Disgraced priest who abused dozens of Inuit children out on parole

·2 min read

A defrocked Oblate priest who is a serial sexual abuser of Inuit children has been granted parole, The Canadian Press reports.

Eric Dejaeger, 75, was sentenced to 19 years for crimes committed between 1978 and 1982 in Igloolik, Nunavut, where he was stationed as a missionary. He had been convicted of offences including indecent assault, unlawful confinement, buggery, unlawful sexual intercourse and bestiality.

The details were so horrific the judge’s ruling came with a content warning.

Dejaeger pled guilty to eight counts and was convicted of another 24. His victims were mostly between the ages of eight and 12.

In its decision, the Parole Board of Canada acknowledged Dejaeger used his position of trust and authority to “groom and silence” children.

"You also used physical violence and caused serious physical injuries to some of the victims. The victims suffered devastating and ongoing emotional and psychological harm," it said.

He must abide by a strict set of conditions, including returning to an approved residence every night. He’s also forbidden from being in the presence of children unless a guardian is present, and must continue therapy for his sexual deviances and report any new friendship to authorities.

The board considers him at low-to-moderate risk for re-offending. “Regarding change, you presented as being content with yourself," the decision said. "Your self-management plans needed some improvement."

Born in Belgium, Dejaeger became a Canadian citizen in 1977 and was ordained in 1978.

The Igloolik crimes weren’t his first sex offences. He served part of a five-year sentence for crimes that occurred while he was posted in Baker Lake, Nunavut, from 1982 to 1989.

He attempted to flee to Belgium after his release in 1991 when he learned the RCMP was investigating his behaviour in Igloolik.

Oblate officials admitted they knew in advance of Dejaeger’s plans to flee those charges. They said Canadian authorities told them he wouldn’t be pursued if he simply left Canada for good.

He remained in Belgium for the next 20 years until he was extradited on immigration charges.

Dejaeger was remanded into custody until his trial, which was held in Iqaluit in 2014 and 2015 and traumatized many in Nunavut, particularly in Igloolik.

During the trial, witnesses were repeatedly heard outside the courtroom howling and weeping in distress after testifying.

Prior to the trial, the territorial government sent two additional mental health workers to Igloolik, and there was another psychiatric nurse available via video conferencing throughout the trial.

Justice Roger Kilpatrick urged victims to find a way to trust again and see the good in other people.

Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News

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