Fugitive Canadian priest living in Belgium

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Rev. Eric Dejaeger wanted on child sex charges in Nunavut

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 | 4:54 PM CT

CBC News

A Canadian priest living in Belgium is wanted in Nunavut for alleged sex crimes against children between 1978 and 1982, but it is not known whether he will be extradited back to Canada.

Rev. Eric Dejaeger, 63, who was born in Belgium, is on Interpol’s list of wanted fugitives for “crimes against children,” based on an outstanding arrest warrant issued by the Nunavut Court of Justice in 2002.

Dejaeger contacted Belgian justice authorities on Monday, then was questioned by police in the city of Leuven, prosecutors told the Reuters news agency.

The prosecutors said Dejaeger was released, since he is not wanted on charges in Belgium and no Canadian extradition order was in place.

Canada does have an extradition treaty with Belgium, but Canadian justice officials would neither confirm nor deny to CBC News that they are seeking Dejaeger’s extradition, since extradition requests are confidential.

Wanted on 6 charges

The Nunavut court issued the warrant for Dejaeger’s arrest in April 2002, after six criminal charges — two counts of indecent assault and four counts of buggery — were filed against him.

The charges stem from alleged offences in Igloolik, a remote Arctic community in what is now Nunavut, between September 1978 and August 1982, according to court documents obtained by CBC News.

Court documents also show that in 1990, Dejaeger had pleaded guilty to a number of sex crimes against children in another Nunavut community, Baker Lake, between 1982 and 1989.

News reports from that time indicate that Dejaeger was sentenced to five years in prison for the offences.

Rheal Teffaine, a Winnipeg-based lawyer representing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Churchill-Baie d’Hudson told CBC News on Wednesday that the diocese believes the matter with Dejaeger is closed, since all cases that have been brought to the diocese’s attention have resulted in settlements.

Teffaine did not elaborate on whether the settled cases were from Baker Lake or Igloolik.

News that Dejaeger has lived in Belgium for years comes months after a child sex scandal rocked the Roman Catholic Church in that country this past spring.

Sylvia MacEachern, an independent researcher who documents sex abuse cases involving Catholic clergy in Canada, said she found out Dejaeger has been living freely in Belgium since 1995.

MacEachern said she posted a news clipping and some information about Dejaeger on her website in April.

“Several months later, I was contacted by a lady in Belgium, asking questions,” MacEachern told CBC News on Tuesday.

The two women exchanged information, and MacEachern said she received information about Dejaeger’s current residence in Belgium.

No longer a Belgian citizen

While Interpol describes Dejaeger as having both Belgian and Canadian citizenship, the Belgian government issued a statement Wednesday denying that Dejaeger is a Belgian citizen.

The country’s foreign affairs department said a review of Dejaeger’s file in July revealed that “he had already lost his Belgian nationality” because he had become a Canadian citizen in 1977, according to the statement.

“At the time Father Dejaeger lost his Belgian nationality, he was registered with a local authority in Belgium. Consequently, it would seem that he neglected to inform the successive local authorities in Belgium with which he registered that he had taken Canadian nationality,” the Belgian government statement reads in part.

“He also gave false information about his nationality to Belgian consular officials in Canada.”

Dejaeger had been on Belgium’s national register of citizens prior to the July review, the department said.

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