The priest accused of abusing Inuit children during the 1970s and ’80s in Nunavut has been expelled from Belgium, where he was arrested in early January, and brought to Canada, the CBC reported on Jan. 19.
Rev. Eric Dejaeger, who in 1990 admitted to nine counts of sexual and indecent assault in Baker Lake, North West Territories (now part of Nunavut), served five years in prison for those crimes, The Globe and Mail reported.
But in 1995 he skipped out of his court date on a second set of charges, in Igloolik, and fled to his native Belgium, where he remained for 15 years. Thus he was never tried on allegations that he had molested Inuit children while serving as an Oblate priest in Igloolik (about 500 miles northwest of Iqaluit). Although Interpol issued an arrest warrant, Dejaeger, now 63, lived and worked undisturbed outside of Brussels, according to The Globe and Mail.
Belgian police arrested him only after learning that he was in the country illegally, having lost his Belgian citizenship in 1977, according to news accounts. As the Montreal Gazette reported, the statute of limitations had expired in Belgium by the time the child-abuse allegations came to light in that country, so Dejaeger couldn’t be extradited. Authorities deported him after discovering that his passport had expired in 1997.
Belgium is reeling from recent revelations of abuse and molestation by Catholic priests going back decades. But for residents of this remote 1,300-population hamlet on Baffin Island, justice is a long time coming.
“Bringing him back is a good start,” Igloolik Mayor Lucassie Ivalu told The Globe and Mail. “But why did this take so long? Did the Canadian government even take this seriously? This should not have been allowed to happen.”