APTN National News
IQALUIT— Eric DeJaeger, the priest convicted of 32 counts of abusing Inuit children in the Nunavut community of Igloolik, was sentenced Wednesday to 19 years in prison.
DeJaeger received 8 years credit for time served, so the maximum amount of time he will spend in jail is 11 years. There are no limits on parole, and the parole will have to consider both age and health. DeJaeger is 67 and is in poor health.
The Crown was seeking a 25-year sentence and the defense was looking for 12 years.
In his written ruling, Justice Robert Kilpatrick had comments for both the victims and DeJaeger. For the victims, Justice Kilpatrick had sympathy and advice.
“This Court is powerless to undo the past. No sentence can ever compensate you for what has been taken. No sentence can ever compensate you for the pain and anguish that you have suffered. No sentence can ever return the quality of life that has been missing these past many years. For many of you, no sentence will ever be long enough, or hard enough,” wrote Kilpatrick. “Your anger must be put aside. Your trust in others must be restored. You must learn to rely on the good around you, in your family, in your neighbors, and in your community. Despite what has happened to you, there is still much good in people. It is all around you. You will find that by sharing your burden with others, the burden will eventually become easier to carry.”
Kilpatrick said Dejaeger had destroyed lives and shamed the Catholic Church.
“Your selfishness has devastated a generation of young Roman Catholic parishioners in Igloolik. Many lives have been irrevocably altered by your dark legacy. For many victims, the commission of your offence has marked the end of living and the beginning of their survival. You must now atone for the many wrongs that you have inflicted on others. This sentence is only the beginning of that atonement,” wrote Kilpatrick.
The court process has taken four years to complete. In January 2011, DeJaeger was expelled from Belgium, where he had fled to avoid the first of the eventual 70 charges.
DeJaeger was a priest in Igloolik, Nunavut, which sits about 2 hours by air north of Iqaluit, from 1978 to 1982.
Prior to that he was a priest in Baker Lake Nunavut, where he also committed sex crimes against Inuit youth. He pled guilty to 11 of them and was jailed in 1989. After his release in 1991 from jail for the Baker Lake offences, he fled for Belgium on the advice of his lawyer.
While in Belgium, he was supported by his religious order, The Oblates. He was defrocked – kicked out of the priesthood – in 2011. He was an active priest in Belgium from 1995 until he was removed from the country in 2011.
DeJaeger is now in custody in Edmonton, where he faces more charges of sex crimes. He will appear in an Edmonton courtroom on Friday.