POLITICS

Calgary man facing sex charges involving Young Canadians performance group

06/05/2015 12:22 EDT | Updated 06/05/2016 05:59 EDT
CALGARY - A longtime administrator with The Young Canadians performance group at the Calgary Stampede is facing sexual charges dating back to the 1990s involving several teenage performers.

Philip Heerema, 52, faces 13 charges that include child pornography, sexual assault, luring a child via a computer and inciting sexual contact with a youth.

The Young Canadians performance school involves 120 students from the Calgary area. They train to deliver public performances, most notably during the grandstand shows at the Calgary Stampede.

Police say they received a complaint from a student and his parents in January 2014 of an inappropriate relationship with a "person of authority" with the troupe.

"The investigation began with one victim coming forward initially and, as our investigators conducted their interviews, more people were identified and spoken to," Staff-Sgt. Melanie Oncescu said Friday.

As a result, there are now seven alleged victims, she said.

One of the complaints dates back to 1997. All seven complainants are male and were between the ages of 15 and 18 at the time of the alleged encounters.

"The offences took place in Calgary — some off site and some on site."

Heerema worked with The Young Canadians for 36 years. He resigned after the investigation began, but was listed on the school's website as business administrator and production services co-ordinator.

A cached profile from the troupe's website details how Heerema worked with the program in many areas including costuming, props, sets and lighting.

"Acting as trainer, Phil consults and co-ordinates physical therapy to The Young Canadians cast. He joins the rest of the TYC staff and crew in making sure the show goes on and that the cast enjoys a quality experience with the program."

Oncescu said he was in a position of authority.

"Whether he'd be a coach or someone within management within the organization he was put in a position of trust with the performers."

Officials with the Calgary Stampede said the organization is "shocked and saddened" by the news.

"In late January 2014 a student and a parent approached us with serious allegations of inappropriate communications between an administrative employee of the program and some students," said Kurt Kadatz, director of community engagement and communications.

"Within 30 minutes of becoming aware of that allegation we suspended the employee. We removed him from the premises and directed him not to communicate with anyone involved with the program."

Kadatz said the Stampede immediately began its own investigation and contacted the parents of the students to inform them about what was happening.

Oncescu said it's possible more alleged victims will come forward.

"The Young Canadians were made aware — and I believe they've done their own information sharing in relation to this event — in hopes that if there were any other people they would come forward."

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