Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says he will consider new legislation that would make it harder for sex offenders like James -- a former junior hockey coach convicted of sexually assaulting two of his players, including Kennedy -- to receive pardons from the National Parole Board.
Toews, in an interview Monday with Canwest News Service, said Prime Minister Stephen Harper contacted him Friday after learning that James had been pardoned in 2007.
James's former players were caught by surprise by the pardon, but said they hope changes happen.
"I hope that the snowball is rolling down the hill and it gets bigger and bigger," said Fleury.
"Sometimes politics is about saying the right things, but it's not necessarily that they do that action step that's so badly needed to be taken at this point."
Kennedy added he's "glad it happened because I think it needed action. I think the public outcry was enormous."
Toews said there is very little discretion on the part of the National Parole Board to grant pardons once the statutory criteria have been met.
"Clearly, there are certain types of offenders I have concerns about . . . and sex offenders fall into that category," said Toews.
Toews said he will look at whether sex offenders and repeat violent offenders should have to wait longer than the current five years after serving their sentences to receive pardons for their crimes, or whether they should fall into a category of offenders who are excluded.
Pardons effectively make a criminal record invisible to the public and therefore make it easier for offenders to travel and find jobs.
However, the board said police are alerted of past sex offences during crimin
al record checks of sex offenders who have been pardoned and are looking A10 for work that
involves children or a position of trust.
Kennedy said he is still concerned a pardon adds a barrier that makes it harder for people to learn about sex offenders.
"Crime against a child, I don't think should be hidden from the public," he said.
He also thinks pardons are given too easily. "I quickly went online yesterday, and it's pretty much 1-800-DIAL-A-PARDON. It's a five-minute application. That bothers me because with all the youth organizations across the country, they all use police checks to protect their organizations from the Graham James's of the world," said Kennedy.
The board said to be eligible for a pardon, an applicant must finish serving their sentence, go through a waiting period and have committed no further offences.
"The Criminal Records Act does not differentiate pardon applicants by the type of offence they have committed, nor does it allow the board to refuse to grant a person a pardon based on the nature of their crimes," said the board in a statement, after refusing an interview request.
If enacted, he foresees a possible charter of rights challenge on the basis of equality.
"Why should someone who runs a Ponzi scheme and rips people off for millions and millions of dollars be able to get a pardon more quickly after the expiry of the sentence than someone who damages young hockey players?
"Morally, we may feel that we have an answer to that question, but is it simply a moral judgment or is this is a distinction that has to have some underlying rational basis, as opposed to merely an emotional basis," said Levy.
James was sentenced to 31/2 years in federal prison in 1997 after he pleaded guilty to assaulting Kennedy and another unnamed player about 350 times over 10 years.
Fleury also claimed in a memoir published last year that he was sexually abused by James. He went to police earlier this year, although James has not been criminally charged following the allegations.
The executive director of Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse said the pardon of a high-profile sexual abuser won't make it any easier for people to come forward and report when they are the victims of sexual assaults.
Danielle Aubry said the James pardon is "an outrage."
"When, when, when are we going to make these people accountable? The only way they can become accountable is when we have structures in society that take this issue seriously. It's more than frustrating," said Aubry.
"The people that are coming into our agency for counselling, or people who aren't, look at these kinds of situations, and how does that provide hope for you that people are going to believe or that people are going to take what you have to say seriously?"
The parole board said if someone is pardoned but convicted of another indictable offence, the pardon is automatically revoked and the criminal record is reactivated.
Graham James Timeline
- - Born: Feb. 7, 1952, in P.E.I.
- - 1970: Quits hockey as a player due to bouts of asthma.
- - Mid-1970s: Graduates from university; works as substitute teacher; begins coaching career.
- - 1979-83: Coaches junior A hockey, winning the Manitoba provincial title with the Fort Garry Blues.
- - 1983-84: Named head scout of the WHL's Winnipeg Warriors. Recruits both Theoren Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy.
- - 1984: Hired as head coach of the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors.
- - 1986: Hired as head coach and GM of WHL's Swift Current Broncos. He acquires Kennedy in a trade.
- - 1986-94: Eight-year stint with Broncos nets a pair of WHL titles in 1989 and 1993 and a Memorial Cup.
- - 1994: Joins Calgary Hitmen as part-owner, GM and head coach.
- - Nov. 22, 1996: Calgary police charge James with two counts of sexual assault involving 100s of incidents against two of his former players over a span of 10 years.
- - Jan. 2, 1997: Pleads guilty to sexual assault. Sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. The Canadian Hockey Association imposes a lifetime ban on coaching.
- - 2001-03: In spite of the ban, he coaches several teams in Spain, including the national team.
- - 2003: A civil lawsuit against James is settled out of court. The suit, filed in 1999 by an anonymous victim of James's sexual abuse and his parents, named as defendants the Canadian Hockey Association, the Western Hockey League and various other hockey organizations and individuals, in addition to James.
- - 2009: Fleury alleges James sexually molested him from the age of 14