Wikileaks, Assange remarks prompt Calgary police to open file on former Harper aide Tom Flanagan
The Calgary Police Service has announced that it has opened a file on Tom Flanagan, a former aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and plans to refer the matter to the Crown prosecutor’s office.
“Due to a number of calls we have received from the public regarding this matter, the Calgary Police Service will be gathering all facts and compiling a package that will be forwarded to the Crown Prosecutors office for review,” reads a statement by CPS Supt. Kevan Stuart. “The Crown’s office will then determine if this is a criminal matter.”
On CBC TV, Tom Flanagan called for the killing of Wikileaks' Julian Assange.
On a November 30 television broadcast on CBC, Flanagan, a professor at the University of Calgary, suggested that Julian Assange, the founder of the whistleblower website Wikileaks, should be killed.
“I think Assange should be assassinated, actually,” Flanagan said on the Power and Politics program. “I think Obama should put out a contract and maybe use a drone or something.”
Those remarks prompted Vancouver lawyer Gail Davidson to file a written complaint with the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP on Saturday (December 4).
“I am concerned that in making these comments, Mr. Flanagan violated the incitement provision of the Criminal Code,” she told the Straight in a telephone interview. “He was not caught in the street and asked for his opinion. He knew that he was coming on the program as a professor and as an ex-advisor to Mr. Harper and”¦he decided to make that comment and that’s now been broadcast all over the world.”
Davidson described the CPS’s move to look into the issue of Flanagan’s remarks as “excellent”.
The Criminal Code of Canada states that it is illegal to counsel someone to commit a criminal offence. According to Section 464(a), “every one who counsels another person to commit and indictable office is, if the offence is not committed, guilty of an indictable offence and liable to the same punishment to which a person who attempts to commit that office is liable.”
Davidson noted that assassination, state-sanctioned or not, is also illegal in Canada.
“It is a very serious thing and it is a matter for the police and the Crown to grapple with,” she said.
Flanagan retracted his remarks about Assange two days after making them.
On Monday (December 6), Martin Kemp, a spokesperson for the Calgary police department, told the Straight that there were no further updates on the case at this time.
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Dec 6, 2010 at 1:01pm
The comment that Flanagan made was over the top, though he didn't intend any malice. He is not someone I agree with; I do not see merit in any of his policies though I do feel that he is a smart and intelligent man.
The idea of laying criminal charges should be dismissed. He made a mistake, he admitted making a mistake, I say move on and let it be.
Dec 6, 2010 at 1:08pm
@Andrew, authorities bring charges against individuals for jokes or irresponsible comments all of the time. A few examples from a quick Google search:
<a href="http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&id=7482641">Man arrested for bomb 'joke' aboard plane</a> (June 7, 2010)
<a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/18/robin-hood-airport-twitter-a... user arrested over joke airport bomb threat</a> (Jan 18, 2010)
<a href="http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,477446,00.html">Shoe Bomb Joke on Plane Lands Missouri Groom-to-Be in Jail</a> (Jan 7, 2009)
The three individuals in the cases detailed at those links were all obviously joking. We don't know how serious Tom Flanagan was when he stated that a publisher and journalist should be killed. Furthermore, Flanagan is a public figure who, some would argue, should therefore be held to a higher standard.
Perhaps Flanagan should be forgiven for what he now very likely considers a mistake. But if authorities simply dismiss his remarks as over the top while charging and inprisoning others for similair alleged mistakes, I'd question whether those in power are applying a double standard.
Dec 6, 2010 at 3:30pm
The real issue is that there is always an unstable element of society that may take up Tom Flanagan's advice to murder Julian Assange to gain notoriety. The news has reported instances in the past where people were influenced by entertainment and news, which caused some crazy people to commit terrible acts like school ground shootings or "Charles Manson-type" murders. So while Flanagan might not be directly responsible, it is quite possible that what he has already said could incite someone to comit the act. There have been countless news articles that have spawned off the original Flanagan news story worldwide, so the message could become a Canadian Jihad targeted at Assange. This would be far different than the joke that Flanagan may have intended. From what I understand Section 464 of the Criminal Code of Canada makes it a crime to "counsel another person to commit an indictable offence", regardless of whether the offence in question is committed. We now need to see if this law will be enforced by the Canadian government as an example that it must be seriously. A peaceful society should never have someone joking about harming another. I believe also this sort of death threat would also come under the legal detail of the Stalking Laws. Also in some countries it is a crime to broadcast a personal threat using a public network (telephone, Internet, radio). Also it should be noted that just because the personissuing the threat is insulated by the technical media, that does not make the threat any less real than if it was made face-to-face. This point is often an overlooked legal area. People like Flanagan need to be reined in to cut down on creating hate crimes.
Regardless of our political orientation and beliefs about Julian Assange's publishing and freedom of speech actions citizens and government officials must be careful not to throw oil on the fire and stir public hatred.
lock him up
Dec 7, 2010 at 3:07pm
Tom Flanagan is clearly a violent nut. Get him out of main stream society. It is frightening that he was a Harper adviser - it says a lot about the con government values.
Dec 7, 2010 at 9:45pm
He should not have VIP treatment because of his former position, he should be prosecuted precisely for the fact that he made the comment on public television, suggesting he wanted mass amounts of people embracing his view.
Dec 8, 2010 at 12:12am
Why hasn't this scumbag Tom Flanagan been arrested for encouraging murder?
Jan 5, 2011 at 7:59am
If he isn't charged there's nothing to stop a group of protesters, or even one protester, from standing outside the United States Consulate General's Office in whatever Canadian city they live in holding signs calling for the assassination of high level American officials and military leaders, extreme right-wing broadcasters like Bill O'Reilly and freaks of nature like Sarah Palin who have made similar statements as Flanagan's.
Here's a list to help get you started: http://www.peopleokwithmurderingassange.com/