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Judge approves $9.5-million settlement in Calgary Stampede sex abuse lawsuit

A judge has approved a $9.5-million settlement for complainants in a class action lawsuit that accused the Calgary Stampede of allowing a performance school staffer to sexually abuse young boys. 

The agreement is related to the case of Philip Heerema, who received a 10-year prison sentence in 2018 after pleading guilty to charges including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, child pornography and luring. 

Heerema admitted he used his position with the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts — which performs each year in the Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show — to lure and groom six boys into sexual relationships between 2005 and 2014, as well as in 1992. 

Justice Paul Jeffrey praised the young men who came forward and said the settlement was a fair one but does not right the wrongs that the Stampede allowed to occur.

“This is evidence of the pervasive breadth and effect of the evils of one person,” Jeffrey said. “All of the pain, conflict and re-traumatizaion because of one person, but similarly what always gives the court hope is that it took one person to come forward.

“A few people came forward, spoke truth to power and enabled the justice system to engage and enabled the law to do its work,” he added.

“I commend those who had the courage to do that and commend those from the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede for being here in person and expressing the genuine abhorrence you share in what happened. That also gives the court hope.

“It perhaps goes without saying, but the settlement is approved,” he said, continuing. “I do find it fair and reasonable in these circumstances based on the evidence and didn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t satisfy that definition.

“I approve it, I find service to be good and sufficient.”

The 39 members in the class action suit will each receive between $500 and $200,000.

Twenty per cent of the money will be held in trust for any other complainants who come forward.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 28, 2024. With files from Mark Villani

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