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Sheldon Kennedy to testify before U.S. Senate panel about sexual abuse

Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy appeared as a witness in 2010 at a House of Commons public safety committee on a bill to eliminate pardons for serious crime.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Sheldon Kennedy appears Tuesday on Capitol Hill, the marquee witness at a congressional hearing delving into the sexual abuse of children.

The Senate hearing is being held in the aftermath of the shocking Penn State college football allegations that have stunned the United States.

Mr. Kennedy is a former NHL player and the public face of Canada's own version of the college football scandal. He says he'll brook no nonsense from right-wing U.S. lawmakers who oppose government regulation on almost every front.

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In an interview with The Canadian Press on the eve of his testimony, he had a message for any lawmaker who might oppose enacting stricter anti-abuse laws and regulations: "Bring it on."

Canada is a world leader in the prevention and investigation of child sexual abuse, Mr. Kennedy said.

That's largely because Canadian victims, officials and stakeholders have worked together to enact tough anti-abuse measures since 1997, when Mr. Kennedy came forward to accuse his junior hockey coach of sexually preying on him for years.

Last month, Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a period of 15 years. Investigators say several high-ranking university officials knew about the abuse, but failed to notify police.

The scandal resulted in the firing of Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno. Penn State president Graham Spanier also lost his job, and two other college officials have been charged with perjury and failing to report the assaults, some of which took place on campus.

For Canadians – and Mr. Kennedy in particular – the scandal is sickly familiar.

Mr. Kennedy, now 42, stunned Canada in 1997 when he stepped forward to accuse his former junior hockey coach, Graham James, of sexual abuse.

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Mr. James was convicted of some 350 sexual abuse charges and served 3½ years in prison. He was quietly pardoned in 2007 – something that touched off a national firestorm.

Last week, Mr. James pleaded guilty to fresh allegations of sexual assault from two more of his former players, one of whom was NHL star Theo Fleury.

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