Tom Flanagan apologizes as MPs and CBC denounce his comments on child pornography

EDMONTON – Former Stephen Harper strategist Tom Flanagan has been widely and swiftly condemned for suggesting that people looking at child pornography shouldn’t be jailed.

Flanagan made the controversial remark during a lecture Wednesday night in southern Alberta. His words were recorded on a cellphone and quickly posted on YouTube.

It didn’t take long for people to start cutting ties.

By noon Thursday, the CBC dumped Flanagan as a panellist on its “Power and Politics” program. The University of Calgary, where he is a political science professor, issued a statement distancing itself from his views.

The university also mentioned he would be retiring, but made clear that decision had been announced prior to this week’s controversy.

He is currently on a research leave, and that will now be extended until his retirement.

In a statement attributed to him on the CBC website, Flanagan was apologetic to anyone he offended. He said he absolutely condemns child sex abuse.

“In an academic setting, I raised a theoretical question about how far criminalization should extend toward the consumption of pornography,” reads the statement posted on the blog of Kady O’Malley, also a panellist on “Power and Politics.”

“My words were badly chosen, and in the resulting uproar I was not able to express my abhorrence of child pornography and the sexual abuse of children.

“I apologize unreservedly to all who were offended by my statement, and most especially to victims of sexual abuse and their families.”

Flanagan did not return calls or emails from The Canadian Press.

He was giving the lecture on the Indian Act at the University of Lethbridge, hosted by the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs. He has written several books about aboriginal issues and believes the government should allow property rights on reserves.

One of the audience members, Levi Little Mustache, asked Flanagan about remarks he made in 2009 regarding child pornography. Flanagan had been giving a lecture on aboriginal issues at the University of Manitoba when the student paper reported that he strayed into the issue of child porn. According to The Manitoban report, Flanagan said: “What’s wrong with child pornography — in the sense that it’s just pictures?”

“I certainly have no sympathy for child molesters,” he responded when confronted in Lethbridge.

“But I do have some grave doubts about putting people in jail because of their taste in pictures,” he said as the audience gasped, then booed.

He went on to explain that he doesn’t look at such pictures, but was once put on a mailing list of the National Man/Boy Love Association.

“We put people in jail for doing something in which they do not harm another person,” he said. “So it is a real issue of personal liberty.”

The heckling from the audience turned to shots at the Conservative government.

“I’m not part of the Conservative government,” Flanagan said. “I have some doubts about some of the Conservative justice initiatives.”

Little Mustache, a youth on the Blood Tribe reserve southwest of Lethbridge, said everyone was shocked when Flanagan repeated his view.

“The whole crowd just kind of gasped,” Little Mustache said. “Everyone was just taken aback by that. And then the moderator just kind of shook his head.”

He said four people in the audience walked out. His friend, Arnell Tailfeathers, recorded Flanagan’s remarks and posted the video on YouTube.

Sgt. Mike Lokken with the northern Alberta’s Internet Child Exploitation unit said he is troubled by Flanagan’s view.

“Child pornography just isn’t an innocent photo. It’s a permanent record of sexual abuse of a child. And every time somebody views these images, they’re revictimizing that child.”

He said the 2003 rape and murder of 10-year-old Holly Jones in Toronto was motivated by child pornography. Michael Briere confessed to looking at child porn just before he saw the girl and kidnapped her.

University of Calgary president Elizabeth Cannon echoed Lokken’s remarks.

“All aspects of this horrific crime involve the exploitation of children. Viewing pictures serves to create more demand for these terrible images, which leads to further exploitation of defenceless children,” she said in a statement.

CBC editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire said she supports free speech but Flanagan’s comments “crossed the line and impacted his credibility as a commentator for us.”

Flanagan’s connections to the prime minister go back to Reform party days when the pair were key policy advisers for the fledgling party.

Flanagan twice served as Harper’s leadership campaign director and also ran the 2004 federal Conservative election campaign. He later wrote a tell-all book called “Harper’s Team” that revealed Conservative party tactics and strategies and estranged Flanagan from the prime minister.

