Nunavut pedophile priest convicted on four more sex charges

Eric Dejaeger earned Alberta parents’ trust, babysat their kids


Eric Dejaeger is lead into the Nunavut Court of Justice earlier this year during his trial (FILE PHOTO)

Eric Dejaeger is lead into the Nunavut Court of Justice earlier this year during his trial (FILE PHOTO)

Defrocked and disgraced, ex-priest and convicted pedophile Eric Dejaeger pleaded guilty to four more charges involving sex crimes against children Sept. 29 during an appearance before Justice Sue Cooper at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.

The four charges relate to incidents involving three children in the Edmonton area, between 1974 and 1978, when Dejaeger attended the Newman Theological College at the University of Alberta.

Earlier this year, Justice Robert Kilpatrick convicted Dejaeger on 32 charges, most of which were sex crimes against Inuit children, committed while Dejaeger served as the Catholic parish priest in Igloolik from 1976 to 1982.

For those charges, Kilpatrick sentenced the ex-priest, who has been in custody since January 2011, to eleven years in prison.

And in 1990, Dejaeger received a five-year federal prison sentence after being convicted of nine counts of sex crimes committed in Baker Lake in the 1980s.

Crown prosecutor Barry McLaren pointed out in court Sept. 29 that the courts have dealt with Dejaeger’s known sex crimes in reverse chronological order.

The Belgian-born man was first convicted on the most recent known crimes in Baker Lake first, then on his crimes in Igloolik, which happened earlier, and finally, now, on his earliest known sex crimes against children, in Alberta.

“Had people known 30 plus years ago… about his activities, perhaps the following events in Baker Lake and in Igloolik might never have happened,” McLaren told Cooper.

Standing and facing the judge in a baggy navy blue sweatshirt, Dejaeger quietly answered “guilty,” each time Cooper asked him how he pleaded to the four charges stemming from Alberta in the 1970s.

In a joint sentencing recommendation made to the judge, McLaren and defence lawyer Malcolm Kempt recommended Dejaeger receive a sentence of four to five years in a federal penitentiary for each of the three Alberta complaints.

The joint submission recommended a federal prison sentence, to be served concurrently to each other and to the 11-year sentence Dejaeger is already serving, to show the gravity of the offences, McLaren said.

“Mr. Dejaeger has damaged his victims, he has incredibly damaged the two Nunavut communities, and he has left lasting effects on the complainants in this case.”

The complainants came forward upon hearing media reports of Dejaeger’s return to Canada in 2011 after hiding 18 years in Belgium, the prosecutor said.

Reading an agreed statement of facts to Cooper, McLaren revealed the sexual misconduct Dejaeger committed in Alberta in the 1970s, including:

• about 10 incidents of sexually fondling a young Aboriginal altar boy, and one attempt at anal penetration;

• repeated incidents of fondling a six-year old girl, including digital penetration on numerous occasions; and,

• incidents of oral sex with that girl’s older brother, and another incident of attempted anal penetration.

Dejaeger told each of the three complainants not to tell anyone of their “secret,” McLaren said, going so far as to tell the little girl she would go to hell if she did because “this is a secret between him, her and God.”

“The abuse only ended when the accused left the country in 1978,” McLaren said.

In each of the three cases, Dejaeger built a trusting relationship with the complainants’ families over time, the prosecutor said, gaining enough trust from the parents to be the children’s babysitter at times.

Some of the crimes were committed on a religious retreat outside of Edmonton that Dejaeger took the kids to, with the parents’ consent.

Defence lawyer Kempt told Cooper his client will turn 69 in the spring, and currently suffers from a number of serious health issues, including cancer and heart problems.

A mitigating factor in sentencing the judge should consider, Kempt said, is that Dejaeger pleaded guilty to the charges as soon as was possible.

“He didn’t want these [complainants] to have to testify at trial… he doesn’t want to see anyone else suffer through that process,” Kempt said.

Cooper said she will deliver her sentencing decision on Oct. 22, at 1:30 p.m.

Kempt said once these charges have been resolved, Dejaeger will be sent to a facility outside of Nunavut, but Kempt didn’t know where.

Dejaeger requested that the charges filed by these three complainants be tried in the Nunavut Court of Justice, and the public prosecution office in Alberta agreed to transfer the charges to Nunavut.

After his 45-minute appearance, Dejaeger, fidgeting with the cuffs of his oversized sweatshirt, left the courtroom.

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