Tom Flanagan's defenders speak up - Macleans.ca

Tom Flanagan’s defenders speak up

Tease the day: The embattled professor can count Conrad Black among his supporters

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Larry MacDougal/CP

Slowly, but surely, Tom Flanagan’s supporters are emerging. It’s taken a few days. Just over a week ago, Flanagan made remarks at the University of Lethbridge related to child pornography. He questioned whether people should be locked up “because of their taste in pictures.” He apologized for the remarks, and repeated the apology in the National Post, but it was too late. He suffered a public avalanche of condemnation, and was unceremoniously dumped as a CBC commentator and dismissed as an adviser to Alberta’s Wildrose Party.

A week ago, the Post‘s Jonathan Kay was among the first to publicly speak up for Flanagan. He wrote that Flanagan’s years of public service “earned him the right to be given the benefit of the doubt about the meaning of his remarks,” and that since “we insist on a presumed-innocent standard in criminal trials, a similar presumption of innocence should exist before we kill someone’s career and reputation.” Whatever Flanagan meant by his clumsy remarks, Kay wrote, there’s at least a debate to be had about them.


RELATED: Tom Flanagan speaks with Maclean’s writer Anne Kingston about child porn, the backlash and the worst week of his life


University of Toronto law prof Brenda Cossman, the director of that school’s Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, wrote in Xtra!, a gay and lesbian newspaper, that the backlash against Flanagan “sent chills up and down” her spine. Sure, his remarks were foolish, Cossman wrote, but there’s certainly a discussion to be had about the limits of child porn laws. “The problem is that the debate is shut down before anyone can raise reasonable questions about the reach of the law,” she wrote.

This morning, Flanagan received the endorsement of none other than Conrad Black, also in the Post‘s comment pages. Black says the professor’s critics don’t see the difference between watching child porn and sexually assaulting children—a distinction, he says, that’s time honoured by the legal system. Child porn might be “a terrible problem made more odious and unnerving by its revolting and perverted nature,” Black writes, but the solution isn’t to vilify people like Tom Flanagan.

So, it appears, there is a debate afoot, such as it is. Whether or not any of Flanagan’s critics are willing to listen is a different matter.


What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with Alberta’s austerity budget. The National Post fronts the Alberta government’s miscalculation of oil and gas revenues. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with the spike in lobbying since Mayor Rob Ford was elected in Toronto (not online). The Ottawa Citizen leads with the cancellation of a public preview of several competing designs for a new War of 1812 monument on Parliament Hill. iPolitics fronts Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose’s likely vote against a motion condemning sex-selective abortion. CBC.ca leads with North Korea’s cancellation of a non-aggression pact with South Korea. National Newswatch showcases a Toronto Star profile of controversial Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin.


Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Polar bears. Canada helped win a vote at an international conference on endangered species that, if it had passed, would have banned the cross-border trade of polar bears. 2. Quebec’s English. The PQ government is scrapping a program introduced by the Liberals in 2011 that offered intensive English training to Francophone students in Grade 6.
3. CBSA firing. A border services agent was dismissed for sustaining an inappropriate friendship with a member of a high-profile criminal organization, say Canada’s public servant watchdog. 4. NWT resources. A former premier of the Northwest Territories says the region’s greater powers over resource development could jeopardize environmental protection.

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