IQALUIT, Nunavut – A defrocked Arctic priest has been sentenced to 19 years in prison for dozens of sex offences against Inuit children.
Eric Dejaeger’s crimes took place 35 years ago in the remote Nunavut community of Igloolik when he was there as an Oblate missionary.
“An exemplary sentence is needed to reflect not only the high moral blameworthiness associated with the crimes, but to denounce and deter sexual offences against children and adolescents in Nunavut,” Justice Robert Kilpatrick said in his written decision.
Dejaeger was convicted earlier this year on a total of 32 charges.
He was originally supposed to be tried on some of the counts in 1995, but fled to his native Belgium and lived in Oblate homes until he was returned to Canada for immigration violations.
His return roiled long-suppressed memories and traumas in Igloolik and an emotional trial released decades of pent-up grief. The Nunavut government made extra mental-health workers available to both witnesses and the community.
Dejaeger’s victims included 12 boys and 10 girls, most between eight and 12 years old.
Dejaeger also abused a dog in front of two children.
Many testified that Dejaeger threatened them with hellfire or separation from their families if they told.
Sometimes he dangled food in front of hungry children as a lure.