A former Catholic priest who sexually abused children and adults in Igloolik, Nunavut, has been granted statutory release.
In 2015, Eric Dejaeger, now 75, was sentenced to 19 years in prison after being convicted of 32 counts of sexual abuse. Because he spent time in custody before his trial, he had 11 years left to serve.
As first reported by APTN, Dejaeger was released from prison on May 19. Statutory release allows offenders to spend the rest of their sentence in the community after they have served two-thirds of their prison time.
The Parole Board of Canada imposed several conditions on his release, including a residency requirement that means Dejaeger will have to return to a halfway house every night, though the written decision redacts the location. He is not allowed around children, cannot have contact with his victims, and must follow a treatment plan and report all relationships and friendships with women.
The parole board wrote that without the residency requirement — which Dejaeger objected to — his release plan "is not viable and does not mitigate [his] undue risk." Dejaeger had asked instead to live with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, but that residence is across from a park and occasionally has guests who bring their children for overnight stays.
In an email, Fr. Ken Thorson with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate told CBC the Oblates condemn DeJaeger's "horrific" acts.
He apologized to DeJaeger's victims and their families.
"Clergy sexual abuse is a tragedy, and we are deeply sorry to any survivors who have been harmed by Eric or any other Oblate or Catholic priests," he wrote.
He said they have been in touch with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami regarding DeJaeger's release. After DeJaeger stays in a halfway house, he might move to an Oblate community where the Oblates would closely supervise him and restrict him from being in contact with any minors.
Any such plan would require approval from the Parole Board of Canada, Thorson said.
"We take very seriously our responsibility to keep vulnerable persons in the community safe from convicted Oblates," he said.
The parole board cited a 2018 psychological risk assessment that found Dejaeger was at moderate risk to reoffend sexually, and low to moderate risk to reoffend generally.
The board wrote that Dejaeger has "made limited measurable and observable gains in addressing [his] risk" but continues to deny responsibility for many of his crimes.
As for requiring him to return to the designated facility each night, the parole board said that was due to several factors, including the fact Dejaeger once fled the country while on bail and needs a high level of supervision.
The crimes Dejaeger was sentenced for in 2015 date back to his time as a priest in Igloolik between 1978 and 1982. He fled to Belgium from Canada in 2002 despite a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest, but was expelled from Belgium in 2011 and sent back to Canada.
He ultimately pleaded guilty to eight sex-related charges, and, after a trial, was found guilty of 24 more offences ranging from indecent assault to sexual assault and bestiality.
Later in 2015, he was also convicted of sexually abusing children in Alberta.
He was also convicted in 1990 for sexually assaulting children in Baker Lake.