Andrew MacDougall, a staff member in the Prime Minister’s Office, called Flanagan’s comments “repugnant, ignorant, and appalling” on Twitter. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews also issued a statement using the same words.

In Alberta, Flanagan managed the 2012 Wildrose election campaign and polls suggested the party had a good shot at ending the Progressive Conservatives’ four-decade dynasty in the province.

But anti-gay and racist remarks by two candidates in the lead-up to the election helped sink the party’s bid for power. Leader Danielle Smith stood by those candidates at the time. On Thursday, however, she distanced herself from Flanagan.

“To be clear, Dr. Flanagan does not speak for me or the Wildrose caucus and he will have no role — formal or informal — with our organization going forward,” she said in a statement.

“There is no language strong enough to condemn Dr. Flanagan’s comments. Child pornography is a despicable crime that seriously harms all those involved, including the viewer.”

Premier Alison Redford was equally revolted.

“It turned my stomach,” she said. “I am absolutely disgusted by it. I think it is a perfect example of people who take ideological arguments too far.”

The Manning Centre in Calgary ditched Flanagan as a speaker at an upcoming conference.

Flanagan’s words have landed him in trouble before. In 2010, he mused on CBC that U.S. President Barack Obama should consider assassinating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for releasing highly sensitive government documents.

Flanagan apologized and said he wasn’t serious, but Calgary police investigated whether he should be charged with incitement to murder.

A Toronto woman, outraged by Flanagan’s quip, sent him an email. She said he replied with a threat that she “better be careful, we know where you live.”

— With files from Dean Bennett and Tim Cook




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Tom Flanagan apologizes as MPs and CBC denounce his comments on child pornography

  1. I think that I agree with Mr Flanagan – however, it is a Chicken/Egg concept. You cannot have child porn without hurting the kids, so in essence, viewing those images is hurtful after the fact. If there was no “market” none would exist, right?

  2. If Mr. Flannigan’s reasoning were correct, the government should release all drug users still in jail and only those caught making or distributing should face jail time. That’ll never work. They are feeding the demand!

    • … but the difference is that you can get [porn] for free but [drugs] cost money.

    • Users generally are not jailed — just makers and distributors.

    • >>That’ll never work.
      It worked in Portugal. Also your US Attorney General admitted that decriminalisation is reasonable. Why the hell you should jail drug user? What about alchoholics? The only reason is because hard drug users become dangerouse to other people. And this category of people may be punished, but again, it is not a strict statement, Portugal experience disproves that.

  3. TF just philosophized himself into Pariahville.

  4. tf on man / boy mailing list? how did he end up on this list? another perverse white man that likes little boys. this is a race issue / how come no one is bringing that up. it seems likes it’s always a white guy into this disgusting behavior / the PM’s guru no-less

    • I would assume he got put on there as a prank

      • I read that he was on the list for 2 years. More than enough time to extricate one’s self from a prank.

        • Was it “research?”

  5. had he but had the foresight to say “pornography that was created without the actual involvement of children” a lot of speechy MPs who happily supported the repeal of hate speech laws might find themselves in a bit of a bind.

  6. I, for one, won’t miss his arrogant smirk and “I’m the smartest guy in the room” demeanor on P&P.

    • I will miss his intelligent commentary — and in that room he generally is the most intelligent guy.

      • If you like libertarian orthodoxy disguised as erudition, he’s your man.

  7. As the law stands, I could anonymously email you an obscene image and then report you to authorities for possession. No matter how hard you try, the image is still on the PC and can be retrieved.*

    Criminalizing possession is a crud idea that only limits legitimate free speech by forcing everybody to proactively censor posting, communication, etc. It’s a cr** law used to justify censorship and spying – get rid of it!

    The more you prosecute possession, the deeper underground the real criminals go. Decriminalize possession, but up penalties on _production_.

    *Assuming you don’t use Eraser, CCleaner, a LiveCD, or a virtualized PC.

    • You could, yes, but a judge could look at the evidence (timestamps on the emails, deletion time, lack of attempts to solicit such materials) and determine whether your story was likely to be true or not.

      If you allow demand, there will be production. Period. And it’s a hell of a lot harder to stop production when you don’t have such things as jail time to hold over the heads of those demanding the product.

