Martin Kruze’s legacy is a carpet of steel rods stretched along the perimeter of the Bloor Street Viaduct. Mr. Kruze was not the last person to jump to his death from the Toronto bridge, and he certainly wasn’t the first, but his death in 1997 brought new impetus to lobbying efforts for a physical suicide barrier to line the viaduct, which at the time was the second-most frequented bridge for suicide in North America. Mr. Kruze brought a name and a story to the faceless people who had, for generations, chosen the Bloor Street Viaduct as the place to end their lives. In that way, Mr. Kruze’s death actually changed things – but mostly just on that bridge.
Three days before Mr. Kruze climbed over the viaduct’s concrete rail, the man who had sexually abused him as a child was finally handed a prison sentence: two years less a day. That man – Gordon Stuckless, an equipment manager at Maple Leaf Gardens – pleaded guilty to assaulting 24 boys between the years of 1969 and 1988. His sentence amounted to less than a third of the time that Mr. Kruze, as a child, was abused at the hands of Mr. Stuckless and George Hannah, another equipment manager, who died in 1984.
Mr. Kruze started something of a #MeToo movement before its time. When he went public with his story of being lured into a sex-abuse ring by predatory men who used hockey as bait, swathes of other victims came forward to tell their stories. So it was hardly a revelation when, after Mr. Stuckless had served two thirds of his sentence (which had been extended to six years on appeal) and was out of prison, he was rearrested in 2013 on fresh charges stemming from roughly the same time period.
In 2016, Mr. Stuckless was sentenced to 6½ years in prison for sexually abusing 18 boys between 1965 and 1985. And again, that sentence was extended on appeal – to 10 years, after the Ontario Court of Appeal called his previous sentence “demonstrably unfit.” And once again, he would be back living among the public after serving just a fraction of that time, released to a halfway house in Hamilton just this past December.
It sounds unconscionable – and it is unconscionable – that a predator who sincerely cannot say how many children he has abused would serve so little time behind bars, and that he would be released on day parole to potentially prey on a whole new cohort of young victims. But by the Parole Board of Canada‘s rather narrow and specific mandate, which is to assess an offender’s recidivism risk and potential threat to public safety, the system performed precisely as it is designed.
According to the board’s decision, Mr. Stuckless, who testified in 2014 that he was himself sexually abused as a child, has accepted responsibility for his actions, completed numerous sex-offender treatment programs and was compliant during his statutory release in 2001, after his first stint behind bars. He has submitted to chemical castration since the time of his first sentence – even after he was subject to surveillance – and has not committed an offence since 1995. It all suggests Mr. Stuckless may have truly been rehabilitated – to the extent that someone of his ilk can ever be rehabilitated, anyway.
The irony here is that while our justice system is commonly criticized for being too preoccupied with punishment at the expense of rehabilitation, the opposite might be true in the case of Mr. Stuckless: A chronic pedophile has – with the help of therapy, structured programs and, crucially, Lupron injections – been turned into someone who could conceivably live a normal life.
But our justice system isn’t singularly focused on rehabilitation, and indeed, punishment is, in part, designed to deliver some semblance of justice to the victims of violent and sexual crimes. It is also supposed to reassure the public that errant behaviour is appropriately denounced and penalized by those with judicial power. That hasn’t happened here.
In the case of Mr. Stuckless, it is impossible to see how his few years in prison are in any way proportional to the lifetime of torment he imposed on dozens of children. It will not convey to other victims that their tormentors will spend any decent length of time behind bars. It will not encourage more people to come forward, especially if, after a lengthy court process, abusers are free after just a few years. It will not deter other pedophiles from luring vulnerable children, and it will not inspire public faith in the integrity of the Canadian justice system. Indeed, the only thing the Stuckless case seems to have really accomplished, with the help of Mr. Kruze, is changing the look of the Bloor Street Viaduct.
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