A former employee of the Calgary Stampede’s Young Canadians performance group has been taken into custody and will begin serving his prison term.
Philip Heerema was given a 10-year sentence for sexually abusing six teenage boys on Wednesday.
In handing down his decision, Queen’s Bench Justice Larry Ackerl called Heerema’s conduct “morally despicable.”
“Mr. Heerema identified, targeted, relentlessly pursued and groomed these boys,” Ackerl said.
“The boys he chose were especially talented and especially vulnerable.”
The justice specifically pointed to the courage of the young men who came forward in this case.
“May you all continue to heal. May you dance. May you sing.”
But the mother of one of the victims, who cannot be identified because of a court-imposed publication ban, said that’s impossible for her son to do.
“My son was in The Young Canadians and it was his whole life,” she said outside court. “He got up in the morning–he loved singing and dancing. He pirouetted around our house and he sang all the time. “He doesn’t sing and he doesn’t dance anymore.”
The mother went on to explain her son has dropped out of university–a stark contrast from the over-achieving, scholarship-winner he once was.
“My son is not doing very well at all,” she said, adding he recently came home to “get help getting out of bed.”
“He said, ‘I need to come home and be taken care of,’ at 20 years old.”
The 10-year sentence was what the Crown and defence had proposed in a joint submission to the judge Tuesday.
“He will never actually serve 10 years in jail…Ten years in jail might have been enough of a sentence if he was actually going to be in for that, but he won’t be,” the victim’s mother said.
Heerema pleaded guilty mid-trial on Jan. 30. He admitted to eight charges, including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, making child pornography and luring.
Watch below from Jan. 30: The man at the centre of child sexual abuse allegations at the Calgary Stampede has admitted to a string of charges. Philip Heerema, former employee of The Young Canadians, pleaded guilty to 8 of 20 charges. Nancy Hixt reports.
All six victims were former members of The Young Canadians.
The earliest offence happened in 1992, which was one count of sexual assault.
“He seriously, repeatedly violated his position of trust,” Akcerl said in sentencing, adding Heerema “preyed upon their vulnerability.”
Ackerl said he questions how genuine Heerema was in his remorse–a sentiment echoed by the mother of the victim.
“In my opinion, he did not accept responsibility,” she said. “There was no remorse for what he did; he’s remorseful that he got caught.”
“His apology was not genuine. He never once said, ‘I’m sorry’ to the children. He made it sound like he was taken down a path by the children…he did not accept responsibility for the fact that he lured them.”
Heerema can never be around kids under the age of 16.
He is also subject to a mandatory DNA order and weapons ban.
The judge noted forensic psychologist Dr. Patrick Baillie recommended Heerema take specialized sexual offender treatment that’s only available at Bowden Institution. The judge also noted he doesn’t make recommendations on where Heerema will serve his sentence.
Ackerl suggested Heerema’s defence said he has an interest in exploring access to that treatment.
“I hope your interest is legitimate and I hope it is pursued,” Ackerl said in concluding his sentencing decision.
The Calgary Stampede sent Global News a written statement Wednesday saying the organization is “supportive of the courts, their processes and their decision.”
“We understand that this process has been difficult. We respect the bravery of those impacted.”
The Stampede said it continues to work hard to provide the best safety measures and programs for all of its educational learning programs.