The Man behind Stephen Harper - 2004-10-12
Consternation rumbled across the country like an approaching thunderhead. For aboriginal leaders, one of their worst nightmares appeared about to come true. Two weeks before last June's federal election, pollsters were suddenly predicting that Conservative leader Stephen Harper might pull off an upset and form the next government. What worried many in First Nations' circles was not Harper himself, but the man poised to become the real power behind his prime ministerial throne: his national campaign director Tom Flanagan, a U.S.-born professor of political science at the University of Calgary.
Most voters had never heard of Flanagan, who has managed to elude the media while helping choreograph Harper's shrewd, three-year consolidation of power. But among aboriginal activists, his name set off alarms. For the past three decades, Flanagan has churned out scholarly studies debunking the heroism of Metis icon Louis Riel, arguing against native land claims, and calling for an end to aboriginal rights. Those stands had already made him a controversial figure, but four years ago, his book, First Nations? Second Thoughts, sent tempers off the charts.
In it, Flanagan dismissed the continent's First Nations as merely its "first immigrants" who trekked across the Bering Strait from Siberia, preceding the French, British et al. by a few thousand years—a rewrite which neatly eliminates any indigenous entitlement. Then, invoking the spectre of a country decimated by land claims, he argued the only sensible native policy was outright assimilation.