      And it doesn’t matter what we’ll do, there’ll always be some. So the further we can drive those criminals underground — the more stress, paranoia, and angst we can cause them in their activity the better.

      • >>If you allow demand, there will be production. Period.
        Whar “demand/production” are you talking about? If you are saying that buying porn stimulates it’s commercial production then i agree. But free watching/downloading porn does not stimulate it’s production. And you really think those who produce free porn wont harass kids if there were no those who would like to see it? They would continue harass kids but without evidence and it will be harder to bust them. More than that absence of free porn makes it profittable to sell it. No other mammal can point you what to watch or download. It’s not freaking other people business. Besides there are tons of more hardcore content like real murders performed by muslims, drug cartels, etc. Does it mean that this content exists because of demand? Do you stimulate it’s production it if you watch it? Bullshit. I do not give right to some mammal judge me basing on what i watch on internet, it’s not your business. If i distribute/sell/buy it then it may be your business but not until then.

    • Can you point to any instance of a person being charged for possession of ONE image or video? Every case I can recall involves hundreds or thousands of images. That would be some e-mail.

  8. Now that he’s toast as a neo-con pundit, he’ll make a fine addition to the Conservative senate; right up there with Wallin and The Duff.

    • A few years ago a secretary from my local NDP MLAS office and her husband were convicted of stealing $75,000 through a home based business they had set up. By your feeble logic that all NDP members in Saskatchewan crooks and liars. Are the CBC and U of C on the list of Flanagans enablers too

      • CBC possible not, U of C definately. That school has foisted more BS off on Canada then a herd of prairie cattle.

    • The Fraser Institute is always looking for a right-thinking mind, and they obviously don’t care what people think of them.

  9. Well, now he’ll have time to work on Julian Assange’s assassination.
    It’s all good, eh.
    Funny what CBC et al can tolerate when they want to.

  10. “He went on to explain that he doesn’t look at such pictures, but was once put on a mailing list of the National Man/Boy Love Association”.
    I’d like to hear a little more in-depth reporting on this very odd remark by this person.

    • This comment was deleted.

    • NAMBLA was an group of people that tried to prove that moral majority-type politicians would accept money from anyone, no matter how odious the organisation. They never actually distributed child porn, or anything besides letters to politicians espousing their fake cause. And they were right (about so-called moral majority politicans cashing their cheques).

      • Well, I don’t think that’s the case, but its a good story. BTW It’s The North American Man/Boy Love Asssociation. I think they changed their name when Flanagan got on the mailing list, LOL

  11. Are all his computers being checked? If not, why not?

    • If he were actually involved in child pornography he would never have mused abut it so openly.

      • Good point. Someone’s actually thinking around here.

        • Part of the problem is that sometimes people address issues, asking questions, theorizing, and so on, and many people take that as a sign of participation in the subject of discussion. I run into that problem when I try to talk about why Marc Lepine killed the 14 women. Immediately, it is assumed I am defending him for the killings he committed. I also defended someone accused of impaired driving, so no doubt I am seen as an impaired driver.

          Most people don’t think well.

  12. How does someone remain on the North American Man Boy Love Association for two years, and claim ignorance?

    • Sometimes organizations join you up without you knowing, You make a comment online, that remark is taken and used in ways you don’t want, and you start receiving spam and even get signed up on things.

      • It was a mailing list, you know, he was like, mailed things, or is it maled things?

  13. who is Ray Novak, a Flanagan protege and young man who lived above Harpers garage introduced to Harper by Tom Flanagan who admits to being on the NAMBLA mailing list.

    Surprisingly Novak bears a striking resemblance to Luca Magnotta,

    Just saying.

  14. Has Randian-style Libertarianism finally jumped the shark now? I certainly hope so.

  15. Who is the anonymous “Toronto woman” mentioned at the end? That paragraph has no credibility and should be deleted from this article. Shame on Maclean’s.

  16. OMG I cant believe how disgusting and absolutely vile this man is and he worked with stephen harper I cant believe I voted for him if he is still working for him I am not voting. Someone who thinks this should be jailed as well since he isn’t well enough in the head to be a part of normal society. So wrong, people who are watching it should be jailed so it can prevent any child from being a victim to such a disgusting human being. This man should be investigated to see if he has viewed these things and if he had put him in jail.

