Nunavut court grants legal aid to pedophile ex-priest Dejaeger
Serial sex offender wants to appeal some of his criminal convictions
A Nunavut judge has overturned a decision by Nunavut’s legal services office that denied legal aid funding to ex-priest Eric Dejeager, clearing the way for Dejaeger to appeal some of his sex crime convictions.
Justice Neil Sharkey ordered that a lawyer be appointed to represent Dejaeger after hearing submissions from Dejeager and the Crown March 15 at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit.
“I think the case… is a compelling one and I’m persuaded that there is merit to your request for court appointment counsel,” Sharkey said.
A white-haired and bearded Dejeager appeared via video link from the medium-security Warkworth Institution in Ontario, sitting alone at a conference table and wearing baby-blue prison issue attire.
“I just wanted to have a lawyer, that’s the reason I came down here,” the 70-year-old Dejeager told the court.
On Sept. 12, 2014, Justice Robert Kilpatrick of the Nunavut Court of Justice convicted Dejeager on 32 counts, most of them sex crimes against Inuit children in the 1970s and 1980s committed while he worked as an Oblate missionary in Igloolik.
Twenty-four of those convictions flowed from a long trial that ran from November 2013 to September 2014 and eight convictions flowed from guilty pleas that Dejaeger entered at the start of the trial. On Feb. 4, 2015, Kilpatrick sentenced him to 19 years in jail, which means that with time already served he must serve another 11 years.
In September 2015, Dejeager plead guilty to four additional sex crimes committed against three Edmonton-area children in the 1970s, earning four additional five-year sentences to be served concurrently.
Dejeager filed a notice of appeal that same year, challenging six of his convictions, but it’s unclear from the paperwork which convictions he’s referring to.
Nunavut’s Baffin-region legal aid office denied Dejaeger’s request for legal aid lawyer on July 13, 2016.
“He’s broke, I think its pretty clear,” Sharkey told the Crown before he overturned that decision.
Sharkey added that the complexity of Dejaeger’s numerous convictions puts the task of appealing them—regardless of their merit—beyond the capacity of the former priest.
“The trial was notorious, it was long, it was a complex case with luminous testimony, much contested-cross examination… and numerous legal issues,” Sharkey said.
The Crown tried to argue that Dejaeger hadn’t given the court enough paperwork to prove he couldn’t afford a lawyer, but Sharkey ultimately disagreed.
Dejaeger now has access to either a court-appointed lawyer, or a lawyer of his choice—provided they are a member of Nunavut’s bar.
Legal expenses will be approved at the discretion of the court, Sharkey said.
Regardless of the merits of Dejaeger’s appeal—which still requires preliminary examination before a formal appeal hearing—Sharkey stressed that time is not on the court’s side.
The need to resolve the matter quickly prompted his decision to grant Dejaeger access to a lawyer immediately, he said.
“If there’s further delay, and if eventually there’s a new trial, the witnesses that have had to testify about things which happened so long ago, will be forced to wait longer while we do this internal housekeeping,” Sharkey said, while noting some of the Crown’s questions.