Two years in jail is not nearly enough for the crimes of Graham James. The trial judge didn’t grasp the magnitude of those crimes.
Mr. James, a junior hockey coach, sexually assaulted and raped two teenage boys, Theoren Fleury and Todd Holt, who looked to him as a mentor, and whose futures he held in his hands. He committed hundreds of sexual attacks on each one. There is something annihilationist about what he did. It was an obliterating violence he committed on their sense of personhood, repeated over and over and over and over. These crimes need a sentencing approach that recognizes the difference between one or two sexual assaults and the hundreds that Mr. Holt and Mr. Fleury endured. Not a single one of those assaults should receive a sentencing discount. This was, truly, the worst of the worst, and deserved even more than the six years requested by the Crown.
The two teen victims barely survived – Mr. Fleury, who became a National Hockey League star, would one day put a gun in his mouth. The other, Todd Holt, said, “There are no words to describe the depths of suffering.” It really doesn’t matter that no weapons were used, and no physical beatings occurred. Such was his expertise as a predator that he didn’t need them.
The defence asked for house arrest, not jail, arguing that the crimes occurred in the 80s and 90s, and that Mr. James is no longer a danger to society. Whether he is a continuing threat or not, his behaviour needs to be denounced to express society’s revulsion and pain at the victimization of the vulnerable, and at the abuse of trust. Provincial Court Judge Catherine Carlson spoke of that abuse, of degradation, of the total control exercised by Mr. James, but then gave him credit for an expression of remorse, an apology, the “extreme degree of humiliation” he experienced and his willingness to come back from Mexico without an extradition hearing. He deserved no such credit. He did not voluntarily own up to these crimes. He came forward when the victims laid charges, and the world closed in on him.
Two years for savage predation that nearly destroyed two vulnerable and trusting human beings – the sentence can only feed the stereotypical notion on which the Conservative tough-on-crime agenda depends, that judges, left to their own devices, won’t stand up to serious crime.