Public Perceptions of the Legal Handling of Sexual Violence in Youth Sport in Canada: An Unobtrusive Analysis of the Graham James Case

Curtis Fogel, Chadd Sine


In 2012, one of the most widely publicized Canadian cases of sexual violence in Canadian youth sport resurfaced on the national newsstands. Graham James, a former Hockey News Man of the Year, was arrested on allegations that he engaged in long-term non-consensual sexual relations with youth Canadian hockey players he was coaching. This arrest came on the heels of a previous jail sentence in 1997 for sexually assaulting three hockey players he had coached, which he later received a pardon for. In March of 2012, James was sentenced to two years in prison, which was subsequently increased to five years on appeal in 2013. This paper examines public perceptions of the legal handling of this case through the unobtrusive analysis of 1024 comments posted electronically following an online media article pertaining to the initial two-year sentence in 2012. Through the unobtrusive data analysis, several themes emerged including: a) arguments for a harsher punishment, b) perceived failings of the Canadian Criminal Justice System, c) criticism of Canadian political parties and current government, d) indifference to the sentence, e) appreciation of the courage of the victims in coming forward with their complaints, and f) perceived failings of sports organizations in preventing sexual abuse.

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International Law Research  ISSN 1927-5234  (Print)  ISSN 1927-5242  (Online)  Email:

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