    • >>Someone who thinks this should be jailed as well
      Jailing for thought crime? Nice, i’d say someone who thinks THIS should be jailed as well.

  17. and another thing whoever sexually abuses a child, sexually exploits, rapes, molests a child should get the death penalty since doing any of these crimes is like murdering someone, I know we dont have the death penalty in canada but we should bring it back for people that hurt children in such a way.

    • If we send them to a max security prison in with the general population, that’s kind of what it is.

  18. It all depends on what you call child porn. A child engaged in a sexual act or provocative pose is unacceptable! How about the 13 yr old that takes pics of herself nude and puts them out there? Should someone do time for viewing them?

    • Yes. Because the odds that it was her doing them in isolation rather than her doing them because someone was misusing their authority as an adult figure and causing or coercing her to do so are simply too damn low.

      There are certain very hard lines that we as a society have drawn. Sexual activity of a person without their fully informed and free consent is one of them. As a result, children — who are by definition incapable of giving fully informed, free consent, — are not eligible objects for sexualization *at all*, and any activity which encourages that is against our moral and legal codes.

  19. Yeah, no, free speech doesn’t cover sexually abusing kids and taking pictures of them to distribute to all the sick bastards of the world.

  20. It is stunning that a man of Tom Flanagan’s experience could possibly for a single second even muse on the supposed “grey area” of child pornography. There is no grey area where this topic is concerned – it is a disgusting evil practiced by evil individuals, and let us not ever try to make it seem anything else. Does Mr. Flanagan really believe that many of the people who enjoy watching this kind of abuse on the internet would not seriously contemplate committing a similar act given the right circumstances and opportunity?

    • I think that as a Libertarian, it probably never occured to Flanagan that there might be an opinion contrary to his. He was hoisted on his own petard (Finally)

    • >>people who enjoy watching this kind of abuse on the internet would not seriously contemplate committing a similar act given the right circumstances and opportunity
      1. It’s not true. Japan with all theire lolicon stuff has much lower sex crime rate than US. Maybe you should learn from them?
      2. Even if it was true. So.. you jail people BEFORE they commit real crime? Maybe with all those US mass shootings you should start jailing people who possess guns, i presume guns are more dangerouse than pictures from the internet.

  21. I got an idea lets put all child molesters and child porn producers in jail for life. Let them rot in there and throw away the key in the ocean, no exceptions. Then it will be over!

  22. Mr. Flannigan was only shunned because people are fed idiocy by law enforcement and the government. “Child pornography” is not pornography, rather it is the sexual abuse of a child that has ALREADY taken place.

    Proof that everyone feeds off what others say without comprehending it on their own.
    ****

    Sgt. Mike Lokken with the northern Alberta’s Internet Child Exploitation unit said he is troubled by Flanagan’s view.

    “Child pornography just isn’t an innocent photo. It’s a permanent
    record of sexual abuse of a child. And every time somebody views these
    images, they’re revictimizing that child.”

    *****
    Let us take an excerpt from that … “..every time somebody views these images, they’re revictimizing that child..” . That statement made by law enforcement officer just contradicted everything Alberta’s Internet CHild Exploitation unit works for. So somebody employed at the unit victimizes the child when they “analyze” the image after they receive it from a report generated by an internet user or they trawl the internet looking for them. The government itself is contradicting it’s own words. You cannot victimize someone by possessing a picture of them even if it is an image of child sexual abuse.

    I urge everyone to read that quote again slowly to yourself. By stating that just looking at the image revictimizes the child is like saying the picture is a voodoo doll and by looking at it the child, perhaps in another country or different state gets a chill down their spine assuming they have ESP (extra-sensory perception).

    The supply and demand that people refer to is also a myth. There was only supply in the beginning. Hasn’t anyone heard of amateur porn? (legal porn with consenting adults-free of charge – no one demanded it)?. The only way you can have demand is by asking a child molester to abuse his own child or another and send the recipient that image/video (money may or may not be involved). What most people don’t realize is that the images are floating around all over the Internet and by putting people away for merely possessing it is draconian and putting them on the sex offender registry is just absurd. You have hands-on offenders and someone who just had pictures along with the prosecutor’s assumption that they may hurt a child.

