Category Archives: Father Eric Dejaeger
Defrocked Arctic priest says he’s sorry for sex abuse of children
Published Thursday, January 22, 2015 6:28AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 22, 2015 1:09PM EST
IQALUIT, Nunavut — A courtroom swelled with weeping, cries and 35 years of bottled-up grief Thursday as a defrocked priest who abused dozens of Inuit children told a judge about to sentence him that he’s sorry for his crimes and won’t commit any more.
“I can only take responsibility for what I have done,” said Eric Dejaeger, 67, convicted on 32 counts of child sex abuse from his days as an Oblate missionary in Igloolik, Nunavut, between 1978 and 1982.
Speaking quietly, in a voice heavily accented by his native Flemish, Dejaeger faced Justice Robert Kilpatrick in an Iqaluit courtroom and spoke for less than a minute.
“I would like to ask for forgiveness,” he said. “I promise not to reoffend — and that’s not just words.”
That cued a crescendo of sorrow and tears from about 30 victims and supporters who had gathered to see their one-time tormentor for what they hoped was the last time. After court adjourned, one victim and his wife embraced in the middle of the room, motionless, she holding him up as everyone filed out around them.
It was the end of a story that began for some victims when they were as young as four and which played out across three decades and two continents. It raised questions about the role of the Catholic church and Canadian officials in delaying justice for those still suffering mental scars from horrific attacks.
The victims include 12 boys and 10 girls, most between the ages of eight and 12. Dejaeger also abused a dog in front of two children.
Many testified that Dejaeger used his position to trap them into sex, threatening them with hellfire or separation from their families if they told. Sometimes he dangled food in front of hungry children as a lure.
Dejaeger has already served one five-year sentence on 11 counts of assaulting children in Baker Lake, Nunavut, where he was posted after Igloolik.
It was in 1995, after he had served that sentence, that he learned RCMP were about to charge him for his activities in Igloolik. He fled to his native Belgium, testifying in court that Canadian justice officials suggested it would be easiest if he simply left Canada, where he had become a citizen.
Oblate officials have acknowledged that they knew Dejaeger was about to flee. For 16 years, he lived quietly in homes maintained by the order despite an international warrant for his arrest.
Eventually, journalists revealed that Dejaeger was living illegally in Belgium. He was returned in 2011.
The Crown has asked for a 25-year sentence, which would be reduced to 17 years once credit for time already served is subtracted.
Dejaeger’s lawyer says 12 years, of which no more than four would be spent behind bars, would be more in keeping with previous judgments. The defence says Dejaeger is being treated for cancer, has heart problems and fears dying in prison.
Kilpatrick is expected to release a written decision by mid-February.
Dejaeger is also expected to appear in court in Edmonton on Friday on another four sex-related counts.
Eric Dejaeger, Nunavut Priest, Accused Of Starving Children Into Sex
IQALUIT, Nunavut – A witness at the trial of a former priest accused of child abuse in the North says the one-time cleric used hunger to lure children into sex.
BORDERLINE: GRAPHIC CONTENT MAY DISTURB SOME READERS
“When I was a child, sometimes we had nothing to eat,” the witness said Wednesday at the trial of Eric Dejaeger. “Mama (her grandmother) would have to leave me there (at the church) so I could eat.”
The witness, who was about eight years old in 1980 when the alleged assault took place in Igloolik, Nunavut, broke down in tears and sighed heavily to compose herself before she could continue her testimony.
She said one night, after Dejaeger fed her, he took her into his bedroom and told her to get undressed.
“I was scared of him,” said the witness, who recalled that the priest was wearing his long black church robe. “He told me not to tell anybody and then he said he was going to do something to me.”
Her made her fondle him, then raped her, she said.
The witness said she was bleeding after the assault and Dejaeger took her to the bathroom to clean herself up. He then placed her on a bedroom couch over which he had carefully spread garbage bags to prevent staining.
The witness said she fled to her home as soon as she could and told her grandmother, a staunch church-goer.
“She beat me up and told me I was lying.”
Other testimony suggested Dejaeger’s assaults were an open secret, at least among the children.
One man told court that Dejaeger used to sit him on his lap, open his zipper and fondle the boy while other children in the room played and coloured Bible pictures.
Several children, said the woman, told their parents what was going on after Dejaeger forced them to watch him having sex with his dog, but no one believed them.
The woman said she did her best to forget what had happened and never spoke of it — even after Dejaeger assaulted her and her friend a second time, sitting the girls on his naked legs and getting them to stroke his groin.
She never ate at the church again.
“I’d rather go hungry than be eating there.”
Other witnesses also spoke of Dejaeger using food to get sex.
One witness described how, when she was about four, Dejaeger used to take her into the kitchen while her parents were discussing church matters with the mission’s other priest.
She recalled that while she helped herself to goodies in the cupboards, Dejaeger, breathing heavily in her ear, sat her on his lap, pushed his hand inside her tights and groped her.
“I was a little kid,” she said, crouched in the witness box as far as possible from the former priest. “I didn’t know what he was doing.”
Wednesday’s first witness said she quit going to school after Grade 6 because school meant after-class Bible study, which was led by Dejaeger.
It took a long time for her to speak about what had happened, she said, even when other people in the community with similar experiences approached her.
She was eventually forced to deal with her memories when she had children of her own, she said.
“I wanted to talk about Eric because I was hitting my kids,” she said. “When I was thinking about it (the abuse), I was getting angrier and angrier.”
She testified she has been damaged internally and blamed seven miscarriages that she’s suffered on Dejaeger’s assault.
In cross-examination, defence lawyer Malcolm Kempt pointed out discrepancies between the woman’s testimony and a statement she gave to police. How could she have been assaulted a second time if she never went back to church after the rape? he asked.
Kempt has also asked witnesses if they heard gossip about Dejaeger or heard him discussed on the community radio station. Some have acknowledged hearing stories; some have denied it.
Dejaeger was originally charged in 1995 with three counts of indecent assault and three counts of buggery, a charge no longer in the Criminal Code.
But he left the country and returned to his homeland of Belgium before his court appearance. Belgian officials sent him back in January 2011 when they discovered he was living there illegally.
The Belgian Oblates, the Catholic missionary order that sent Dejaeger to several communities in what is now Nunavut, dismissed him from the priesthood in December 2011. He remains a member of the congregation.
The number of counts against Dejaeger didn’t balloon until the late 1990s, when more alleged victims from Igloolik began coming forward. New charges were still being laid after his return to Canada.
At the start of his trial, Dejaeger pleaded guilty to eight of the accusations against him, but still faces 69 charges.
A total of 26 witnesses from Igloolik are expected to take the stand.
Judge Robert Kilpatrick is hearing the case alone without a jury.
Eric Dejaeger sentencing: former priest’s hearing continues
CBC News Posted: Jan 20, 2015 5:08 AM CT
The sentencing hearing for former Roman Catholic priest Eric Dejaeger will continue in Iqaluit Tuesday.
Dejaeger is being sentenced for 32 sex crimes. He pleaded guilty to eight charges at the start of his trial last year and was found guilty on 24 other charges.
He was convicted of 24 counts of indecent assault, one of unlawful confinement, two of buggery, three of unlawful sexual intercourse, one of sexual assault and one of bestiality.
Most of the crimes were committed against children in Igloolik, Nunavut, more than 30 years ago.
Crown prosecutor Barry Nordin says he expects between 16 and 18 people will give victim impact statements during the sentencing hearing.
Weather prevented some victims who were expected to be heard in court Monday from flying out of Igloolik.