Days after former junior hockey coach Graham James was sentenced to a two-year prison term for sexually assaulting Fleury and his cousin Todd Holt in the 1980s and '90s, the retired player said in Winnipeg on Thursday that new federal legislation on such crimes is far too weak.
"The punishment in this country does not fit the crime," Fleury said, adding that with Tuesday's sentence, "a strong message was sent to every pedophile in Canada that, 'Hey, I can continue to get away with what I'm doing, and there are really no consequences and there's really no punishment.'"
The former longtime forward with the Calgary Flames and other NHL teams said the new minimum one-year jail term for sexually assaulting victims under age 16 is not nearly stiff enough.
He added that most child sex assault victims take "at least 20 years to even tell somebody" about their abuse experiences, so their assailants should be penalized in line with that timeframe.
Fleury, 43, added that Canada should consider adopting the kinds of sex assault penalties seen in the U.S., where former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky faces a maximum 460-year prison term if convicted later this spring on charges of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years.
Fleury, who grew up in the western Manitoba town of Russell, charged that provincial court Judge Catherine Carlson "completely embarrassed herself" in sentencing the 59-year-old James.
"This is a case of, really, common sense. And the judicial system doesn't seem to want to look at common sense," he said. "We've seen the country become outraged. When that happens, change will happen soon."
Fleury didn't comment specifically on a possible appeal of the James sentence to come from Manitoba justice officials, though he said Ottawa must toughen "incredibly flawed" laws and penalties in consideration of Canada's "eight million" victims of child sex abuse.
If Prime Minister Stephen Harper is "going to ask for votes in the next election, we've got eight million of them," said Fleury, who was in Winnipeg to play in Thursday's Oldtimers Hockey Challenge at MTS Centre.
"It's our responsibility as advocates to now make sure all the unborn kids in Canada will be able to come into this world ... not being touched improperly, and not being subjected to these predators."
Somebody should have stuffed a joint in James' pocket. He would have gotten life.