Catholic bishop travels to troubled Nunavut hamlet

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CBC News

Posted: May 13, 2011 3:02 PM CT

Last Updated: May 13, 2011 3:02 PM CT

The Roman Catholic Church’s bishop for Nunavut is visiting the eastern Arctic hamlet of Igloolik to help local Catholics deal with the sudden departure of their priest, as well as address the pain many in the community feel about a former priest who is now accused of sex crimes.

St. Stephen Catholic Church in Igloolik, Nunavut, has been without a regular priest since March, when Rev. Tony Krotki suddenly left the community in response to a verbal threat he had received.
St. Stephen Catholic Church in Igloolik, Nunavut, has been without a regular priest since March, when Rev. Tony Krotki suddenly left the community in response to a verbal threat he had received. (Chris Harbord/CBC)

Bishop Reynald Rouleau of the Catholic Diocese of Churchill-Hudson Bay was scheduled to arrive in Igloolik on Friday for a week-long stay, during which time he will lead Sunday mass at St. Stephen Catholic Church.

The local church has been without a regular spiritual leader since March, when Rev. Tony Krotki left after receiving a verbal threat from a man in the community.

“It’s not Igloolik, it’s one person who threatened Krotki. They want a priest, from what I understand,” Rouleau told CBC News.

Krotki was threatened by a man who claims he had been victimized by Eric Dejaeger, who served as a Catholic missionary in Igloolik between 1978 and 1982 and now faces a long list of decades-old sex crimes.

‘We need to say something’

A number of individuals claim that Dejaeger, now 64, sexually abused them as children when he was in Igloolik. He is currently awaiting trial at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit.

“How come that could have happened and we saw nothing?” Rouleau said, adding that he plans to confront Igloolik’s painful past during a sermon on Sunday.

“We need to say something about how I see the situation and what happened, and also express my sorrow,” he said.

Josephine Kublu, an Inuit elder and devout Catholic, told CBC News that Igloolik’s 900-strong Catholic community has been holding its own services — even baptisms — in Krotki’s absence.

Rouleau said he is open to talk to anybody in Igloolik, where the Catholic Church hopes to hang on to its strong following in the face of a decades-old scandal.

3 Responses to Catholic bishop travels to troubled Nunavut hamlet

  1. Sylvia says:

    “‘How come that could have happened and we saw nothing?’ Rouleau said”

    What I wonder did the bishop expect to see? That aside, these allegations are not new. It was reported back in the mid 90s that Dejaeger had been molesting chidren while he was stationed in Igloolik. Dejaeger fled the country rather than face his victims in a court of law.

    Finally. I hope and pray that the bishop has found a priest ready and willing to serve the Catholics of Igloolik in their time of need.

  2. Michel B. says:

    Like sgt. Schultz on Hogan’s heroes…I hear nothing I see nothing…liar liar pants on fire. he knew all along of Dejeager’s abuse of children from the time of inquiry in 1989 in Baker Lake. An intelligent administrator would have thought maybe he did this in the other community in NWT now Nunavut that he served several years. In addition My understanding is that some legal representatives have contacted some victims over the years to arrange to put in place keep quiet money.. so it is most likely that a bishop who is head of a diocese would know when such activity is taking place in his fiefdom. Please…more about what to do to help the community and less about oh I did not know.. more about placing a spiritual leader with morals, and a wish to make amend and effect some restitution onto the survivors of a rapacious predator. My poor priest suffered.. who cares. It is the direct result of Dejeagers abuse and the pressure and stress it has caused over the years. Eric IKOK

    Upset in M’chigeeng

  3. Cheryl-Helene Thomson says:

    For a Bishop who took jurisdiction over this area in 1987 to ask: “How come that could have happened and we saw nothing?” is the height of either self-delusion or total duplicity. Seeing as Dejaegar fled Canada for Belgium in 1995, perhaps Bishop Rouleau thought his Oblate priest was just homesick. Now perhaps he just ‘forgets’ there was an Interpol international warrant.

    It is really time for an MP to stand up in Parliament and introduce a Private Member’s Bill to expel the Catholic Church from Canada – on a temporary basis – until the Vatican can furnish the country with new clergy at every level: Archbishops, Bishops, Priests; as well as expel Orders, such as the Oblates, in the same basis.

    Only a move this radical will ever raise public awareness to the point where these ridiculous denials from the hierarchy will stop, and a real ‘cleaning house’ will begin. No, the Bill would never pass. That is not the point.

    Aboriginal children have been the most helpless of victims. Canada has still not come to terms with the horror of the residential schools of the mainline churches: Catholic/Anglican/United Church. But the story of the testimony of the late William Coombs, preserved on video and scheduled to be shown publicly later this year in England, at the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State (ITCCS) on September 12, points an especially disturbing finger at the Roman Catholic Church in Canada and the international scope of the corruption of our religious institutions.

    Mr. Coombs died at the age of 59 earlier this year. He told his story to Kevin Annett, regarding his years at the Kamloops, B.C., Roman Catholic school, as follows:

    “I suffered terrible tortures there at the hands especially of Brother Murphy, who killed at least two children. I witnessed him throw a child off a three story balcony to her death. He put me on a rack and broke some of my bones, in the Kamloop school basement, after I tried running away. I also saw him and another priest burying a child in the school orchard one night. In October, 1964 when I was 12 years old, I was an inmate at the Kamloops school and we were visited by the Queen of England and Prince Phillip. I remember it was strange because they came by themselves, no big fanfare or nothing. But I recognized them and the school principal told us it was the Queen and we all got given new clothes and good food for the first time in months the day before she arrived.

    “The day the Queen got to the school, I was part of a group of kids that went on a picnic with her and her husband and some of the priests, down to a meadow near Dead Man’s Creek. I remember it was weird because we all had to bend down and kiss her foot, a white laced boot. After awhile, I saw the Queen leave the picnic with ten children from the school, and those kids never returned. We never heard anything more about them and never met them again even when we were older. They were all from around there but they all vanished. The group that disappeared was seven boys and three girls, in age from six to fourteen years old. They were all from the smart group in class. Two of the boys were brothers and they were Metis from Quesnel. Their last name was Arnuse or Arnold. I don’t remember the others, just an occasional first name like Cecilia and there was an Edward.”

    Kevin Annett has visited the sites reported to be the mass graves of Aboriginal children across Canada together with European researchers who have experience in obtaining documentation for cases which have gone before the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Annett has compiled many appalling case histories, which have never been broadcast by Canadian news outlets. There have been criminal prosecutions of religious for sex crimes, but not yet for murder.

    The growing crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada is only beginning.

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