IQALUIT, Nunavut — A Nunavut court says public money should pay for a lawyer to argue the appeal of a former priest serving a 19-year sentence for sexually abusing dozens of Inuit children.
Eric Dejaeger was convicted on 32 counts of sexually abuse 22 Inuit children stemming from his time in Igloolik, Nunavut, as an Oblate priest and missionary more than 35 years ago.
"I am of the view that Mr. Dejaeger could not effectively present his appeal in an organized and coherent fashion without the assistance of counsel," wrote Justice Neil Sharkey of the Nunavut Court of Appeal.
Dejaeger has said he's too broke to pay for a lawyer and legal aid in Nunavut has turned him down.
Sharkey's written ruling said Dejaeger has not entered specific grounds for his appeal or referred to any errors of law he feels were made during his trial.
The trial went ahead in early 2015 after he was returned from Belgium. The defrocked priest was initially slated to face his accusers from Igloolik in 1995, but instead left Canada for his Belgian homeland.
Oblate officials have said that Canadian justice officials turned a blind eye to his leaving the country. He was eventually returned to Canada when Belgian officials realized he was living in that country illegally.
Testimony was often disturbing and marked by tears and outcries from the witnesses and observers. It stirred old ghosts in Igloolik and territorial officials sent extra mental-health workers to the community to help people deal with the memories.
Before he was sentenced, Dejaeger addressed the court and apologized to his victims for his actions.
Within weeks of the verdict, he filed a so-called "prisoner's appeal" of his conviction and his sentence.
Later that fall, Dejaeger pleaded guilty to four additional counts of indecent assault and gross indecency related to his time living in Edmonton.
— By Bob Weber in Edmonton
The Canadian Press