's now asking the Federal Court to declare the decision unlawful and order the council to consider more submissions from Drabinsky, now that he is out of prison and able to prepare them.

Drabinsky was invested as an officer of the Order of Canada in 1995 for his "invaluable contribution to the growth of theatrical production in this country."

"An entrepreneur and a risk-taker, he revolutionized film presentation and distribution in Canada," reads the blurb on the awards' website, which has apparently not been updated.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 28, 2013 C18

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