Dozens of Inuit people victimized by so-called Pedophile Priest Eric Dejaeger in the 1970s and ’80s have now been vindicated, as a court has found the 67-year-old defrocked cleric guilty on 24 of the 68 charges he had been up against.
“The people I met in Nunavut… showed extreme courage to face this monster after so many years and so much suffering,” said Lieve Halsberghe, one of several human rights activists who helped track down Dejaeger in Belgium, to CBC News. “They were afraid that they were not going to be believed.”
And no wonder, since one of the charges involves Dejaeger having sex with his dog—while making several children watch, according to CBC News. Their parents did not believe them when they tried to tell them.
It is one of many horrific stories recounted by scarred witnesses—40 complainants over 10 months—and contained in the 212-page judgment issued by Nunavut Justice Robert Kilpatrick for the crimes, which occurred in Igloolik from 1976 through 1982.
“In all, Dejaeger was convicted of 24 counts of indecent assault, one of unlawful confinement, two of buggery, three of unlawful sexual intercourse, one of sexual assault and one of bestiality,” CBC News reported. “The victims include 12 boys, 10 girls and a dog he abused in front of two children. Most were between the ages of eight and 12, although they could have been as young as four and as old as 18.”
How and where did Dejaeger get away with it for so long? “Father Eric” did everything from cajoling them with treats, to manipulating poor, hungry kids with food, to full-on assault, as one witness described being taped to a bed and raped from behind as a child. He also threatened them with “hellfire or separation from their families” if they told on him, CBC News said.
As for how he got away, he fled to Belgium in 1995. Decades later he was outed by Halsberghe and the Belgian press after it was discovered that he was there illegally. He was shipped back to Canada in 2011.
Dejaeger now faces trial in Edmonton for similar crimes allegedly committed there, the Nunatsiaq Newssaid. He will be sentenced on the Igloolik charges in January 2015.
Although the court victory may help victims heal, the Catholic Church would seem to have some work ahead of it to restore credibility. Even today, the church is famously protecting pedophiles.
Then again, as long as the Catholic Church stands behind the Doctrine of Discovery, there is a long way to go.