    This whole witch-hunt is to gain political leverage. A majority of the people today just eat what news is given to them and then they propogate their ignorance unto others a never ending cycle…

    • Because these images get onto people’s computers completely randomly. It’s not as if they come from sites that make money off of them or off of advertising they show alongside them. And because they don’t come from those type of site, there’s no demand for more of these pictures, is that what you’re asserting?

      Hint: Having child porn on your computer isn’t something that just happens by accident. It’s provided by people who are getting something from it, which means they’ll find ways to get more. Whether that’s by trading with other actual producers, or paying, or what have you, it all comes back to demand prompting people to make more.

      • There is no demand unless someon directly asks another person to molest their child or another. Have you not read about amateur porn? No one asks the participants to upload the porn to websites, they only do it because they want others to “feel” what they felt except it maybe with one hand. The same goes for child sexual abuse images. There was no demand. Just like there was no demand for naked statues or naked pictures.

        The people that produce the videos/images want other like-minded folks to see their creation without charging. You should read victim stories. The molesters in their stories put the images/videos out there for others to view for their own pleasure. Therefore there was no demand.

        There are images/videos floating around on forums (public/private), file lockers, P2P File-sharing (FrostWire, Kazaa, GigaTribe). I would assume most people get it from P2P File-sharing applications because that is how a majority of people get arrested, but that is because they distributed.

        • Cute rationalization for a reprehensible action.

          • Why thank you. I appreciate your kind gesture, but most people don’t rationalize what is being stated, rather their emotions get the best of them and logic becomes useless .. as is the case with a majority of people who believe everything that they hear without actually analyzing its validity…

        • Quite simply, bullshit. All your comment speaks to is how little you know about child pornography — which is probably a good thing, but before you think you can comment on the motivations of the producers, you might want to do some research.

          Or not.. it’s not a pretty area to research in.

          As a hint: No three year old uploads videos of themselves, and with it criminalized as it is, no creator of it uploads the videos unless they’re going to get something in return (likely different images/videos in trade)

          • “no creator of it uploads the vidos unless they’re going to get something in return (likely different images/videos in trade)”

            - The latter part of your statement is true, however instead of assuming someone does not have knowledge of something perhaps you should read the story of “Kylie Freeman”. Her father sexually abused her and put her images and videos out there for the sole purpose that others like him would find gratification. There was no money involved.

            - Also read the sexual abuse of “Amy” . Neither of the sexual abusers in either of these stories requested any money.

            -If you have any explanation as to why the abusers/producers put these images/videos out there then I would love to hear it since you failed to support your “hint”. I have thoroughly explained my reasoning while you have not. If anyone should be researching the topic it should be you.

            -Your use of “hints” is laughable. Instead of the hints you should have elaborated your thoughts.

            There really is no hope for ignorant and close-minded people like you. Sadly, the government has done a great job brainwashing the majority of people into thinking people that look at images/videos are monsters therefore creating a modern day witch-hunt probably more worst than the one in Salem. The real danger is minsiformed people. After all emotion trumps logic in many of you as I see…

      • Maybe. But facts of trading or buying must be proved, not facts that you keep smth on your hard disc. You are saying that people must be jailed before they commit real crime. Hard drive is you private equaty, you can store whatever you want there. If you distribute it – only then it is somebody’s also business.

  23. Looks like the neo cons have no other choice than to defend Flanagan’s reprehensible behavior, and defend the premise that merely looking at child porn is a victimless crime, when time and again the SCoC have ruled that merely viewing child porn is part and parcel of the same package, reprehensible behavior defended to mitigate partisan political damage done by the expose of deviant sexual behavior in the upper echelons of the reform alliance cons.How low will the cons stoop to usurp morality and power in Canada. It can’t get much lower than it is now.

    • Why do the “neo cons” have no choice in their response to this? Most have already chosen to condemn Flanagan’s remarks.

