Ex-hockey coach, pardoned sex offender found living in Mexico

Former hockey junior coach and convicted sex offender Graham James pictured in Toronto in 1989 after being named The Hockey News man of the year.

Sex offender and former hockey coach Graham James is living in Mexico and has absolutely nothing to say regarding his conviction and pardon, according to cbc.ca.

The National is to broadcast a story tonight after tracking down James in Guadalajara, a city of about six million people, where he lives in a gated compound renting an apartment month to month.

Graham declined to discuss his 2007 pardon, which only came to light last month, shocking the nation and prompting the Conservatives to introduce a bill on stricter rules for pardons. He also refused to respond to allegations made by former NHL star Theoren Fleury in his autobiography that he was also sexually abused by James decades ago.

James pleaded guilty in 1997 of sexually abusing former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, a teammate of Fleury’s in junior hockey, and another unnamed young man on 350 separate occasions. Fleury has already reacted on his Facebook page, TheoFleury14, to word that the CBC found James.  “Remember, there is good news coming out of all this. We got a very important bill introduced on Parliament Hill yesterday, so we’re moving in the right direction.”

Mexico doesn’t have a registry for sex offenders, and because of the Canadian pardon, there is no official means for Mexican authorities to learn of his criminal history, the CBC said on its website.  That means James can live in Mexico as if he had no criminal past, even though police in Winnipeg are investigating Fleury’s allegations. Fleury was a 14-year-old from the small town of Russell, Man., when he was recruited by James to play for his Winnipeg junior team.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government said it was not in the “business of forgiveness” and is cracking down on criminal pardons because some actions should “never” be eligible. Under the bill tabled by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, any person convicted of a sexual crime against a minor, or of more than three serious “indictable” offences, would be permanently barred from applying for a criminal pardon.

All other offenders seeking a pardon, to be renamed a “record suspension,” would have to wait five to 10 years after serving a sentence before applying — up from three to five years, depending on the severity of the offence. Harper, who had his picture taken with victims’ rights advocates, including Kennedy, just before Toews introduced the bill, said “a pardon is not a right,” adding “there are some times where actions should never be pardoned.”

Kennedy, who learned on Easter Sunday his abuser was pardoned three years ago, welcomed what he said was a thoughtful response that put the emphasis back on offenders to prove they have changed.

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