Graham James' victims skeptical
DAVE DORMER and JAMES TURNER, QMI Agency
|Theo Fleury held a press conference back stage at the set of Battle of the Blades in Toronto, Wednesday Oct. 13, 2010. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - Asked to write a victim impact statement for the sentencing of the junior hockey coach who sexually abused him, Theoren Fleury already had a body of work to draw from.
“My victim impact statement was Playing With Fire,” said Fleury, referring to his best-selling autobiography, which outlined years of sexual abuse inflicted by Graham James in the 1980s.
“But that was over 300 and some pages so we had to shorten it down.”
Now a motivational speaker who helps others confront their own personal demons, Fleury won’t be in a Winnipeg courtroom during the Wednesday sentencing hearing.
Instead, Fleury — who is proudly Metis — will be in Vancouver preparing to host the Aboriginal Achievement Awards.
Despite the fact James pleaded guilty Dec. 7 to sexual assault against Fleury and another unnamed former player between 1983 and
1994, the retired all-star NHLer isn’t holding out hope it will result in jail time.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think he’s going to get any time at all,” he said Monday.
“At the end of the day, I think the whole country already knows the system has to change and there’s lots of people trying to take leadership of the situation, but at the end of the day, has it happened? No, is it going to happen? Maybe.”
James has already served 3 1/2 years in federal prison for sexual abusing three other players, including another former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy in the 1980s and 90s.
Manitoba prosecutor Colleen McDuff has said she is seeking a prison term.
There is no agreement with the defence as to what sentence he should ultimately receive.
Kennedy said Monday he’ll be present at the sentencing, largely to support Greg Gilhooly, who plans to be there.
Gilhooly was named as a complainant in James’ most recent case but those charges were stayed by the Crown.
Kennedy credits Gilhooly as being the driving force in exposing that James received a pardon for his prior crimes.
The revelation prompted widespread public outrage and an overhaul of the pardon system.
“I want to come and support him,” Kennedy said in an interview from Ottawa.
“I think it’s important to stand together and be present.”
Gilhooly expressed no hope the courts can mete out true justice.
He derided the justice system as being soft on child-sex offenders, pointing to the sentence James got in his prior case.
“In Canada, you can be a drug dealer and get nine years,” he said.
“You can be a serial pedophile and get three and a half years. Something is dramatically wrong with the system.
“My anger stems from a concern about the message we’re sending society.”
Kennedy suggests he, like Fleury and Gilhooly, isn’t putting a lot of stock in the potential outcome of the court process either.
But he also expressed hope it will draw attention to a need for change.
“We’re starting to recognize, finally — as a society — the downstream damage that abuse has on individuals,” he said.
“To be able to move past the situation, it’s never just a court case ... a sentencing. It’s your work as an individual to be able to move beyond and to get your power back.”