Dejaeger finally convicted
There is good news for sexual abuse victims of former oblate priest Eric Dejaeger. He was found guilty today on 24 of the 68 charges he was facing in Iqaluit.
The priest pleaded guilty to eight sexual abuse charges last November. So Dejaeger will face sentencing on 32 convictions sometime early next year.
Some charges dismissed
Unfortunately, some of the children who claimed that he assualted them did not receive justice. Dejaeger was not convicted of all of the churches due to concerns the presiding judge had about the evidence presented by some of his alleged victims.
Justice Robert Kilpatrick said:
“The quantity and quality of the evidence available to the court in this case has been substantially weakened by the passage of time. The reliability of the Crowns evidence on many counts is suspect. This is reflected by the results of this trial.”
Delay caused by abuser
The unfortunate fact is that one of the reasons for the extended delay in this case was due, in great part, to the fact that Dejaeger fled Canada and hid in Europe for more than two decades.
You can read more of the details in my article: Nowhere to hide: Internet helps bring sexual abuser to justice.
Dejaeger pleaded guilty to sexual abuse charges in Nunavut for sexual assaults that happened between 1982 and 1989. He pleaded guilty in 1990 and was released from prison in 1991.
In 1995 RCMP charged the priest with a number of sex crimes involving children from Igloolik. The priest was released on his own recognizance with a promise to return to court. He never showed up.
Hiding in Europe
In fact, Dejaeger had fled to Belgium. The Canadian embassy asked Belgium to return Dejaeger. But nothing was ever done.
In 1998 Interpol issued an arrest warrant. But the warrant was never acted on.
RCMP issued a warrant for his arrest in 2002. Still nothing was done. Dejaeger continued to live openly with the Oblate religious community in Belgium.
A great deal of the credit to finally getting police to act goes to Sylvia McEachern who runs the blog Sylvia’s Site, which blogs about the sexual abuse crisis facing the Catholic church and other relgious organizations.
Ms. McEachern’s efforts to publicize the injustice facing Dejaeger’s victims was a factor in finally forcing law enforcement officials to take active steps to extradite Dejaeger back to Canada.
Belgium government not cooperative
In June 2010 Interpol issued another warrant. Even though there is no statute of limitations for the crimes Dejaeger was facing in Canada, the Belgium government considered Dejaeger a citizen and refused to extradite him because the statute of limitations for the sex crimes he committed in Canada had run out in Belgium.
Not a citizen
In 2011 Belgian police finally realized that Dejaeger no longer held Belgian citizenship. He was a Canadian citizen having given up his European citizenship when he came to Canada.
Dejaeger was finally extradited to Canada in January 2011 where his criminal charges have slowly made their way through the courts.
Uncertain memories caused by passage of time
So after 20 years of hiding in Europe is it any wonder that the memories of some of his victims are a little foggy after more than four decades?
Congratulations to all of the survivors who had the strength to testify against Dejaeger and received convictions today. I hope all of his victims receive some solace in the fact that Dejaeger will, at long last receive the punishment he deserves.