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Theo Fleury wants to interview convicted sex offender Graham James
Published Wednesday, July 11, 2018 3:35PM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 11, 2018 8:39PM MDT
Nearly 10 years ago, former Calgary Flame Theo Fleury released his autobiography that shone a spotlight on his struggles with mental illness and addiction and first revealed he was sexually abused by his former hockey coach.
Now, he wants to sit down with Graham James so he can learn how his mind works.
“We’ve put it out there and we’ll see what happens because I think it’s important that pedophiles educate us on what they look for [and] what organizations they try to infiltrate.”
He says the idea for an interview came to him when James’ lawyer revealed, after he was granted full parole in September 2016, that he wanted to help.
“So now basically all we’re doing is calling Graham’s bluff to see if that’s the case or it’s just more manipulation of the system,” he said.
Fleury says he wants to incorporate that material into a future documentary about sexual abuse, the challenges that survivors face and education about pedophiles themselves.
He says that it is not at all about him.
“None of the questioning will ever be about me. It will mostly be about [education to] let us understand what’s going on inside of the head of people who seek out children that get abused.”
Fleury says that meeting the man who abused him as a youth doesn’t bother him.
“People have a really hard time understanding this place that I’m in. It’s a place of self-forgiveness, not forgiveness of my abuser. I have also come to the realization that my relationship with my abuser, for the most part, was something that I needed in my life and that I lacked.”
He says that James provided him with a lot of things that his parents couldn’t give him and only 45 minutes of his relationship was ‘terrifying’.
“I have been able to overcome all of that and understand the majority of it. It’s like having a conversation with somebody who I used to know.”
Sheldon Kennedy, Fleury’s fellow teammate and also a victim of Graham James, disagrees with meeting the 66-year-old.
“I know that there’s an area where that’s a part of therapy for some people. That’s not part of therapy for me, I have no desire to meet with Graham James, but that’s me.”
He says that the impact of sexual abuse is real and stays with victims for the rest of their lives.
“We have done over 7,500 child abuse investigations. 68 percent of those are sexual assaults on children, the majority of those kids are under 12. Kids that have been abused are 59 times more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 30 percent higher dropout rates in high school, 26 times more likely to experience youth homelessness, 15 times more likely to attempt suicide and 80 percent of individuals who are at treatment centres were abused as a kid.”
As for those who have been convicted, Kennedy says that Canada vastly underestimates the amount of time needed to rehabilitate them.
“I think a lot times we think if someone put a certain number of hours in then they are good to go. What I know about this is that isn’t the way it works.”
Kennedy says the Child Advocacy Centre is the best place for victims to get the help they need.
He says there are 150 new investigations submitted to the CAC every month, but that’s just the first part of the problem.
“What about the impact? What are these kids struggling with? Suicidal ideation, self-harm, depression, addiction, sexualized behaviour and the list goes on. What I see about this is if we aren’t doing a good job with these kids, they’re the ones filling the streets, they’re the ones filling our addiction centres [and] they’re the ones filling our prisons.”
Fleury says he’s shot about 14 hours of footage for his still untitled documentary at the Stony Mountain Penitentiary in Manitoba, where he spoke with convicted murderers.
He has taken a break from filming while he waits for further funding from his patron. There is currently no release date.
Fleury’s 5th Annual Victor Walk takes place on July 21.
(With files from Kathy Le)