Philip Heerema has pleaded guilty to eight of 20 charges, including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, making child pornography and luring. The case involves former members of The Young Canadians.
Heerema, 55, pleaded guilty Tuesday morning.
The pleas come mid-trial and relate to six victims. The earliest of the offences happened in 1992, which was one count of sexual assault.
Heerema admitted he was in a position of authority and also admitted he “abused his position of trust and authority.”
He is a former long-time employee of the Calgary Stampede’s performance group The Young Canadians.
Graphic details of abuse were outlined in an agreed statement of facts and read in court by the prosecutor.
In several cases, Heerema requested naked photos of the young students, while in other cases, he requested the teens masturbate in front of him.
In one case, Heerema then masturbated in front of the victim and called it a “masturbating contest.”
Court heard Heerema would perform what he called “check-ups” under the guise of discussing the teens’ workout programs. Heerema would make the boys strip naked and touched their genitals. In one case, the boy received payment for the “check-up.”
Heerema also admitted to discussing one teen’s body insecurities with him, offering to “rate” his buttocks if the teen would send him a naked picture.
Court heard he rated the photo a six out of 10. On another occasion, Heerema kissed the teen on the neck.
Heerema originally pleaded not guilty to 20 charges on the first day of the trial earlier this month.
There were eight former Young Canadians originally named in the case.
Defence for Heerema has asked for a psych report prior to sentencing.
Sentencing has been scheduled for May 1, 2018.
Court heard there will be a joint submission for sentence made by the Crown and defence.
Calgary Stampede CEO Warren Connell reacted to the detailed accounts of abuse revealed in court.
“I am very saddened to hear those details, obviously,” Connell said Tuesday. “We highly respect those individuals who came forward…and the toll that it must have taken.”
Connell said he hopes new policies will protect young performers going forward.
“We want the youth to feel empowered to be able to speak up and speak out.”
Much of the abuse Heerema admitted to happened in one-on-one meetings with the teens.
Stampede officials say changes have been made to the performing arts studios, including “state-of-the-art security features, such as video surveillance, electronically controlled access points and see-through glass doors on all rooms and offices.”