Theo Fleury bashed the decision of Canada's National Parole Board to grant full parole to former junior hockey coach and convicted sexual offender Graham James.
Fleury—who carved out a 15-year career in the NHL and starred with the Calgary Flames—was among those assaulted by James, and the former hockey great is appalled by the decision to grant the sex offender full parole three years ahead of his sentence completion. James, who had been living in a Montreal halfway house after being granted partial parole earlier in the year, is currently serving a seven-year sentence for sexually assaulting young players he coached with the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League in the 1990s. He is a repeat offender who was formerly imprisoned between 1997-01 for other counts of sexual assault.
James was granted full parole Thursday, after a hearing in Laval, Quebec.
"As the news came in today that a repeat offender was granted full parole, we are again asking questions as to how this is possible?" Fleury said in a press release. "I say again, "Canada is the Disneyland for pedophiles."
"With this judgement we are now as always to continue to focus on the path of healing and forgiveness. If you are looking for closure from the justice system, this in many cases will never happen."
Another former NHLer and victim of James' assaults, Sheldon Kennedy, took to Twitter to show his frustration with the decision and send his thoughts out to sexual assault victims.
The disgraced former junior hockey coach admits he is still attracted to young men, but insists he won't put himself in the position to re-offend.
"I don't think I can change attraction," James said in the hearing. "But what I can change is my behaviour."
"I feel ashamed. I feel that I failed the people for whom I had the greatest responsibility and to whom I was closest," James added.
There are several conditions attached to James' parole, including no contact with anyone under 18 years of age, no communication with victims or their families, and no employment or volunteer work involving minors. Those conditions will last until James' seven-year sentence is completed in 2019. But the decision to grant the repeat offender full parole is problematic, nonetheless.
As Kennedy pointed out, "We'll never get decisions that are supportive of the impact of his crime until we start understanding the severity and the lifelong impact this crime has on children and into adulthood."
"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," Kennedy added.
Both Fleury and Kennedy are actively trying to put an end to child abuse and doing everything in their power to spread awareness and help survivors. We talked to Kennedy about his activism last year.