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Calgary child advocacy centre named after Sheldon Kennedy

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CALGARY - An agency that provides co-ordinated support services to abused children is being named after a former hockey player who brought to light sex crimes against him by Graham James.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday that the not-for-profit organization in Calgary will be known as the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre.

Kennedy played in the NHL and was one of the first to come forward about sex abuse by his one-time junior coach and mentor James. Kennedy's revelations led to an eventual conviction in the 1990s against James, who last year was jailed again for abuse against other players, including retired NHL star Theo Fleury.

Harper says the centre is a great way to acknowledge Kennedy's work to help victims of child abuse.

"This centre will stand as a permanent reminder to Sheldon's boundless commitment to helping children who have been the victims of abuse," Harper said. "What a great way to honour such an outstanding Canadian."

The prime minister also emphasized the value of having one centre providing services and support to abuse victims.

"By putting a number of agencies under the same roof, this centre will be a one-stop shop for abused children in need. And so a child need no longer tell their sad story multiple times. Once will be enough.

"This leads to better evidence, and better evidence results in better conviction rates."

Harper said there are more than 200,000 investigations into child abuse and neglect each year in Canada. Child pornography is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the country, he added.

The Sheldon Kennedy centre will be governed by a board of directors and includes officials from the Calgary Police Service, Calgary and area Child and Family Services, Alberta Justice, the Crown prosecutor's office and Alberta Health Services. It will have a strong alliance with the Canadian Child Abuse Association.

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