Tom Flanagan

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  • Censure Tom Flanagan

    Open letter to University of Calgary President Dr. Elizabeth Cannon regarding Dr. Tom Flanagan’s remarks

    with 46 comments

    If you are a member of the U of C community (or even if you are not) and you share our sentiment, we ask that you send a copy of this letter along with your thoughts to Dr. Cannon at president at ucalgary dot ca. You may also wish to CC the following addresses: chair at ucalgary dot ca, senate at ucalgary dot ca, jim dot dinning at senate dot ucalgary dot ca, alumni at ucalgary dot ca, eosler at ucalgary dot ca.

    Update (Dec. 16) After 10 days without a response from the university, I sent a follow-up note to Dr. Cannon today.

    Dear Dr. Cannon,

    Ten days ago, 60 U of C alumni and 25 others including current U of C students and staff as well as supporters from across Canada and abroad sent an open letter asking the University of Calgary to respond to Dr. Tom Flanagan’s remarks advocating for the murder of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on the November 30 broadcast of the CBC’s Power & Politics with Evan Solomon (the letter and the original e-mail are attached below).

    While noting that Dr. Flanagan had apologized, we asked that the University of Calgary distance itself publicly from Dr. Flanagan’s remarks (which it has done, albeit very weakly –, that it condemn Dr. Flanagan in the harshest possible terms (no progress) and that it censure Dr. Flanagan for abusing the good name of the university (no progress).

    We find the university’s response to Dr. Flanagan’s remarks deeply inadequate, especially considering international press coverage which has done tremendous damage to the U of C’s reputation. Also, the U of C’s response seems incredibly weak when compared to responses from well-respected public NGOs such as International PEN, from newspaper sources including the Editorial Board of the Guardian, and from the political realm where the communications director for the Canadian Prime Minister Dmitiri Soudas found the time to condemn the remarks.

    While we continue to be disappointed with the university’s position, we are deeply insulted by the absence of any response to our letter from President Cannon, her office or any other relevant body at the university. If the university does not think enough of 60-plus of its own alumni to answer a letter, then how can it expect those same alumni to stand up for the U of C within their communities or to contribute their time and resources to university endeavors?


    Kris Kotarski (BA ’04, MSS ’09), on behalf of 97 signatories listed at

    Update (Dec. 9) The Canadian Press reports that the Toronto woman who felt threatened after receiving an e-mail from Dr. Flanagan has received an apology. Meanwhile, in the Calgary Herald, University of Calgary Law Professor Peter Bowal writes  about the double standard on free speech at the university (where students are punished and sued by the university, while professors are not).

    Update (Dec. 8): Complete silence from everyone at the university thus far. Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail reports that Dr. Flanagan has threatened another person. Is threatening two people in one week a fireable offence at the University of Calgary? You may wish to e-mail the accounts below to get an answer.

    Update (Dec. 6): Will keep adding signatures to the open letter if you post them or send them to kkotarski at gmail dot com.

    Update (Dec. 6): The signed final version of this letter (same as below) was sent to Dr. Cannon on December 6, 2010. A copy was also sent to the University of Calgary Chancellor, the University of Calgary Senate, the University of Calgary General Faculties Council, the University of Calgary Board of Governors, and the University of Calgary Alumni Association. This page will be updated if and when we receive a reply. Please stay tuned, and thank you all again for your signatures and your support.

    Update (Dec. 4) The Calgary Herald published our letter on Saturday, December 4. We will send it to Dr. Cannon with all of your signatures on Monday at noon. If you know any fellow alumni who may wish to sign our letter, please pass it along.

    Dr. Elizabeth Cannon
    Office of the President
    Executive Suite
    Administration Building, Room 100
    University of Calgary
    2500 University Drive NW
    Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 1N4

    CC:      Chancellor Jim Dinning
    University of Calgary Senate
    Chair Board of Governors Jack Perraton
    University of Calgary General Faculties Council
    President U of C Alumni Association Kenneth R. McKinnon

    December 2, 2010 (Dated December 6 in the final note to Dr. Cannon)

    Dear Dr. Cannon,

    On November 30, 2010, University of Calgary Political Science Professor Dr. Tom Flanagan advocated for the political murder of Julian Assange, the founder of the international non-profit media organization Wikileaks.

    Speaking on a national CBC broadcast of Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, Dr. Flanagan said: “I think that Assange should be assassinated, actually. I think that Obama should put on a contract and maybe use a drone or something.”

    When host Evan Solomon interrupted saying, “Tom, that’s pretty harsh stuff,” Dr. Flanagan replied, “Well, I’m feeling very manly today.”

    He ended the segment with, “I wouldn’t feel unhappy if Assange disappeared.”