  24. This should surprise no one. It’s only racism that prevents the media from realizing that much worse comments have been made by sitting Conservative MPs.

    Consider statements Pierre Poilievre made that seem to invent some right of child sex abusers in the residential school system to call their victims to provide some “value for money” accounting. Poilievre even used the word “partook” to describe them as if they were participating voluntarily in their own abuse.

    And he’s hardly alone within the Conservative caucus.

    http://harpercrusade.blogspot.ca/2010/05/pierre-poilievre-continued-callousness.html?showComment=1362190711802#c4845887465974181660

    http://www2.macleans.ca/2008/06/11/pierre-poilievre-shows-his-empathy-for-residential-school-survivors/

    I’ll believe there’s remorse among Conservatives when I see Poilievre condemned in the same voice as Flanagan. Poilievre’s position is worse, as it might be possible to never know of images of oneself abused as a child distributed over and over again, but it’s not possible to ignore a sneering abuser with your private financial data questioning whether they got “value for money” from your court-ordered compensation for their abuse of you.

    Vicious, racist, evil, and favouring rapists and abusers over their victims, is how I would describe the common position of all Conservatives with respect to native child abuse victims. Quite similar to their shared unconcern with disappeared native women, who are somehow not a public safety problem, whereas environmental and other peaceful activists and protests are.

    • “You’re either with us or with the Flanagans” Toews 2/e

  25. Is it a coincidence one of the first ‘running to his defence’ happens to be a member of the Bohemian Club widely criticised for their possible connections to child sexual abuse?

    “Barry Cooper, a colleague at the University of Calgary, says people need to debate taboo topics”

    “Dr. Barry Cooper—a professor of political science at the University of Calgary and mentor of Stephen Harper—joined The Corbett Report yesterday to talk about free speech, Leo Strauss, and his membership in an elite secret society known as The Bohemian Club.”

    “Bohemian Grove – Playground of the Pedophile Elite”.

  26. I never dreamed that it would be this that would take him off Power & Politics, which I watch regularly, always turning off the volume whenever he would come on, as I found him offensive in every way. Maybe I was just seeing through to his “soul” (whatever that is).

  27. Will Toews now change his tune: Will he now say: “You’re either with us or the Flanagans”

  28. The amazing thing is that Flanagan originally made his remarks in 2009, in the midst of Vic Toews’ bailiwick. In the meantime – the mainstream media, Toews, Harper, the Conservative Party and the Wildrose Alliance have been blind to the implications of his words.

    It took a single INM activist, Levi Little Moustache, to ask the simple follow-up question which has revealed Flanagan’s moral blindness; the way his liberarian philosophy allows him to ignore the suffering of its victims. How interesting it is that Harper’s teacher, mentor, campaign manager, adviser, and friend could hold such opinions for so long without Harper and his many associates becoming aware of his lack of moral compass. How interesting it is that the main-stream media was incapable of picking up the thread – has instead encouraged Flanagan with pay cheques and consultations. The next time someone tries to tell you that INM is no more, remind them about Levi Little Moustache – and the essential job he did while the political and media elites ignored their duties.

  29. Whats goin’ on with people these days!!!!! Flanagan just talked about putting people in jail for looking at that stuff. Are there “eye police” going around and just in case you happen to pick up a magazine or click on to something in bad taste you go to jail??????? Maybe instead of putting them in jail just poke out their eyeballs!!!!! I give up!

  30. Looks like Manning Centre took Pedo Tom Bear back:

    University
    of Calgary political science Professor and veteran campaign strategist
    Tom Flanagan shares insights in to contemporary campaign issues in this
    day-long course. Dr. Flanagan will be sharing material from his
    upcoming book, and the day will be divided into two halves: Theory and
    Practice. Course fee includes lunch and a free draft copy of Dr.
    Flanagan’s book, as well as a course booklet including outlines and
    handouts.

    Advanced Issues in Campaigning

    Manning Centre for Building Democracy

    Wednesday, 26 June 2013 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (MDT)

    Calgary, AB

    https://www.eventbrite.ca/register?orderid=178773874471&client_token=35de653a9b5a49c5a121f06253024c80&eid=6909978933

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