Crown wants 25 years for sex-abusing former Arctic priest

Prosecutors have asked an Arctic court to sentence a defrocked priest convicted of sexually abusing dozens of Inuit children to 25 years in prison.

IQALUIT, Nunavut — Prosecutors have asked an Arctic court to sentence a defrocked priest convicted of sexually abusing dozens of Inuit children to 25 years in prison.

“(Eric Dejaeger) appears to have no insight into why he offended and he didn’t stop until he got caught,” said head Crown prosecutor Doug Curliss.

But defence lawyer Malcolm Kempt argued that a 12-year sentence would be enough.

“(The Crown’s proposal) would be heavy-handed and inappropriate,” he said before court adjourned for the day, maintaining that 25 years far exceeds sentences given to other multiple child sex abusers.

Thursday’s hearing is expected to begin with Dejaeger himself addressing the court.

The former Oblate missionary is facing sentencing on 32 counts of sexual abuse committed when he was stationed in Igloolik, Nunavut, between 1978 and 1982.

Final sentencing arguments before Justice Robert Kilpatrick were made Wednesday after two days of victim impact statements. In deeply emotional testimony, witnesses from Igloolik told how they’ve been left with permanent mental and physical scars.

One man said that the smell of moldy wood takes him back to the mission’s boiler room where Dejaeger raped him. A woman told court she blames Dejaeger for the scars that have been diagnosed on her womb.

Many spoke of lingering anger and depression and of attempts to flee those feelings through booze and drugs.

Dejaeger blighted his victims’ lives, said Curliss.

“They look back and think, ’If this hadn’t happened to me, what would I have been?”’

But Kempt said Curliss’ request was far out of line. He pointed out Graham James, the minor hockey coach who abused numerous young players, originally got 3 1/2 years before he was convicted of more offences.

“I had difficulty finding anything close to what the Crown wants,” he said.

Kempt said Dejaeger suffers from heart problems and is being treated for cancer. He pointed out his client has tried to co-operate and waived his preliminary hearing.

About 25 people attended the sentencing arguments in an Iqaluit courtroom, Nunavut’s largest.

Curliss’s remarks were punctuated by muffled weeping. At least twice, victims left court in tears.

In Igloolik, a live satellite link allowed more victims and community members to watch the proceedings at the local government building.

The Nunavut government has made extra mental-health workers available to people in court and in Igloolik to help with the mental stress.

If the Crown’s recommendation is accepted, the 67-year-old Dejaeger would face 17 years in jail after credit for time served in remand is subtracted. The defence recommendation would mean the most Dejaeger would serve would be four years.

Kilpatrick was expected to reserve his decision.

Dejaeger’s victims include 12 boys and 10 girls. Most were between the ages of eight and 12, although they could have been as young as four and as old as 18. Dejaeger also abused a dog in front of two children.

Many testified at trial that Dejaeger used his position to trap them into sex, threatening them with hellfire or separation from their families if they told. Sometimes he dangled food in front of hungry children as a lure.

He is to appear in Edmonton on Friday on four separate sex-related charges.

Dejaeger has already served a five-year sentence on 11 counts of assaulting children in Baker Lake, Nunavut, where he was posted after Igloolik.

It was in 1995, after he had served that sentence, that he learned RCMP were about to charge him for his activities in Igloolik. Before his court date arrived, he fled to his native Belgium.

Oblate officials have acknowledged that they knew Dejaeger was about to depart. They have also said that Canadian justice officials suggested that the easiest thing was for him to simply leave Canada, where he had become a citizen. They have said Dejaeger was told he wouldn’t be bothered if he stayed away.

For 16 years, he lived quietly in homes maintained by the Oblates despite an international warrant for his arrest. Eventually, journalists revealed that Dejaeger was living illegally in Belgium. He was returned to Canada in 2011.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

GrammaLink-Africa members are participating in the Stride to Turn the Tide campaign until June 30. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer group walking to raise money for African grandmothers

A group of central Albertans will be walking every day until the… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau announces donation to Duke of Edinburgh’s award ahead of funeral

Canada will donate $200,000 to the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award as… Continue reading

Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Science) Will Amos responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says the fact that a screenshot of him in the nude was leaked to the media sends a troubling message about the corrosive state of politics in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Canada’s naked MP speaks out: leaked photo sends message ‘anything goes’ in politics

OTTAWA — The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $10 million jackpot… Continue reading

Opinion
Opinion: Canada’s self-esteem needs Trump

Well, it was fun while it lasted. For four years, with Donald… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Shenanigans on the links

It must be something about my Scottish heritage but I seem to… Continue reading

Muskrats can occupy any wetland that is shallow enough to permit the growth of their aquatic food.
Pearman: Muskrats numbers rebounding in central Alberta

I have spent many pleasant hours muskrat watching. Time spent in the… Continue reading

Most Read