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Former NHL star Theo Fleury urges tougher penalties for sexual abusers

Former NHL player Theoren Fleury talks about the Graham James case during a news conference in Calgary, Alberta on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011.
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Larry MacDougal

TORONTO Former NHL star Theo Fleury wants tougher penalties for sexual predators, saying Canada's justice system makes it a "Disneyland for pedophiles."

Fleury is a longtime advocate for victims of sexual abuse. He has launched a campaign demanding that the government strengthen sentences for those convicted of abusing children.

Fleury, a Stanley Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist, was sexually abused by disgraced hockey coach Graham James while playing for him in the 1980s. He says the justice system "re-victimizes" those who have suffered from child abuse by being too lenient on perpetrators.

The onetime Calgary Flames star hopes to shore up support for the cause by walking from Toronto to Parliament Hill in Ottawa between May 14 and 23 of next year. He has dubbed the event the Victor Walk.

Fleury published an autobiography in which he described the abuse he suffered. Fleury told the CBS last year that the sex abuse led him down a path of self-destruction. For 27 years, he said, he became an alcoholic and drug addict, hiding his secret from others. However he said he finally sought help and found peace.

In the book "Playing With Fire," the former Calgary Flames star told of how James recruited him at 13 to play in Winnipeg and then in Moose Jaw. He said James would visit and abuse him on the road -- fondling him or performing oral sex. James obtained Fleury's silence by threatening the youngster's dream of one day playing in the NHL.

Fleury detailed how James took him and Kennedy to Disneyland, where he said James would take turns molesting them in motel rooms. James pleaded guilty to the charges involving Kennedy in 1997, but Fleury stayed silent until 2009