Witnesses describe drugs, threats and denial on day three of Nunavut priest trial
Children told adults about Dejaeger’s abuse, but no one believed them
Day three of the Eric Dejaeger trial at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit heard from a witness who said she had been raped and drugged by the priest with a “little green pill” at the St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Igloolik decades ago.
The woman, who cannot be identified, told court she was about eight when the sexual assaults took place.
Even before answering Crown prosecutor Doug Curliss’s questions, the witness started wincing at having to recall specific incidents in the church.
The first memory she described took place in the church’s bedroom upstairs on a bunk bed.
“At first he asked me to get undressed. I was scared of him. He told me not to tell anybody,” the witness said.
The witness said after she got naked, Dejaeger pulled his pants down and put his penis in her vagina.
She said Dejaeger was standing up next to the bunk bed and having sex with her with his hand on her knee.
“After he put the penis inside I blacked out,” the witness said.
The woman said after it happened, she was bleeding from her vagina.
She said Dejaeger sat her down on the toilet to drain the blood. After, she said he put her on a couch that was lined with a plastic bag so the blood wouldn’t stain it.
Then, when a man entered the church, she ran away — in the dark of winter — to the nearby home of her grandmother, who raised her.
The witness said she told her grandmother immediately afterwards about the rape, but her grandmother beat her because she did not believe the girl’s story.
The woman, who is 41 now, said her grandmother — whom she called “mom” — beat her more than 10 times.
Sitting in the witness box, with her back to Dejaeger and defence lawyer Malcolm Kempt, the woman told Kempt, “I had to forget about it and never talk about it.”
She said that, later in life, she used to hit her kids when recalling the incident.
“When I started to think about it, I got angry and angrier,” she said.
After the rape, she said she never went to the church again. “I’d rather be hungry then going there and eating there,” she said.
The witness also described another incident when Dejaeger lined up four of the children, including her, outside the church on the porch, dropped his pants and forced them to watch him have sex with a dog from behind.
She said the dog was bigger than a husky and she had never seen another one like it before.
“We had to watch him fucking the dog,” she said. “We told our parents and they don’t believe us.”
Dejaeger grabbed a friend of hers after the dog incident, and the witness ran away.
The woman also described how Dejaeger would give her a glass of water with a “little green pill in it.”
She said the pills made her “sleepy so I can’t remember.”
And the witness also said that sometimes her and a friend would have to be naked, resting on each of Dejaeger’s legs and playing with his penis, something she described as “gross.”
The witness testified that she received $66,000 in compensation for the incidents from a lawyer eight years ago.
Kempt tried to jog her memory of when the incidents occurred, and in which order, but the witness did not respond.
During Kempt’s cross-examination, the witness told the court how she now has a scar on her womb because of the rape. She also said she had seven miscarriages, which she blames on Dejaeger.
Those miscarriages happened after the birth of her only biological son. She said she has three other adopted children.
The court heard another witness testify on the morning of Nov. 20.
A man, now 46-years-old, said Father Eric fondled his penis.
The witness said Dejaeger would sit him on his lap upstairs in the church’s living room, while other kids were inside the church colouring. Dejaeger would play with his penis, he said.
“I didn’t know it was wrong,” the witness said, who could not remember what age he was when the incident happened.
“I just stayed quiet and didn’t do anything.”
He said he didn’t tell anybody because he “thought it was not wrong.”
The man said that at the time the events took place, his father helped the priests at the church every day and also that Father Eric would give the boy candies.
The man also received legal compensation of $32,000.
Loud cries of anguish could be heard outside the courtroom after the man stepped down from the witness stand and left the room.
One more witness is slated testify Nov. 20 in the afternoon. The trial is expected to take six weeks.
Dejaeger faces 69 charges, most of which allege sex offences with minors.