    Dr. Flanagan has since apologized for his comments, telling CBC News: “I regret that I made a glib comment about a serious issue.”

    He later added that: “I am glad that everyone is condemning it, and I condemn it also.”

    His prompt apology is most certainly welcome, but unfortunately for the U of C’s reputation, the damage has been done. A number of the most prominent English-language news sources in the world including the Telegraph, the Nation, the Jerusalem Post, National Public Radio (NPR) and the Guardian carried Dr. Flanagan’s remarks, along with major Canadian news outlets and countless blogs.

    Dr. Flanagan’s initial remarks remain relevant to the U of C community because although debate and even harsh disagreement about the Wikileaks release are not only inevitable but perfectly natural for an open and democratic society like Canada’s, we must draw a line at advocating for political murder, something that Dr. Flanagan failed to do.

    Better than most, a professor of political science should understand that academic freedom is not possible without political freedom, and that political freedom cannot survive in a climate where journalists and opponents of a ruling regime hear public intellectuals advocate for their assassination on the nightly news.

    If this were a Russian, Chinese or Iranian intellectual calling for the murder of a regime opponent, Canadians would be appalled. Considering Canada’s proud tradition of political freedom, it is all the more offensive to hear an active member of the University of Calgary faculty and the former chief of staff and campaign manager for the sitting Canadian Prime Minister do the same.

    The University of Calgary should distance itself publicly from Dr. Flanagan’s initial remarks, condemn Dr. Flanagan in the harshest possible terms, and censure him for abusing the good name of the university and for the damage this has done to the reputation of not only the school, but of the 150,000 alumni and the degrees they hold.

    This should be done peacefully. After all, even though thousands of University of Calgary students, staff and faculty have disagreed with Dr. Flanagan’s opinions over the years, no one has publicly called for him to be murdered, even in jest.


    Kris Kotarski
    BA History & International Relations ’04
    MSS Military and Strategic Studies ’09

    Andrew Amey
    BComm Finance ’04 (UofC)
    MCP City Planning ’10 (MIT)
    MSc Transportation ’10 (MIT)

    Katy Anderson (student)
    BA Political Science ’12
    BA Religious Studies & Applied Ethics ’12

    Maria Cristina Bacalso
    BA Political Science ’06

    Lawrence Bailey
    BA International Relations ’04

    Margaret (Van Tighem) Bailey
    BA ’80

    Bob Barnetson
    BA ’94
    MA ’97
    PhD ’99

    Chris Beauchamp
    BA Political Science ’08

    Blake Belding
    BComm ’10

    Richard Bergen
    BA Economics ’04

    Albert Bracci
    BComm ’03

    Aneel Brar
    BA Political Science ’05
    BSc Biology ’05

    Dalmazio (Dale) Brisinda
    BSc Computer Science, ’94
    BSc Pure Mathematics ’98
    MSc Computer Science ’98

    David Caplan
    MBA ’99
    LLB ’99

    Mary Chan
    BA English ’01

    Jaro Cooper
    MBA ’99

    Theo de Raadt
    BSc Computer Science ’92

    Almoonir Dewji
    BSc Engineering ’86

    Kelly Dowdell, MA
    BA Latin American Studies ’02

    Ayan Egeh
    BA International Relations
    BA Political Science

    Doreen E. Eustace
    BEd ’89
    MEd ’99

    Angela Ferguson
    BA International Relations ’09

    Christina Fry (student)
    MA Religious Studies ’12

    Tony Grimes
    BSc Environmental Science ’01

    Aaron Hofman (Student)
    BA Philosophy ’11

    Graeme Howland
    BComm ’04

    Illana Huckell
    BA Religious Studies ’09

    Salma Hussain
    LLB ’07
    BA English Literature ’02

    Sarah Megan Hope
    BA Psychology ’02

    Ashley Humphreys
    BFA Drama ’05

    Darcy Ippolito
    BSc Geography ’06

    Valerie Jobson
    BSc Biology ’80
    BA History ’87
    MA History ’90

    Sheena Johnson
    BSc Actuarial Science ’03
    MED Environmental Design ’08

    Susan Aileen Kent
    BA Honours ’67

    Mary Kosta
    MA ’86

    Steven Kimler
    BSc Computer Science ’10

    Sara Klimes
    BA Law & Society ’06

    Nicole Kobie
    BA Political Science ’03

    Mary Kosta
    MA ’86

    Jeff Kubik
    BA Communications ’05

    Joël Laforest
    BA Religious Studies ’08

    Josh Lavoie
    BA Economics 07

    Kallen Law
    BA English ’10

    Kristian Leach
    BA English ’06

    John Leung Chung-Yin
    BA Political Science & Historical Studies ’06

    Andrea Llewellyn (student)
    BA Development Studies ’11

    Kat Lord (student)
    BA Political Science ’11

    Natalie Lucyk
    BCS Communications Studies ’10
    BEd Elementary Education ’12

