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Public Safety Minister eyes parole overhaul in wake of sex-abuse pardon

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has asked Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to propose reforms to the National Parole Board as a result of the Graham James pardon.

Mr. Toews is to look at changes that would put protecting the public first. And he is to bring these proposals forward to the Prime Minister as soon as possible, according to his spokesman Christopher McCluskey.

The PMO reacted quickly to the news of the James pardon over the weekend, saying the government was disturbed and troubled by the decision of the National Parole Board.

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"The Prime Minister has asked for an explanation on how the National Parole Board can pardon someone who committed such horrific crimes that remain shocking to all Canadians," Mr. McCluskey said.

Indeed, Mr. James, a hockey coach who was convicted of sexually abusing his players, was pardoned by the National Parole Board three years ago. In 1997 he was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual assault.

The news of a pardon was a complete surprise to the Prime Minister and his government.

Mr. James's case is one that sent shockwaves through hockey rinks around the country; it even reached into the NHL. Two NHL players, Sheldon Kennedy and Theoren Fleury, went public with their stories of abuse by Mr. James.

"While the National Parole Board is fully independent in its operations and decision-making, the Prime Minister has asked Minister Toews to propose reforms that will ensure the National Parole Board always and unequivocally puts the public's safety first," Mr. McCluskey said.

In an interview on CTV's Canada AM this morning, Mr. Kennedy expressed his outrage over the pardon. "To me it's really a slap in the face for everybody."

(File photo: The Canadian Press)

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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