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Tom Flanagan’s last stand

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Tom Flanagan’s last stand

We have written before about one Tom Flanagan, a member of the so-called Calgary School, a small, shadowy group of neoliberal academics from the University of Calgary’s political science, economics and history departments. Flanagan and other members of the group played a key role in promoting and expanding the Alberta-founded Reform Party, finally facilitating its takeover of the old Progressive Conservative Party in 2003 to create the federal Conservative Party that Stephen Harper, a Calgary MP, now leads. Flanagan then became Senior Advisor to the Conservative Leader and National Campaign Chair for the Conservative Party. Flanagan is part of the U.S. fifth column in Canada that operates on different levels. He was originally hired by the University of Calgary in 1968 during the height of the youth and student movement by the first chair of the political science department, U.S.-born Edgar Burke Inlow, who himself was hired in 1961 directly from an intelligence position with the U.S. Department of Defense. Flanagan is a director of the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute, based in the university’s Centre for Military and Strategic Studies and financed by some of the world’s largest arms contractors (General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin Canada, and Com Dev to name a few); founding member and president of the discreet, neo-liberal Civitas Society; and has been given a national platform by the CBC and the National Post. Now, his media career has come to an end, writes PEGGY MORTON in the first of a two-part series, due to the courageous stand of First Nations’ activists in Lethbridge, Alberta.

Who speaks for Alberta?: Tom Flanagan’s last stand


ON FEBRUARY 27, 2013, the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs (SACPA) and the University of Lethbridge hosted a talk on the abolishment of the Indian Act with Tom Flanagan. Flanagan is a University of Calgary professor of political science, former advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Wildrose campaign strategist in the 2012 Alberta election.

During the talk, Levi Little Mustache asked Flanagan about a comment made to the student paper The Manitoban back in 2009 in which he stated, “But that’s actually another interesting debate or seminar: what’s wrong with child pornography – in the sense that it’s just pictures?” Flanagan’s response was filmed by Arnell Tailfeathers and posted to YouTube. The video went viral and led to the University of Calgary announcing Flanagan’s early retirement, CBC’sPower and Politics dropping him as a commentator and the University of Calgary announcing that Flanagan would remain on sabbatical until he retired later in 2013 but would not return to the classroom.

Flanagan was a darling of the media and political class, despite his falling out with Stephen Harper whom he mentored and groomed for his rise to power. His entire academic career centred on opposing affirmation of the hereditary, treaty and constitutional rights of First Nations, Métis and Inuit. He has advocated what amounts to forced assimilation through such means as turning aboriginal lands into private property, which can be bought up by the resource monopolies and other private interests. He is the architect of much of Harper’s current legislative assault on First Nations’ rights. His promotion in academia and the monopoly media as an “expert” on aboriginal questions is a grave insult to First Nations, Métis and Inuit and a disservice to Canadians.

The self-righteous and self-serving condemnation of Flanagan by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Wildrose Party, the Alberta PCs and the media did not extend to his remarks on residential schools. Residential schools were one of the pillars of the Canadian government’s genocidal efforts to assimilate First Nations. Children were forcibly removed from their families and nations and violently deprived of their right to be. Many died of neglect, of abuse or while trying to escape these prisons and return to their homes. Children were subjected to sexual and other forms of assault on a wide scale.

Flanagan told the National Post that he was asked a rambling series of questions about aboriginal issues, claiming he had been tricked into making an intemperate remark for which he later apologized. Levi Little Mustache and Arnell Tailfeathers, who filmed the lecture, spoke about what happened on February 27, now being called Flanagan’s Last Stand on Indigenous Waves radio. They explained that the majority of those who attended the lecture were First Nations peoples and their allies and supporters, including survivors of the residential schools. During his lecture, Flanagan described residential schools as a “visionary program.” “Grand, utopian, visionary changes [to First Nations education] have all failed. Residential schools, that was a visionary program,” Flanagan said. Little Mustache asked a very direct question regarding Flanagan’s remarks on child pornography, relating it to the sexual abuse of aboriginal children in residential schools. Little Mustache’s question brought forward the fact that Flanagan also considers residential schools a “victimless” failed experiment.

The CBC also turned a blind eye when Flanagan openly advocated assassination on the program Power and Politics. “I think that [Julian] Assange should be assassinated, actually. I think that Obama should put on a contract and maybe use a drone or something,” he stated on the program.

What the media do not want to discuss is that as a leading ideologue of monopoly right, Flanagan simply does not recognize any other rights, including the right of children not to suffer abuse, especially when it is inflicted by state sanctioned institutions.

It is therefore extremely fitting that Idle No More and First Nations activists have the honour of dispatching Tom Flanagan. That such statements can no longer be made openly is no thanks to the political and economic elite who are now expressing their disgust in a most hypocritical manner. Until this exposure took place, he was given a place of honour whose opinion was sought on the struggle of First Nations to affirm their rights and who supposedly spoke for “Alberta.” No monopoly media source has acknowledged that the First Nations and youth were there to oppose Tom Flanagan’s arrogant colonial stand.

The honour of bringing to an end Tom Flanagan’s media career as an “expert” on aboriginal questions and spokesperson for “Alberta” rightly goes to the First Nations and the students and people of Lethbridge who took a stand.

*TML Daily, April 2, 2013. Part Two of “Who Speaks for Alberta: Tom Flanagan’s Last Stand” will be published next week.

Related reading

Tony Seed, “The politics of assassination – Flanagan & Harper style,” April 8, 2011

* * *

For your information

Excerpts from Flanagan’s book First Nations?, Second Thoughts (June 2000).

This book was financially sponsored by the Canadian Donner Foundation (a branch of the U.S. William H. Donner Foundation) with a $25,000 writing grant and a subsequent $25,000 “book of the year” award.

Compiled for a press release issued on June 7, 2004 by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis National Council and the Assembly of First Nations denouncing the “antiquated, ill-informed, regressive and offensive writings” of Flanagan

“European Civilization was several thousand years more advanced than the aboriginal cultures of North America, both in technology and social organization.”

“Sovereignty is an attribute of statehood, and aboriginal peoples in Canada had not arrived at the state level of political organization prior to contact with Europeans.”

“Owing to this tremendous gap in civilization, the European colonization of North America was inevitable and, if we accept the philosophical analysis of John Locke and Emer de Vattel, justifiable.”

“Current public policy… is flooding reserves with money, enticing people back, enticing people to stay and weakening their resolve to participate in Canadian society.”

“Aboriginal government is fraught with difficulties stemming from small size, an overly ambitious agenda, and dependence on transfer payments.”

“In practice, aboriginal government produces wasteful, destructive, familistic factionalism.”

“Perhaps the damage to Canada would be tolerable if it meant that aboriginal peoples would escape from the social pathologies in which they are mired to become prosperous, self-supporting citizens”

“Prosperity and self-sufficiency in the modern economy require a willingness to integrate into the economy, which means, among other things, a willingness to move to where jobs and investment opportunities exist.”

“Contemporary judicial attempts to redefine aboriginal rights are producing little but uncertainty. Recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions define aboriginal title in a way that will make its use impossible in a modern economy.”

“The treaties mean what they say. Their reinterpretation… has the potential to be both expensive and mischievous for the economies of all provinces in which treaties have been signed.”

Tony Seed maintains a weblog at http://tonyseed.wordpress.com

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