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MP wants federal funding to Calgary Stampede pulled after abuse settlement reached

CALGARY — A member of Parliament says he’s calling on the federal government to halt funding to the Calgary Stampede.

Liberal member George Chahal, who represents Calgary Skyview, says the Stampede has lost people’s trust.

A partial settlement was reached this week in a class-action lawsuit alleging the organization allowed a performance school staffer to sexually abuse young boys.

Phillip Heerema is serving a 10-year sentence for luring six boys into sexual relationships when he worked for the Stampede’s Young Canadians School of Performing Arts.

The lawsuit’s three dozen plaintiffs are all men who were students, employees, contractors or volunteers with the performance school.

The Stampede apologized in a statement and said it takes responsibility in the hopes of helping the victims heal.

Chahal said government funding should only be restored when the victims feel there has been genuine accountability.

“The Calgary Stampede must recognize that they have lost the trust of many Calgarians,” Chahal said in a letter posted Thursday night on social media.

“It is not about enhancing their image or salvaging their brand; it is about ensuring justice, safety and a commitment to never allow such heinous acts to happen within their ranks again.”

The Stampede said it has taken steps to enhance the safety and wellness of its young participants.

“Our commitment to those impacted is to do everything possible to guard against anything similar ever happening again,” it said in a statement Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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