    Lindsay Luhnau
    BA Political Science ’04
    MEd ’11

    Dr. Tom Lynch
    PhD ’07

    Jeannette Mandrusiak (staff member)
    University of Calgary

    Nitin Manerikar
    BSc ’90

    Nayden Markatchev
    MSc Computer Science ’08

    Kendra Marks
    BA Honours Religious Studies ’08
    MA Religious Studies ’11

    Tim Marks
    MA French ’92

    Andrew McIntyre
    BA Political Science ’05

    Dr. Nadine Moneta
    U of C Family Medicine Postgraduate Program ’03

    Dan Pagan
    BA Greek & Roman Studies ’11
    BA Law & Society ’11

    Dr. Robert G. Petry
    MSc Mathematics ’98

    Barbara Pietrzykowski
    BSc General Math ’08
    BSW ’11

    Corinna Ramsay
    MA English & Political Science ’04

    Anup Raniga
    BSc Mathematics 07

    Richard Rawnsley
    BComm ’07

    Sarah Rich-Zendel
    MA Interdisciplinary Graduate Program ’11
    BA International Indigenous Studies ’07

    Ændrew Rininsland
    BA Communications Studies ’10

    Andrew D F Ross
    BA Philosophy ’04

    Vladimir Sedach
    BSc Pure Mathematics ’07

    Angel Seguin
    BED Environmental Design ’03

    Darlene Seto
    BA International Relations ’09

    Amir Sharar
    BSc Computer Science ’08

    Sherri Shergill
    BA Communications ’08
    BA English ’08

    Amitpal Singh (student)
    BA Political Science ’12

    Natalie Sit
    BA Communications ’05

    Ryan Slifka
    BA English ’08

    Dr. Craig Snyder PhD
    BA Political Science ’87

    David Sol
    BA Communications ’04

    Michael Soron
    BA Political Science ’07

    Tyler Soron (student)
    BA Science, Technology & Society ’12

    Matt Stambaugh
    BA Political Science ’03

    Erin Welk
    BA Honours Geography ’04

    Others (non U of Calgary) who offered their support:

    Dr. Pierre H. Vachon (Ph.D. Cell Biology)
    Associate Professor
    Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
    University of Sherbrooke

    Gary Kinsman
    Professor of Sociology
    Laurentian University

    Michael Keefer
    School of English and Theatre Studies
    University of Guelph

    Saima Siddiqui
    Political Science
    Memorial University

    Wayne Borean
    Political Commentator

    Evan Price
    BComm Finance ’12
    Dalhousie University

    Yvonne Fukada

    Michael Spacek
    PhD Candidate
    Carleton University

    Blythe Butler
    BComm ’00
    University of Alberta

    Peter Belsten
    Musician UK

    Gillian Wallace
    PhD Religious Studies ’95
    University of Ottawa

    Laurent (Jeff) Dubois
    BA Political Science ’76
    University of Alberta

    Patricia H. Kaye
    BEd ’72
    MEd ’81
    University of Alberta

    J. Lievisse Adriaanse
    The Netherlands

    Bob Beck
    Computing Science
    University of Alberta

    Tom Johnston
    HBA York university
    BEd Lakehead University
    Orillia, Ontario

    Dr. Robert C Dickson
    Calgary, AB

    Cathy O’Donoughue
    St. Johns Fl

    Timothy Schwinghamer
    Plant Science PhD student, McGill University

    Michael Spacek
    PhD Candidate, Carleton University

    Alan Aveley

    Laurel L. Russwurm

    Kevin Sheerstone

(currently updating…)

Unsorted and Miscellaneous: Tom Flanagan

  • Pages from the Conservative Handbook: A Liberal strategist reveals a Conservative’s secrets.

    Growing up in Calgary, and attending the University of Calgary as I did, I can state that Professor Tom Flanagan was regarded on campus as a cool, cerebral teacher of political science, and not one to be trifled with. He was not, for example, the sort of fellow who would tolerate intellectual laziness or too many papers handed in late. Although I did not know it in those days, Flanagan was also a conservative’s Conservative. He was a true believer. As one of the six actual Liberals in Alberta in those days, I regret not enrolling in his class.

