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Perversion doesn't recognize holidays

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Former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy was spot-on last week when he testified before a U.S. Senate committee about child sexual abuse.

"The abusers, the perpetrators, the pedophiles -- they like our ignorance as a society. They like our indifference."

Kennedy is an expert because he was, after all, a victim of his junior hockey coach, Graham James, who spent three years in the slammer for the sexual abuse that Kennedy has spent his life dealing with.

Two weeks ago, James pleaded guilty to other charges of abuse involving other players and will be sentenced in the new year.

As a Canadian victim, Kennedy didn't mince words as he cited the need for tough legislation and minimum sentences.

And it's coming, in the federal omnibus crime bill, in legislation critics increasingly malign, misrepresent and misinterpret.

It's not necessarily the high-profile cases of Kennedy or fellow NHLer Theo Fleury -- whom James also victimized -- that catalyzed the much-needed changes in the new chapter of law.

Six years ago, the then-Conservative Opposition grilled then-Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler on a case that unfolded right under Parliament's nose. It centred on a 32-year-old Texan kiddie-pornographer who had travelled all the way from the Lone Star State to Ottawa after luring a youngster -- a 14-year-old boy -- for the sole purpose of having sex and making child porn.

The judge, the plea deal, the law -- take your pick -- all let us down. The perv was caught but slithered out of Canada after completing his sentence. And the sentence wasn't what it should have been. It wasn't even a month or a week. Nope. It was a single day.

Ironically, a press release from the House of Commons stated "this sexual predator will face tougher charges and penalties in Texas now that he has been deported."

Past Conservative criticism has been pointed. "Canada has become a destination for sex tourists who prey on our children by exploiting weak Liberal laws. We have repeatedly warned (Cotler) of the threat to our children."

Cotler said such commentary was "fear-mongering."

The Conservatives pointed to other cases to augment their position. One involved dozens of crimes. Another told of a man being implicated in more than 200 offences involving a child victim.

Eleni Bakopanos, former parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, weakly replied to some of that criticism with a familiar ring as she wondered how children will be protected by "bringing out the most heinous cases, thus assuring there is fear-mongering in our society."

Most heinous? Fear-mongering? Interesting comments given that crimes like child pornography are way up -- 123 per cent since those words were spoken.

For those worried about the cost of locking these perverts away, think about the cost in Shaun Deacon's wake of abuse. Corrections officials say he's "the most difficult and litigious pedophile" they have ever encountered.

In the 1980s, he got seven years for assaulting four children between the ages of five and 13. That deal included the additional abduction and assault of one of the victims while he was out on bail. In the 1990s, he attacked an eight-year-old in the bathroom of a Dairy Queen. He got paroled and was caught in his halfway house with a 10-year-old. Back to jail for two years.

One expert stated if Deacon was "in the community unsupervised for half an hour, he'd reoffend."

So on release, the serial pedophile was slapped with a 10-year supervision order that required his being followed and watched 24/7. That's a pretty pricey option for the taxpayer.

He promised to stay away from Chuck E. Cheese restaurants and offered his guarantee of safe-showering (because, in his words, "lots of my offences happened around showering and bathing of young boys.").

Despite his pledge, Deacon's been bounced back into jail a couple of times since and as recently as two months ago he was still taking up the court's time complaining about the conditions imposed on him.

The omnibus legislation will set new mandatory minimum penalties for existing offences related to child sexual abuse. Penalties will be boosted for a host of abuse-based crimes, some of which currently call for a measly 14-day minimum. Sexual assault with a weapon of a person under 16 will bring a five-year minimum. Internet luring will net some offenders a one-year stay.

Perversion doesn't recognize holidays. Abused children will face more abuse over this holiday season.

Those kids don't want much for Christmas. Maybe a silent night, a respite from their darkness. They just want it to end. They need protection and security from what only some, like Sheldon Kennedy, can imagine.

Robert Marshall is a former

Winnipeg police detective.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 24, 2011 I6

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