Tom Flanagan said he 'wouldn't be unhappy' if WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange 'disappeared,' but later retracted his remarks and apologized. (CBC)
A B.C. lawyer has formally asked Vancouver police to look into whether former Stephen Harper adviser Tom Flanagan broke any laws when he suggested in a CBC interview that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange be killed, according to weekend reports.
Gail Davidson, who is with the group Lawyers Against the War, filed a complaint with police, alleging that Flanagan "counselled and/or incited the assassination of Julian Assange contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada."
The complaint was filed Saturday, according to an article on the website of the Georgia Straight, a Vancouver weekly.
"We can't just take to the airwaves suggesting that various people be killed," Davidson said in a Sunday interview with Postmedia News.
Last week in an edition of CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, Flanagan said U.S. President Barack Obama "should put out a contract and maybe use a drone or something."
"I think Assange should be assassinated, actually," Flanagan said with a laugh. When asked to expand upon his answer, he added that he "wouldn't be unhappy" if Assange "disappeared."
When Solomon commented that his position was "pretty harsh stuff," Flanagan said he was "feeling very manly today."
A couple of days later, Flanagan apologized for his "thoughtless, glib" remarks and said he wasn't seriously suggesting or advocating the assassination of Assange.
Assange not amused
But Assange and his lawyer have both since called for Flanagan to be charged with incitement to commit murder.
On Monday, Assange lawyer Mark Stevens told CBC News that the assassination suggestions from Flanagan and others along with a revived investigation into alleged sexual assaults seem to be part of an international campaign to discredit his client.
"We have seen that the warrants that … this woman prosecutor has issued have come in the very week that [WikiLeaks] released the cables and been the subject of cyber attacks and suggestions by Sarah Palin that he ought to be assassinated and similar suggestions broadcast in Canada," he said from London.
"So one has to say that maybe there is more to this than meets the eye."
Last week, Liberal MP Denis Coderre filed an official complaint with the CBC's ombudsman Vince Carlin regarding what he called a "declaration to incite violence."
But other former Liberals were giving Flanagan the benefit of the doubt. Scott Reid, a former Liberal adviser to prime minister Paul Martin who was on the same program panel with Flanagan, said he believed Flanagan was being "his usual colourful and provocative self " and was "obviously talking tongue-in-cheek."
Julian Assange, the man behind WikiLeaks.
Calgary police said Monday they were compiling evidence for the Crown to determine whether to press charges against Tom Flanagan (pictured), a former adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for comments he made suggesting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be assassinated
Calgary police said Monday they were compiling evidence for the Crown to determine whether to press charges against Tom Flanagan, a former adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for comments he made suggesting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be assassinated.
The Calgary police join their Vancouver counterparts as the second department to act on public complaints against Flanagan, who now works as political science professor at the University of Calgary.
"Due to a number of calls we have received from the public regarding this matter, the Calgary Police Service will be compiling all facts and compiling a package that will be forwarded to the Crown prosecutor's office for review," said Supt. Kevan Stuart in a prepared statement. "The Crown's office will then determine if this is a criminal matter."
Flanagan, appearing on the CBC program Power & Politics last week, told host Evan Solomon that he thought Assange "should be assassinated, actually. I think (U.S. President Barack) Obama should put out a contract and maybe use a drone or something."
Flanagan retracted his statement two days later, apologizing for the "glib" comment and said it shouldn't have been taken seriously.
On Saturday, Vancouver lawyer Gail Davidson submitted a complaint to police in that city, asking them to review whether or not Flanagan was inciting murder with his comments.
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.
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper's spokesman says Tom Flanagan's remarks that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be assassinated are "simply not acceptable," even if they weren't serious.
Dimitri Soudas commented Friday after Assange said the prime minister's former adviser and others "should be charged with incitement to commit murder."
Flanagan made this week what he called a "glib" comment on CBC-TV that Assange should be assassinated. Despite his subsequent regrets and explanations that he was not serious, he hasn't yet been able to put that genie back in the bottle.
Soudas told Postmedia News Friday that Flanagan "is no adviser" to Harper and has not been for several years.
He added Flanagan's comments "were simply not acceptable, whether they were serious or not."
Meanwhile, in an online question-and-answer session with the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper Friday, Assange was asked how he felt about Flanagan's remarks that he thought U.S. President Barack Obama should put a contract out on him.
"It is correct that Mr. Flanagan and the others seriously making these statements should be charged with incitement to commit murder," Assange replied.
Flanagan, once again, responded by saying he was not serious.
"I made a thoughtless comment that I have retracted with regret," he said in an email to Global National. "It was never a serious proposal."
At least 35 alumni of the University of Calgary, where Flanagan teaches political science, signed a letter posted online asking university president Elizabeth Cannon to "condemn Dr. Flanagan in the harshest possible terms" and to censure him for damaging the reputation of the school and its alumni.
The letter's author is Kris Kotarski, a 29-year-old writer and editor who pens a biweekly column for the Calgary Herald.
Harper represents a Calgary-based constituency.
Liberal and NDP opposition MPs urged the government to repudiate Flanagan's comments after the daily question period in the House of Commons Friday, saying House Leader John Baird's earlier comments distancing the government from him were inadequate.
Kotarski said he knows Flanagan has "a peculiar sense of humour," but his remarks still bother him.
"It's still quite an incredible thing to say, even as a joke," he said. "A public intellectual of his stature who obviously knows he will be associated with the prime minister . . . I'm quite amazed that somebody would say such a thing in Canada."
University spokesman Grady Semmens indicated Flanagan would not be reprimanded.
"At this point, the university is not considering any disciplinary action," he said, adding that Flanagan was representing himself — not the university — when he made the comments. Semmens also said Flanagan had a right to his opinion.
NDP justice critic Joe Comartin said charging Flanagan with incitement to murder was probably out of the question.
"I don't think there is any possibility of that happening quite frankly under our criminal code," he said, calling for a stronger repudiation of Flanagan by the government.
Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale said Flanagan's views "are clearly contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms" and Flanagan should be very, very careful about remarks inciting violence.
Ottawa NDP MP Paul Dewar said it was very serious for a senior Conservative to muse about targeted assassination.
"I think what he said is not something to laugh off."
Flanagan had gone on air Wednesday to clarify his remarks, saying "I never seriously intended to advocate or propose the assassination of Mr. Assange, but I do think that what he's doing is very malicious and harmful to diplomacy and endangering lives and I think it should be stopped."
One day earlier, when Power and Politics host Evan Solomon asked Flanagan for his take on the WikiLeaks revelations, he had replied: "I think Assange should be assassinated, actually."
Then he laughed, adding: "I think Obama should put out a contract or use a drone or something."
When Solomon noted that Flanagan's remarks were pretty harsh, Flanagan replied: "Well, I'm feeling pretty manly today."
Given a chance to backpedal, he added "I wouldn't feel happy, uh, unhappy, if Assange disappeared."
Flanagan was chief of staff when Harper served as Canadian Alliance opposition leader, and ran his 2003 Conservative Party of Canada leadership and 2004 election campaigns.