Judge will likely issue written sentence decision before March at the latest
22 January 2015 10:52 am
(Updated, 12:50 p.m., Jan. 22)
As some of his sexual abuse victims wept and howled in the courtroom gallery, 67-year-old Eric Dejaeger, convicted child molester and former Roman Catholic priest, rose Jan. 22 at the end of his sentencing hearing in Iqaluit to apologize and plead for forgiveness.
“I ask forgiveness. I promise not to re-offend again,” Dejaeger said.
Dejaeger stands convicted on 32 counts, most of them sex crimes committed against Inuit children in Igloolik between 1976 and 1982.
He trembled a little and leaned forward to make his statement, placing his hands on the defence table to prop himself up.
Dejaeger looked directly at Justice Robert Kilpatrick and did not turn his head to look at the more than two dozen victims sitting in court behind him.
“I followed extensive counseling for sex offender and I will not re-offend,” Dejaeger said.
Crown prosecutor Doug Curliss has asked Kilpatrick to impose a 25-year jail sentence, minus about eight years to account for the four years of hard time Dejaeger has spent in custody, on a two for one basis.
Defence lawyer Malcolm Kempt, who argues the Crown’s proposed sentence is crushing and heavy-handed, has asked for a global sentence of 12 years, minus time served.
Kilpatrick said he hopes to issue a sentence decision in about two weeks, but said it might take longer.
“I do not wish to rush to judgment,” Kilpatrick said.
He said he will not read an oral judgment in court, but will issue a written judgment electronically, with copies to be distributed in Igloolik.
However, he set a date of March 3 at 9:30 p.m. for Dejaeger to return to court. It’s likely Kilpatrick’s judgement will have been issued by that time.
While considering that decision, Kilpatrick will look at a mountain of evidence given during Dejaeger’s lengthy trial and many pieces of case law submitted by lawyers.
Kilpatrick also heard many poignant victim impact statements that Dejaeger’s Igloolik victims gave the court between between Jan. 19 and Jan. 21
That included a statement from an Igloolik woman who, quoting St. Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians, said Dejaeger will face the vengeance of God in the afterlife.
Other victims said Dejaeger’s abuse permanently deformed their lives, citing lifelong substance abuse and emotional dysfunctions.
“My heart is forever broken and it cannot be put back together,” one woman said.
Following a trial that ran intermittently from Nov. 18, 2013 until May 28, 2014, Kilpatrick convicted Dejaeger on 24 counts in a judgment released this past September.
They included many counts of indecent assault on boys and girls, four counts of buggery, one count of bestiality with a dog, one count of forcible confinement, and one count of sexual assault.
The ex-priest — at the start of the trial — entered guilty pleas to eight other counts.
Dejaeger also faces two sex charges — one count of gross indecency and one count of indecent assault — related to time he spent in Edmonton attending Newman Theological College, before he was ordained as an Oblate priest, between 1975 and 1978.
He is to appear in court in Edmonton later this month on those charges.
In 1990, Justice Ted Richard of the Northwest Territories Supreme Court gave Dejaeger a five-year prison sentence.
That was for nine sex crimes that Dejaeger committed against children in Baker Lake in the late 1980s, after he had moved to Baker Lake from Igloolik.
The first Igloolik charges surfaced in February 1995, when an RCMP corporal stationed there laid six counts against Dejaeger.
But the Flanders-born Dejaeger fled Canada for Belgium, where performed tasks for the Oblate order over the next 15 years.
After Belgian journalists exposed him in 2010, with the help of campaigner Lieve Halsberghe, the Belgian government discovered Dejaeger was not a Belgian citizen and had lived illegally there for years.
That triggered his expulsion from Belgium in January of 2011 — and the start of an investigation that led to nearly 80 sex charges against him.