Eric Dejaeger was convicted in 2015 of 32 sex crimes against children and adults
A former Catholic priest who sexually abused children and adults in Igloolik, Nunavut, has been granted statutory release.
In 2015, Eric Dejaeger, now 75, was sentenced to 19 years in prison after being convicted of 32 counts of sexual abuse. Because he spent time in custody before his trial, he had 11 years left to serve.
As first reported by APTN, Dejaeger was released from prison on May 19. Statutory release allows offenders to spend the rest of their sentence in the community after they have served two-thirds of their prison time.
The Parole Board of Canada imposed several conditions on his release, including a residency requirement that means Dejaeger will have to return to a halfway house every night, though the written decision redacts the location. He is not allowed around children, cannot have contact with his victims, and must follow a treatment plan and report all relationships and friendships with women.
The parole board wrote that without the residency requirement — which Dejaeger objected to — his release plan “is not viable and does not mitigate [his] undue risk.” Dejaeger had asked instead to live with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, but that residence is across from a park and occasionally has guests who bring their children for overnight stays.
In an email, Fr. Ken Thorson with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate told CBC the Oblates condemn DeJaeger’s “horrific” acts.
He apologized to DeJaeger’s victims and their families.
“Clergy sexual abuse is a tragedy, and we are deeply sorry to any survivors who have been harmed by Eric or any other Oblate or Catholic priests,” he wrote.
He said they have been in touch with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami regarding DeJaeger’s release. After DeJaeger stays in a halfway house, he might move to an Oblate community where the Oblates would closely supervise him and restrict him from being in contact with any minors.
Any such plan would require approval from the Parole Board of Canada, Thorson said.
“We take very seriously our responsibility to keep vulnerable persons in the community safe from convicted Oblates,” he said.
The parole board cited a 2018 psychological risk assessment that found Dejaeger was at moderate risk to reoffend sexually, and low to moderate risk to reoffend generally.
The board wrote that Dejaeger has “made limited measurable and observable gains in addressing [his] risk” but continues to deny responsibility for many of his crimes.
As for requiring him to return to the designated facility each night, the parole board said that was due to several factors, including the fact Dejaeger once fled the country while on bail and needs a high level of supervision.
The crimes Dejaeger was sentenced for in 2015 date back to his time as a priest in Igloolik between 1978 and 1982. He fled to Belgium from Canada in 2002 despite a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest, but was expelled from Belgium in 2011 and sent back to Canada.
He ultimately pleaded guilty to eight sex-related charges, and, after a trial, was found guilty of 24 more offences ranging from indecent assault to sexual assault and bestiality.
Later in 2015, he was also convicted of sexually abusing children in Alberta.
He was also convicted in 1990 for sexually assaulting children in Baker Lake.
This story has been updated to clarify that Eric Dejaeger was granted statutory release.Jun 08, 2022 8:08 AM CT
Ex-priest with long record of sexual abuse out on statutory release
Eric Dejaeger was twice jailed for offences he committed against Inuit youth from 1974 to1989
A former Roman Catholic priest convicted in 2015 on 36 counts of sexual abuse that took place in Nunavut between 1974 and 1989 has been released from prison.
Eric Dejaeger, 75, was released May 19 after serving two-thirds of a 19-year sentence he was given in 2011 for sex crimes he committed against Inuit youth and some adults between 1974 and 1982.
Dejaeger had previously served a five-year sentence starting in 1990 for sex-related crimes he committed between 1982 and 1989.
A statutory release is a legislated release and not a conditional one, otherwise known as parole, said Wendy Smith, a Parole Board of Canada spokesperson for the Nunavut and Ontario regions.
The Corrections and Conditional Release Act requires that most federal offenders who have served two-thirds of a fixed-length sentence be released from prison, under supervision in the community by the Correctional Service of Canada.
The parole board does not make statutory release decisions, but may impose special conditions deemed reasonable and necessary for the protection of society, Smith said.
Under his statutory release conditions, Dejaeger must return to an approved residence every night, have no contact with his victims, have no contact with children, and must report any friendships with women to his parole officer.
The Parole Board decision document does not identify the location the Belgium-born Dejaeger was released to, but noted he indicated an interest in volunteering for the Oblates, a Roman Catholic order associated with running schools, upon release. In 1995, he fled Canada to Belgium at the end of his first prison sentence to avoid prosecution on other charges, the decision document said.
Dejaeger was convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault, including rape, buggery, indecent assault, sexual assault, forcible confinement and bestiality against 25 victims.
