Tom Flanagan, a former advisor to Stephen Harper, has touched off a firestorm of controversy after telling a group of students at the University of Lethbridge that viewing child pornography shouldn’t be a crime.
The University of Calgary political science professor was in Lethbridge Wednesday night giving a speech on the Indian Act when he made his controversial remark.
“I certainly have no sympathy for child molesters, but I do have some grave doubts about putting people in jail because of their taste in pictures,” he said.
He added, “It is a real issue of personal liberty, to what extent we put people in jail for doing something in which they do not harm another person.”
Flanagan was responding to a question about a comment he made back in 2009, when he told the Manitoban newspaper at the University of Manitoba, “What’s wrong with child pornography — in the sense that it’s just pictures?”
Flanagan has already been thrown under the bus by Conservative ministers as well CBC News, where he was an occasional commentator.
“In light of recent remarks made by Tom Flanagan at the University of Lethbridge, CBC News has taken the decision to end our association with him as a commentator on Power and Politics,” wrote Jennifer McGuire, Editor-in-Chief of CBC News, in a news release sent out today. “While we support and encourage free speech across the country and a diverse range of voices, we believe Mr. Flanagan’s comments to have crossed the line and impacted his credibility as a commentator for us.”
There is also a petition underway to get Flanagan fired from the U of C.
UPDATE: Flanagan says he “raised a theoretical question” in an academic setting and apologizes unreservedly for his remarks: “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.”
UPDATE II University of Calgary president Elizabeth Cannon has announced Tom Flanagan’s retirement:
Comments made by Tom Flanagan in Lethbridge yesterday absolutely do not represent the views of the University of Calgary. In the university’s view, child pornography is not a victimless crime. 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 defenseless children.
Tom Flanagan has been on a research and scholarship leave from the University of Calgary since January of 2013. Tom Flanagan will remain on leave and will retire from the university on June 30, 2013. Flanagan had submitted his letter of retirement on Jan. 3, 2013.