Oblates should pay ex-Nunavut priest’s medical care, abuse survivors’ network says
"We call on the Oblate fathers to promptly provide for costs of any medical care"
(Updated 9:30 p.m., Sept. 11)
The Belgian wing of an international network that represents survivors of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests and other religious authority figures said Sept. 11 that the Oblate order ought to pay for Father Eric Dejaeger’s health care costs.
Dejaeger, 65, faces 77 criminal charges, most of them related to the sexual abuse of children in Igloolik between 1978 and 1982, when Dejaeger served there as a priest.
At a court appearance Sept. 10, his lawyer, Malcolm Kempt, complained that because Dejaeger is not a Nunavut resident, the Government of Nunavut is denying medical care to his client, who suffers from high blood pressure and a heart condition.
At the same time, Dejaeger’s arraignment on the 77 charges, which has been postponed several times, was postponed again until Oct. 1.
But Lieve Halsberghe of the Belgian wing of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the missionary order to which Dejaeger belongs, must pay Dejaeger’s medical costs.
She said in a statement that George Vervuist, the Oblate superior in Belgium, had promised in 2011, and again in 2012, to provide for Dejaeger’s medical care.
In her statement, she quoted a comment that Vervuist had made to the Flemish-language newspaper De Morgen published April 22, 2011.
“The legal costs are completely provided for by the order to which he belongs. The order accepts responsibility for supporting him and that includes everything related to his care. That is only normal,” she quoted Vervuist as saying.
Dejaeger’s case has sat before the Nunavut court for 19 months.
Halsberghe, who visited Nunavut in 2011 to meet complainants in the Dejaeger case, said the priest’s health should not be allowed to delay his court proceedings.
“The suffering of the many Dejaeger victims, who have never received adequate support and care, is being extended by this delay. This is cruel and unacceptable,” Halsberghe said.
“Therefore we call on the Oblate fathers to promptly provide for costs of any medical care Dejaeger may require. That is only normal — wouldn’t you agree?” Halsberghe said.
In September 2011, SNAP, together with lawyers from the U.S.-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, filed a criminal complaint against the Vatican at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, alleging “rape, sexual violence and torture by clergy.”
In a statement issued Sept. 11, the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Justice said they “cannot comment on the private medical care or treatment of any specific inmate.”
Dejaeger is held in remand at the Baffin Correctional Centre, where he is held in protective custody, which Dejeager’s lawyer described as “solitary confinement.”
In the statement, the GN claimed that necessary medical treatment is never denied to any inmate based on his or her place of residency or their ability to pay.
And the statement said nurses at BCC and medical staff at the Qikiqtani General Hospital, not corrections administrators, make treatment decisions for inmates.
The GN also denied Dejaeger is held in “solitary confinement,” saying inmates kept in protective custody enjoy more privileges than those kept in solitary confinement.
“They have access to the classroom and other recreational activities. An inmate in ‘solitary confinement’ would not have these privileges,” the statement said.