Belgium to expel wanted priest

Belgian officials say they plan to expel a Canadian priest facing sex charges involving Inuit children in Nunavut.

Eric Dejaeger

Eric Dejaeger

Belgian officials say they plan to expel a Canadian priest facing sex charges involving Inuit children in Nunavut.

Eric Dejaeger, who was originally Belgian but lost that status when he became a Canadian citizen, remains wanted in Canada on warrants issued in 2002 for sex crimes that are alleged to have happened 30 years ago in Igloolik.

Dejaeger, 63, has been living in Belgium for years — far longer than the legal limit of three months for Canadians without a visa.

“That is the reason he has been arrested and is being held in a detention centre awaiting his explusion to Canada,” said an official in the Belgian embassy.

The former Arctic missionary, who appears on Interpol’s international wanted list, is being held in a detention centre for illegal residents in Bruges, Belgium. He could end up back in Canada in a matter of weeks.

“It’s a bit like in Canada — as soon as it’s established that he’s illegally residing in our country, it can go quite fast,” said the Belgian official, who pointed out Dejaeger may appeal the expulsion.

“We’re sending him back. He’s a Canadian citizen illegally residing in Belgium.”

Canadian officials were not immediately available to comment.

Dejaeger came to Canada from Belgium in 1973. He was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest of the Oblate order and eventually began work as a missionary in the Arctic, serving in several communities.

According to court documents, Dejaeger pleaded guilty in 1990 to nine counts of sex crimes against boys and girls in Baker Lake, a small Inuit community in the central barrens of what is now Nunavut.

The crimes, committed between 1982 and 1989, ran from inappropriate touching to the rape of two boys who occasionally slept overnight at the mission residence. One boy was Dejaeger’s victim from the age of 10 to 17.

Dejaeger was sentenced to five years in prison for those offences.

But in 2002, another warrant was issued for Dejaeger’s arrest, this time for sex crimes against children alleged to have occurred between 1978 and 1982 in the community of Igloolik on the northwest tip of Hudson Bay. By that time, however, Dejaeger had left Canada.

According to Belgian media, Dejaeger has been living in a Oblate monastery and has worked in the Catholic pilgrimage site of Lourdes, France, where he received Flemish pilgrims.

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