Former staffer with Young Canadians sentenced to 10 years

A former employee with the Young Canadians who admitted to sexually assaulting several teenage members of the group has been sentenced to 10 years.

Philip Heerema was charged with sexual assault, sexual exploitation and making child pornography after an investigation was launched by police into allegations of an inappropriate relationship between a person of authority with the Calgary performance group and a teenager.

The eight victims were between the ages of 15 and 18 at the time of the offences, which occurred between 1992 and 2014.

Heerema pleaded and the 12 remaining charges were stayed.

, victim impact statements were read in court and one of the victims said he felt ‘trapped in a nightmare’ and that he came forward to put an end to the decades of abuse.

The mother of another victim said Heerema was a ‘very skilled hunter’ and that he zeroed in on his targets.

Heerema sobbed as he apologized to his victims and left the courthouse following the proceedings.

The Crown and defence made a joint submission for a sentence of 10 years.

On Wednesday, Justice Larry Ackerl sentenced Heerema to 10 years.

The judge noted that Heerema ingratiated himself in the lives of his victims and that he relentlessly pursued and groomed the boys.

Ackerl said Heerema manipulated and preyed on the teens’ vulnerability and abused his authority.

The mother of one of the victims says that the jail term of 10 years would be sufficient if they knew that Heerema would actually serve that full amount, but it‘s unlikely that that will be the case.

She also said that Justice Ackerl could have done more in his closing comments to admonish Heerema.

"He had an opportunity to say in words that he was a monster and he still did not accept responsibility. Yesterday, his apology was not genuine and he never once said ‘I’m sorry’ to the children, he never once said ‘I’m sorry for what I’ve done’," she said. "There was no remorse for what he did. He’s remorseful about getting caught."

The woman also said that Heerema did nothing to lessen the impact on his victims at trial.

"Yes, it’s an accused’s right to be presumed innocent but he knew he wasn’t innocent he had a choice, at that time [during the preliminary inquiry] that he could have saved those kids from anything further and he chose not to and, to me, that is so aggravating."

As for her son, she says that he has withdrawn from university, lost interest in a number of activities including singing and dancing and is clinically depressed over the situation.

"My son was in the Young Canadians and it was his whole life. He got up in the morning and he pirouetted around our house and he sang all the time. He doesn’t sing and he doesn’t dance anymore."

She says that at the time the charges were laid, the majority of the organization was behind Phillip Heerema and they have not provided any support to the victims, many of whom were still part of the group.

There‘s the hope that now that a sentence has been set, her son will be able to recover.

"Maybe now that this is coming out that he’ll be accepted. Maybe now they’ll believe that he didn’t make anything up."