The parole board has altered conditions of release imposed on a freed hockey coach who committed hundreds of sexual assaults on young players. The change, made in a decision June 21, 2018, would permit Graham James to meet face to face with his victims or their families, if they choose, as part of a restorative opportunities program. The meetings are arranged and closely monitored by a facilitator. The parole board decision (read a written record of it, after the jump) also reveals how James has fared in the community since he was granted full parole in September 2016.
The decision to modify the release provision forbidding James from having any contact with his victims or their families is being made because Corrections Canada recommends it “in the event that the victims would like to take part in a process involving the CSC’s Restorative Opportunities Program.” There’s no information in the written record of the parole decision indicating whether victims or families have asked for face to face meetings with James or for the opportunity to correspond with him. The parole board agreed to modify James’ parole to permit his possible participation in the program. (Global News reports that Theo Fleury, one of James victims, wants to meet with him face to face as part of a documentary he’s involved in producing.)
“The Board is at the opinion that this modification will not increase the risk you present while under surveillance in the community,” the written record of the parole board decision states. “You do have to understand that your victims have the right to a peaceful life without any stress of attempts on your part to contact them.” The document notes there’s no indication that James has ever breached the rule that forbid him from contacting victims.
In some cases, victims or families arrange to meet criminals for their own personal reasons that transcend any notion of forgiveness or restorative justice. An Ontario woman, Carolyn Solomon, met her son’s killer face to face because she hoped it would allow her to “take the power back.” (Hear an interview with her in Episode 8 of the Cancrime podcast).
James was a successful coach in the Western Hockey League in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Among his victims were Theo Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy, who went on to careers in the National Hockey League. James was first convicted in 1997 in Calgary, after pleading guilty to abusing players. He also has a conviction from an incident in 1971 involving a 14-year-old boy. James is a hepephile – an offender who is attracted to pubescent boys and young men. He used his position as a respected and admired coach to find victims and to try to ensure their silence. Some of the boys and young men were abused by James hundreds of times. He served two penitentiary sentences for his crimes. He was released on day parole in January 2016, permitting him to completed his seven-year sentence in the community. He was set free in Quebec.
In the latest decision, the parole board says James has “demonstrated highly satisfactory level of autonomy and stability since your return in the community. You are responding well to a supervision framework and have proven that you are capable of complying with guidelines within the community.”
In a 2016 document, the parole board noted that James admitted to a psychologist that he was still attracted to adolescent males and young men between ages 15 and 25. Assessments concluded he also showed “fetishist (feet) and voyeuristic preferences.”
The written record of the June 2018 parole board decision: