We so desperately need a Royal Commission into child sex abuse in this country.
Theo Fleury says the parole board's decision to grant Graham James full parole re-victimizes those who have experienced sexual abuse. (John Woods/Canadian Press|Chanss Lagaden/CBC)
Former Calgary Flames star Theo Fleury slams a decision by the Parole Board of Canada to release convicted sex offender Graham James on full parole.
James was convicted and sentenced to seven years in 2012 for repeatedly assaulting Fleury and his cousin, Todd Holt, when they played for him in the WHL (Western Hockey League).
The former hockey coach had already been living in a halfway house in Montreal since being granted partial parole in January. Full parole was granted Thursday.
"At this point we as the one in four who experience sexual abuse in our lifetime are left to once again be revictimized by the system, media included," Fleury said in a written release.
Former Calgary Flames player and child abuse survivor and advocate Sheldon Kennedy says he doubts repeat offender Graham James is fully rehabilitated. (James Young/CBC)
"Today as I am speaking to three high schools in Vernon, B.C., I will be reminded that my path and our path should be focused on healing. What we are missing here is that trauma, mental health and addictions should be the main focus of the media's attention; not that another offender manipulated the consequences of their offences."
At his parole board hearing in Laval, Que., the panel told James he must not have contact with anyone under 18, and that he must not communicate with his victims or their families, nor take on any employment or volunteer work involving minors.
James pardoned before latest conviction
James had nearly completed an earlier, five-year sentence in 2015 for sex-related charges connected to five players during his time as a coach in the Western Hockey League when he pleaded guilty to a sexual assault involving a player who has not been identified.
He was sentenced to two years for that assault, which took place between 1990 and 1991, when James was with the Swift Current Broncos in Saskatchewan. That time was tacked on to the sentence he was already serving.
In 1997, James was sentenced to 3½ years after he pleaded guilty to 300 counts of abuse against Sheldon Kennedy, who had played for him and went on to an NHL career, and 50 counts against another player.
This is just astonishing! A 5 year sentence for sexually abusing 5 players = 1 year for each player; 2 years for sexually assaulting another player; then, previously, he was sentenced to 3.5 years for 350 counts of child sex abuse against Sheldon Kennedy and one other player. That equals 3.65 days for each sexual assault on a child.
I realize the sentencing judge is restricted by sentencing rules in place at the time of the abuses, but 3.65 days for a serious act of child sex abuse? That's insane! And then he probably actually spent less than 2 days in prison for each offence. It appears that the judge had a lot more sympathy for the pedophile than for his victims. No wonder Fleury calls Canada 'Disneyland for pedophiles'.
This has got to change.
"I do not believe that he's changed. I believe that he will reoffend," Kennedy told CBC News after the parole board's decision on Thursday.
Kennedy, who now runs the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre, said it demonstrates once again that Canada is failing to tackle the problem of sexual abuse of children.
He said while rehabilitation and reintegration are important, parole should not be granted to sex offenders who haven't demonstrated complete commitment to their treatment programs, which he doubts in the case of James.
"I think we're really missing the mark on the impact and also the length of time that it might take an individual to rehabilitate," he said.
"Because, in a controlled environment, such as jail, or a treatment centre, you can say all the right things, and do what you need to do to get out. But it's what are you going to do when you get out?"
James pardoned in 2007
After his release from prison following his first conviction, James was pardoned by the National Parole Board in 2007. In January 2010, Fleury filed a criminal complaint against James, which led to his 2012 conviction.
Dr. Patrick Baillie, a forensic psychologist in Calgary, said parole can be an important tool in the rehabilitation of sex offenders.
"Over the years, I did far too many assessments of high-risk guys who, because they were being deemed high risk, were held until very close to, if not the end, of their sentence. And then the national parole board says, 'Well he's completed his sentence; there's nothing that we can do,'" he said.
"But then you release him without those supports, which increases the risk of doing something stupid." 'Stupid is not the correct word here, 'evil' is the correct word!