Sex-abuse victim tells priest’s sentencing hearing wood smell triggers memories

There’s a smell that brings it all back.

IQALUIT, Nunavut — There’s a smell that brings it all back.

One whiff, and once again he’s a little boy being raped by a priest in a dank furnace room at the Catholic mission in Igloolik, Nunavut.

“Whenever I smell moldy wood, it takes me back to that place,” the man told a court in Iqaluit on Monday during the sentencing hearing for his onetime tormentor. “It makes me angry.”

Eric Dejaeger, a defrocked Oblate priest, was convicted last fall for 32 sex crimes ranging from indecent assault to bestiality against Inuit children. A long lineup of his former victims, who were children between 1978 and 1982 when the assaults occurred, are finally getting their chance to tell Dejaeger what he did to them in a two-day hearing which began under heavy security.

More than a dozen people were expected to testify on Monday, including the man haunted by that odour.

Dejaeger left him with lingering medical and mental problems, he said. He said he lost his job in Igloolik last year because Dejaeger’s trial upset him so much he couldn’t function.

One woman told court she blames Dejaeger for the scars that have been diagnosed on her womb. Others say they still suffer nightmares.

Many spoke of lingering anger and depression and of attempts to flee those feelings through booze and drugs. One victim blamed her illiteracy on Dejaeger, saying she as left with a fear of school that prevented her from learning.

“Because I was abused by a priest, it affected my chance for a normal life,” she said. “I will forever grieve the girl I was before this abuse.”

Dejaeger was convicted in September on 24 counts of indecent assault, one of unlawful confinement, two of buggery, three of unlawful sexual intercourse, one of sexual assault and one of bestiality. He had already pleaded guilty to eight sex-related counts at the start of the trial.

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

Many told court during Dejaeger’s trial that he used his position as Igloolik’s missionary 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 to lure them.

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

Dejaeger has already served one 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.

Final arguments in Dejaeger’s sentencing hearing are expected Wednesday.

Just Posted

Olympic ski run designer creates upgrades at Canyon Ski Resort

Jeff Ihaksi says free-style and alpine ski venues are Canada Winter Games-worthy

Updated: Collision expert backs version of crash of driver accused of manslaughter

Daniel Newsham accused of manslaughter in fatal 2016 collision

Red Deer artist highlights the dinosaur connection of Alberta birds

Jeff Powers is fascinated by winged creatures

Murder charges laid against woman from the Sunchild First Nation

The 25-year-old female victim was found dead on Dec. 12

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

McDavid, Draisaitl with three points each to lead Oiles over Flyers

Oilers 4, Flyers 1 EDMONTON — Connor McDavid had two goals and… Continue reading

Tips to keep crime at bay this Christmas

RCMP offer tips for crime-free holiday ’Tis the season for joy and… Continue reading

All aflutter about our feathered friends

Christmas Bird Count will be held Dec. 23

Fashion Fridays: How to change your beauty routine

Kim XO, lets you in on her style secrets each Fashion Friday on the Black Press Media Network

WHL’s Thunderbirds, Silvertips open to NHL joining Seattle hockey market

TORONTO — The Seattle area’s major junior hockey teams aren’t worried about… Continue reading

Canadian freestyle skier Karker excited for Dew Tour’s modified superpipe

Rachael Karker has a renewed sense of confidence heading into her second… Continue reading

CBS settled with Dushku over ‘Bull’ star’s sexual comments

LOS ANGELES — CBS reached a $9.5 million confidential settlement last year… Continue reading

Kanye reignites Drake feud on Twitter, alleges threats

LOS ANGELES — Kanye West is not sending Christmas cheer to Drake.… Continue reading

Most Read