Canadian National Hockey League star Theo Fleury, winner of a Stanley Cup ring and an Olympic gold medal makes no bones about it. He says that Canada is a “Disneyland for pedophiles” and I think he’s right.
Fleury was yet another victim of Graham James, the now infamous hockey coach and mentor, who sexually abused young boys under his tutelage, ruining their lives in the process. Convicted in 1997 for sexually abusing professional hockey player Sheldon Kennedy, he was then sentenced to a mere three and a half years in prison for multiple criminal counts involving Mr. Kennedy and another young man. He served only eighteen months.
It was Sheldon Kennedy who encouraged Theo Fleury to report the abuse he suffered at the hands of James in the 1980′s. The police investigated and filed charges against Graham James, who plead guilty and was sentenced to two years in March of this year.
But he appealed his two-year sentence, his lawyer arguing that he should have received no jail time at all. The Manitoba Court of Appeal heard the case on December 3, 2012 and have yet to hand down their decision. The Crown originally sought a six-year sentence, but at the appeal hearing suggested a four-year sentence. Mr. James recently became eligible for parole, but has not made an application.
The lack of severity in the sentencing process is, in my view, the revictimization of young men whose messed-up lives and drug and alcohol addictions can be directly linked to the shame and fear of the physical, emotional and psychological aftermath of years of abuse. Abuse from a respected and trusted member of the community… a man who in hindsight deserved no respect, but rather condemnation and denunciation.
By sentencing Graham James to short prison terms, the message is loud and clear. It says “we don’t take pedophilia seriously in Canada”. To think that an offence like criminal negligence causing bodily harm in relation to a road crime can be almost equivalent in prison time to Mr. James’ two-year sentence is astounding.
Kudos to Mr. Fleury who announced this month that he has taken the sentencing of pedophiles as a project, to champion a change in sentencing and support other victims of these atrocious crimes. His first recommendation? Minimum sentences of fifteen years in prison for each count of sexual abuse, additional counts to run consecutively, rather than concurrently, which is the situation today.
One thing is for sure: If pedophiles know they will be locked away for fifteen years or more, the goal of specific deterrence will be achieved.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang