Sex assault victim sues Catholic organizations and former priest for $3 million

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The Edmonton Journal

Published on: December 13, 2015 | Last Updated: December 13, 2015 2:06 PM MST

Eric Dejaeger leaves an Iqaluit, Nunavut courtroom on Jan. 20, 2011.
Eric Dejaeger leaves an Iqaluit, Nunavut courtroom on Jan. 20, 2011. Chris Windeyer / THE CANADIAN PRESS

A victim of a notorious pedophile who worked at a Catholic Church in Edmonton in the 1970s is suing the former priest, the Archdiocese of Edmonton, and the Oblate Fathers of Assumption Province for $3-million.

In a statement of claim filed in court last week, the plaintiff — a resident of Edmonton who is not identified — said she was a five-year-old girl when Eric Dejaeger befriended her and started spending time with her under the guise of spiritual guidance.

Dejaeger has since been convicted of sexually assaulting numerous children while working in Canada, including the woman who filed the lawsuit. He is currently serving a 19-year sentence for 32 sex offences against Inuit children between 1978 and 1982. As part of that prison term, he is serving five years concurrent for his assaults on the woman.

During his time in Edmonton, Dejaeger was studying to be a priest and spent time at the Charles Camsell Hospital Parish where the woman’s family attended services. She met Dejaeger in 1975 and knew him for three years.

“The relationship that Dejaeger developed with the plaintiff, under the guise of a brother-parishioner relationship, allowed Dejaeger an opportunity to be alone with the plaintiff and to exert total control over her, prey upon her, and sexually abuse her,” said the statement of claim.

The plaintiff argues that Dejaeger was invested with authority by the church, the oblate fathers, and the archdiocese and that the organizations provided him with opportunities to come in contact with children.

They failed on numerous levels to protect children or warn parishioners about someone who was, or ought to have been identified as, a predatory threat, the statement of claim asserts.

“They failed to remove Dejaeger from his duties upon learning of the allegations of sexual and inappropriate conduct thereby leaving the plaintiff exposed to him and his actions without protection,” said the statement of claim. “They failed to take steps to investigate the activities of Dejaeger once they were fully aware of his shortcomings in an effort to locate and assist any victims.”

The plaintiff said she suffers from physical pain, mental anguish, loss of her religion, lifelong trauma, depression, anxiety, and PTSD as a result of the abuse.

“The plaintiff has suffered and will continue to suffer physical, emotional and mental pain and suffering and a loss of enjoyment of life.”

A statement of claim contains statements that have not yet been proven in court.

No statement of defence has yet been filed.

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