The majority of his victims were between the ages of nine and 13, although some were younger and some were adults, according to the judge during sentencing.
“As a spiritual authority figure, you were in a position of great trust in relation to the victims, which you used to groom and silence them. You also used physical violence and caused serious physical injuries to some of the victims,” the parole board’s decision stated.
“The victims suffered devastating and ongoing emotional and psychological harm that also impacted those around them.”
The parole board’s decision also noted that while Dejaeger’s conduct while in custody was “positive” and he had no misconducts, he is still considered to be at a moderate-level risk to reoffend.
“Your offence history is very serious and demonstrates your potential for violent behaviour as it involves numerous sexual assaults that you committed over the course of approximately 15 years,” it said.
Eric Dejaeger, a defrocked Roman Catholic priest and notorious sex offender, was given statutory release from prison in May. He served two-thirds of his 19-year sentence for sex crimes he committed against boys and girls and adults while in the North.
A Parole Board of Canada decision document includes a history of the Belgian-born disgraced former cleric’s time in Canada.
Born: Belgium. Raised by “emotionally distant” parents. Completed school, pursued work as electrician before deciding to become a priest.
To Canada: age 26.
1974-1982 – studied to become priest, served as ordained priest; committed crimes against 25 victims during this period.
1989 – diagnosed with pedophilia during pre-sentence psychological assessment.
1990 – sentenced to five years in prison for crimes committed between 1982-89.
1991 – received concurrent sentence for two sexual assaults against young boys.
1995 – prison sentence ends; charged with more offences but “fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution.” Lived “unlawfully” in Belgium until 2011.
2011 – arrested, deported to Canada on an immigration violation; taken into pre-trial custody.
2015 – convicted of crimes committed, 1974-1982; sentenced to 19 years in prison.
2022 – given statutory release after serving two-thirds of sentence.
Defrocked priest who abused dozens of Inuit children out on parole
07 June 2022
A defrocked Oblate priest who was convicted of dozens of horrendous sexual crimes against Inuit children has been granted parole.
Eric Dejaeger, 75, was sentenced to 19 years for crimes committed between 1978 and 1982 in the Nunavut community of Igloolik, where he was a missionary. The offences included indecent assault, unlawful confinement, buggery, unlawful sexual intercourse and bestiality.
He pleaded guilty to eight counts and was convicted of another 24 on children mostly between the ages of eight and 12. The details were so appalling the judge’s sentencing came with a content warning.
“You were in a position of great trust in relation to the victims, which you used to groom and silence them,” said the decision from the Parole Board of Canada.
“You also used physical violence and caused serious physical injuries to some of the victims. The victims suffered devastating and ongoing emotional and psychological harm.”
His parole comes with a long list of restrictions, including that he must return to an approved residence every night.
Dejaeger can’t be around children without the presence of a guardian and must continue therapy for his sexual deviance. He must report any new friendship.
The parole board considers him a low to moderate risk to reoffend. Although he completed different courses of therapy, the board questioned his motivation to change.
“Regarding change, you presented as being content with yourself,” the decision said. “Your self-management plans needed some improvement.”
Dejaeger’s parole may be the final chapter in his long and tortured history in Canada.
Born in Belgium, he became a Canadian citizen in 1977 and was ordained the following year.
Before his trial for the Igloolik crimes, Dejaeger had served part of a five-year sentence for sex charges stemming from a posting in Baker Lake, Nvt., between 1982 and 1989.
After his release in 1991, Dejaeger learned RCMP were investigating his activities in Igloolik. Before facing trial on those charges, he fled to Belgium.
Oblate officials have acknowledged that they knew Dejaeger was about to depart. They have also said Canadian justice officials suggested that the easiest thing was for him to simply leave Canada, and Dejaeger was told he wouldn’t be bothered if he stayed away.
Dejaeger remained in Belgium, performing some functions of a Catholic priest, until 2011, when he was extradited back to Canada over immigration violations.
He remained in custody until his trial in 2014 and 2015, which roiled many in Nunavut and especially Igloolik.
Before the trial began, the territorial government sent two extra mental health workers to the community. An additional psychiatric nurse was present during video conferencing with the hearing, which was held in Iqaluit.
The serving Catholic priest in Igloolik also had to leave temporarily after receiving threats.
During the trial, witness after witness left court only to be heard outside, howling and weeping in anguish.
At its end, Justice Robert Kilpatrick pleaded with the victims to find a way to trust again and to find the good in other people.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2022.