Former NHLer Theoren Fleury signs autographs at the Manitoba Métis Federation’s annual general meeting in Brandon on Sunday. Fleury received a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal at the event.
(COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Russell’s Theoren Fleury has a new goal in life, turning victims into victors.
Fleury, who was in Brandon at the Manitoba Métis Federation’s annual general meeting to accept a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, spoke to the more than 2,000 in attendance about overcoming obstacles.
"I’ve had so many experiences, some good, some not so good and I guess it is recognition that I’ve persevered through all of it," Fleury said about the award.
Fleury, who played 15 years in the National Hockey League and won Olympic hockey gold as a member of Team Canada at the 2002 games, may be best known for the publicity surrounding the sexual abuse he suffered from his then coach, Graham James, while a member of the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League.
In 2009, Fleury wrote an autobiography titled "Playing with Fire," detailing the abuse he suffered from James and the subsequent spiral his life took after.
Today, he has found new peace, helping as many victims of child abuse as he can.
"To be an advocate for children and children’s safety — we need to be tougher, get tougher laws because obviously Ottawa isn’t taking any leadership on this, so I’m going to," Fleury said.
According to the Advocacy Group, one in three girls and one in five boys are sexually assaulted before they turn 18. It’s a number that still staggers Fleury today and is a big reason he has chosen to become an advocate for child abuse.
"It happened to me, it wasn’t a part of me, but it was a very long and painful journey to get to this part in my life," Fleury said. "After I revealed that I had suffered abuse as a child, it was unbelievable the outpouring of people that came forward and revealed that they too had been abused."
He also believes it is important that the federal government adopt harsher penalties for pedophiles.
"When a pedophile gets caught, on average, he has a 117 victims," Fleury said. "There is no cure for it, because the urge is greater than common sense."
Fleury believes Canada should adopt a form of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act that was passed into law in the United States in 2006. The act was signed into law on the 25th anniversary of the abduction of Adam Walsh, who was the son of John Walsh, host of the television series "America’s Most Wanted."
"The act is right there, all we need to do is pass it into law," Fleury said, adding that the legislation comes with provisions that prevent convicted pedophiles from receiving a pardon or changing his or her name or appearance.
He’s also honoured to follow in his ancestors footsteps, calling Louis Riel, a childhood hero. And hoping that one day, like Riel, Métis children will look up to him.
"I remember being at my uncle’s farm on the banks of the Assiniboine and being outside with the fiddles, guitars and jiggers," Fleury said. "When I was going through rough times I always had those memories and it always put a smile on my face."
"If you forget where you came from, you’re going to get lost," Fleury added. "And for a while I did — in fame and fortune — so to be able to now come back where my roots are is special."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 1, 2012