Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 02, 2012 - 5:20 am

Dejaeger pleads not guilty in Nunavut court to 76 sex charges

A 10-week trial slated to start Oct. 28, 2013

DAVID MURPHY
Former Oblate missionary Eric Dejaeger leaves an Iqaluit courtroom Jan. 20, 2011 after his first appearance for six child sexual abuse charges in Igloolik dating back to the 1970s. Dejaeger arrived in Iqaluit after Belgian authorities expelled him from the country over immigration violations. (FILE PHOTO)
Former Oblate missionary Eric Dejaeger leaves an Iqaluit courtroom Jan. 20, 2011 after his first appearance for six child sexual abuse charges in Igloolik dating back to the 1970s. Dejaeger arrived in Iqaluit after Belgian authorities expelled him from the country over immigration violations. (FILE PHOTO)

Eric Dejaeger, the Oblate missionary accused of sex crimes against Inuit children alleged to have occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s, appeared before the the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit Oct. 1 to plead not guilty to 76 charges.

That not-guilty plea is something Crown prosecutor Barry Nordin said he expected. 

Now, a 10-week trial will start Oct. 28, 2013, and is expected to continue until early 2014.

There are 41 complainants on the 76-count indictment. Hearing all the evidence from the complainants and a variety of other witnesses will take at least eight weeks, Nordin said.

“It’s certainly a very lengthy trial with the nature of the offenses. Normally this sort of matter, when it goes to trial, is resolved fairly quickly because the case rests primarily on the evidence of the complainant. When you have 41 complainants, however, the evidence takes a lot longer,” Nordin said.

“Each complainant has the right to tell their story, and the defense has a right to cross examine them about their story, so that takes time,” he added. 

The indictment compiles 12 different charging documents into one. These were laid as far back as 1995 and as late as the spring of 2012.

They are all gathered into one “information” document because “they were related in times and in place, it made sense that all of the matters be tried at the same time,” Nordin said. 

No new charges have been laid against Dejaeger since the spring, and none are expected in the near future.

However, the trial is expected to be expensive.

“There’s a considerable expense. Court time, lawyer time, witness expense, travel expense, the investigative expenses as well,” Nordin said. “But in our system the right to have a fair trial, a fair hearing, is fundamental and we can’t start being too concerned about expense.”

Originally set to enter a plea in the early afternoon, Dejaeger had not been transferred to the courthouse for his appearance despite repeated requests made by Justice Robert Kilpatrick in the past.

To avoid putting the matter over until another date, Kilpatrick ordered Dejaeger to appear for the first time since January 2012 later in the afternoon, so he could enter his plea. 

Dejaeger, 65, showed up in court, sporting a shaggy gray beard that reached his chest. His blue t-shirt and sweat pants hung loosely onto his gaunt frame.

Dejaeger nodded to Kilpatrick when he explained why it was required for Dejaeger to show up in court.

Dejaeger has been in custody for about 20 months so far, and, during the last court appearance, defense council Malcolm Kempt said Dejaeger had not been receiving medical treatment.

Now, however, Kempt said in court that “corrections officials are doing all they can and are working hard on it.”

Dejaeger, a native of Belgium who gave up his Belgian citizenship to become a Canadian citizen in the 1970s, studied at Newman Theological College in Edmonton and became a Roman Catholic priest.

Once ordained, the young priest moved to Igloolik and lived there from 1978 to about 1982. He then left for Baker Lake, and stayed there until about 1989.

Dejaeger also spent time in Belgium until, in late 2010, when the Belgium government discovered Dejaeger, who was already facing longstanding charges for sex crimes in Canada, was not a citizen of their country, and flew him back to Canada in January of 2011.

As soon as Dejaeger set foot in Canada, police arrested him and flew him to Nunavut. He has been held in custody ever since.

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