    In this engrossing 336-page book, the good professor remains a Conservative, to be sure. But he also reveals himself to be considerably less fearsome, and less intimidating, than he did so many years ago. Most notably, Flanagan is refreshingly candid about the mistakes that his team—the team of Conservative leader Stephen Harper—made in its rise to federal power. Harper’s Team: Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power provides us with an honest and (to the denizens of political backrooms, at least) exceedingly helpful handbook on how to win elections.

    It is more than a captivating book—it is an important work, too. Unlike most political scientists—who have never stuffed an envelope, never knocked on a door in a canvass and never done any of the other grunt work that makes or breaks political campaigns—Flanagan knows whereof he speaks. He, unlike many who breathe the rarefied air of academe, has practised what he preaches. He has fundraised, he has answered phones, he has worked in the grimy political trenches. He’s done it all. As such, his book stands head and shoulders above the books of most of his academic colleagues—the ones who preach but seldom practise, who talk a lot about that which they have never done. This one is the real deal.

    Flanagan’s book provides a significant amount of detail about every aspect of running leadership campaigns, and general election campaigns too. From tour to policy to media to fundraising to speechwriting, it is all here, and useful to every politico, irrespective of political affiliation. And, to Flanagan’s credit, he recalls that lessons are to be learned from campaigns that win, as well as the ones that don’t. As such, Flanagan meticulously dissects the Conservatives’ 2004 election loss, analyzing what went wrong and why. From my point of view, he accepts far too much of the blame for that narrow defeat. In so doing, however, he goes up in the estimation of the reader. He certainly did in my eyes.

    Now, before you start to wonder overmuch why this exiled federal Liberal is so impressed by Conservative Tom Flanagan and his book about Conservatives, some disclosure is in order. I have not told many people this story until now. During the early days of the Reform Party—a fledgling political party in which Tom Flanagan was intimately involved—there were many problems. Most notoriously, these problems included a plan by white supremacists and neo-Nazis—most of them involved in the Heritage Front, and most of them in the greater Toronto area—to infiltrate and take over Reform Party riding associations. It was the subject of many newspaper reports and even an investigation by Canada’s Security Intelligence Review Committee.

    Around that time, I published a book with HarperCollins called Web of Hate: Inside Canada’s Far Right Network. It was the result of a decade-long investigation into Canada’s racist right. And, around that time, I was also special assistant to one Jean Chrétien, leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition. Notwithstanding where I worked—and notwithstanding the fact that we Liberals were much despised by the nascent Reform movement—one day Tom Flanagan and another man contacted me. They wanted to speak to me about a pressing and sensitive matter, the story that the neo-Nazis were seeking to infiltrate and control the Reform Party from within. Flanagan and his friend wanted to know if I would look at the names of new Reform members in the Toronto area and tell them if those people were racists.

    “Flanagan and his colleagues were serious about expelling neo-Nazis from the nascent Reform movement. “

    It was an astonishing request, given the viciousness of partisan politics and the infrequency of genuine bipartisanship. But the request impressed me a great deal. Flanagan and his colleagues were serious about expelling neo-Nazis—so serious, in fact, that they were willing to contact me, then working in the lair of their sworn political enemy. They were willing to take a political risk to rid themselves of racists.

    With Chrétien’s approval, I assisted Flanagan and his friend. And, over the course of a few conversations, I was able to confirm the neo-Nazi or white supremacist involvements of several new Reform members. All were expelled by then-leader Preston Manning.

    In the intervening years, I have often wanted to tell that tale. Whenever I encounter a hot-headed young Grit or Tory—the Grit convinced that the Reform Conservatives are a front for extremists; the Tory convinced that Liberals will never hesitate to depict them as bigots to win power—I have wanted to tell that story. Now that Tom Flanagan has written his warts-and-all book—revealing, as it does, my own previously secret unwillingness to participate in a Liberal plot to smear Flanagan and his conservative cohorts—I can tell my own little story about why I think it is unfair to dismiss Flanagan (as some have done) as an anti-aboriginal polemicist. Or someone who is not worth listening to.

    Tom Flanagan is worth listening to. Although no longer part of Stephen Harper’s inner circle, the good professor has provided readers with candid and revealing insights into the Conservative rise to power. And, along the way, he has shown himself to be a very fine teacher, indeed.

    Harper’s Team is, I think, the best book written to date about the new Conservatives—the ones who wrested power away from the old stalwarts like Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark and the aforementioned Preston Manning, and have in the process crafted a political movement that will be more enduring. If you want to understand the new Conservatives—and if you want an excellent primer on how political campaigns work—this book is invaluable.

    It also makes me rue my decision never to join the other students in Tom Flanagan’s class!

    – Warren Kinsella, Literary Review of Canada, January / February 2008

October 11, 2007

September 27, 2007

September 25, 2007

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