“I apologize for the breakdown in technology”
18 March 2015
Justice Robert Kilpatrick shook his head, sighed and covered his face in frustration at the many technological and administrative hiccups he had to work through inside an Iqaluit courtroom March 17.
Kilpatrick presided over a long list of court appearances at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit, including one by the convicted ex-priest pedophile Eric Dejaeger.
Court opened at 9:30 a.m. with a videoconference link to the pre-trial services centre in Surrey, B.C.
But the interview room at the Surrey facility remained dark, with no sign of any guards or inmates.
Over 30 inmates from the Baffin Correctional Centre have been relocated to other facilities in Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and B.C., Kilpatrick explained, because of renovations currently underway at the BCC.
Kilpatrick said “extensive meetings” were held to facilitate the appearance of Nunavut inmates at the different facilities.
“So the court is not delayed right now,” Kilpatrick said.
But after 10 minutes went by with no sign of life from the Surrey facility’s interview room, Kilpatrick adjourned court for a short recess.
“I thought this had been sorted out,” he said.
Court workers began contacting the Surrey facility, and at 9:42 a.m. a male guard wearing a bullet-proof vest appeared inside the Surrey interview room.
But the video screens at the Iqaluit courtroom went black moments after the guard appeared.
“You are currently the only participant,” read a message flashed across television screens in the Iqaluit courtroom.
After another 10 minutes, the video feed to Surrey flashed back on in the Iqaluit courtroom.
Guards in the B.C. interview room said they could hear court workers in Iqaluit but could not see them.
After 10 minutes of effort by Iqaluit court workers, who were unsuccessful in solving that problem, Kilpatrick resumed court.
“I apologize for the breakdown in technology,” he said to the first of three Nunavut inmates scheduled to appear from Surrey.
“We were hoping you could see your defence lawyer. But he is here.”
Kilpatrick dealt with more than just technical bloopers, though.
Guards at the Surrey pre-trial centre confirmed that one of the three Nunavut inmates Kilpatrick expected to see was not, in fact, housed at the Surrey facility.
“It seems BCC didn’t communicate a list of inmates and facilities they’re housed at, so we have a problem,” Kilaptrick said.
The judge then turned his attention to a lawyer from Rankin Inlet, waiting on teleconference, to deal with an inmate Kilpatrick thought was housed at the Rankin Inlet Healing Facility.
But again the information Kilpatrick had before him was not correct.
“If the court can’t be given accurate information as to where inmates are, it is extremely difficult to manage this process,” Kilpatrick said.
Jazz music suddenly played through the Iqaluit courtroom speakers, followed by an incoming video call from BCC.
Kilpatrick then turned his attention to a list of inmates scheduled to appear via videoconference from BCC.
But the administrative bloopers had just begun.
A Crown lawyer couldn’t find the case file for one inmate.
“I don’t have this file, and I don’t have an explanation as to where this file might be,” the Crown lawyer said.
And a defence lawyer said her client, scheduled to appear from the BCC on March 17, wasn’t on the list of housed inmates at any of the facilities.
“I’m thinking we need yet another meeting with the [Nunavut] corrections people to address the many problems we’ve experienced today,” Kilpatrick said.
Dejaeger, scheduled to appear in court on the morning of March 17, appeared via videoconference from Iqaluit’s new minimum-security facility, Makigiarvik, around 1:45 p.m.
The former Baker Lake and Igloolik priest, who Kilpatrick sentenced Feb. 4 to more than 11 years in prison for molesting numerous Igloolik children between 1978 and 1982, sat at a table beside a prison guard, resting his elbows and folding his arms in front of him.
Dejaeger appeared before the court, in a navy blue t-shirt and long grey beard, to address charges relating to incidents involving a youth that are alleged to have occurred in Alberta in the mid-1970s.
Dejaeger studied at the Newman Theological College in Edmonton in the mid 1970s.
In 2011, two charges against Dejaeger were filed against him in Alberta court: one count of gross indecency and one count of indecent assault.
Barry McLaren, the Nunavut crown prosecutor for Dejaeger’s outstanding Alberta charges, told Nunatsiaq News March 17 that Dejaeger’s request to be tried in Nunavut on those charges was granted.
“The justice department in Alberta has agreed to send the charges up here… but they haven’t arrived yet,” McLaren said.
Kilpatrick scheduled another court appearance for Dejaeger on June 16 at 1:30 p.m., allowing enough time for the Alberta charges to be received by the Nunavut court.
“It’s expected that when the Alberta charges arrive, he will appear in court on them and he will enter a plea,” McLaren said.
In September 2014, Kilpatrick found Dejaeger guilty on 24 of 68 charges after a lengthy trial in Iqaluit that spanned 2013 and 2014.
Dejaeger also pleaded guilty to eight other charges in November 2013.
The 32 convictions involved 23 abused children and youth, who are all now middle-aged