An appeal by defrocked oblate priest Eric Dejaeger – convicted of 24 counts related to sex crimes against Inuit children and youth between four and 20 years of age during his time in Iglulik between 1978 and 1982 – is dismissed.
Judges also dismissed his appeal of the resulting 19-year sentence.
Justices Myra Bielby, Jo’Anne Strekaff and Ritu Khullar heard the appeals at the Nunavut Court of Appeal Sept. 25.
The appeal on the convictions was dismissed following oral arguments that day.
Dejaeger’s lawyer also presented three arguments regarding the sentencing, according to the written decision released Nov. 26.
First, that Justice Robert Kilpatrick should have reduced the ex-priest’s sentence by the five years he served for similar crimes in Baker Lake. He also appealed on the grounds of good behaviour during the years since his release in 1992 until his convictions in September 2014. Finally, he argued that a greater reduction from 75-plus years to 19 years due to the principle of totality should have been assessed.
The three judges who heard the appeal disagreed.
Regarding time served for the Baker Lake offences, “concurrent sentences would not be appropriate here because, as the trial judge correctly observed … the two sets of offences involve different victims, and were committed at different locations and on different dates, some more than a decade apart,” stated Bielby, Strekaff and Khullar.
As for good behaviour, the three judges noted Dejaeger was on the run from Canada for 17 years.
“Mr. Dejaeger can hardly be considered to have been living a crime-free life back in Belgium during that period, considering that he was unlawfully at large, in breach of both his parole and bail conditions in Canada and was the subject of extradition proceedings,” stated the judges.
Dejaeger was on parole for the Baker Lake crimes and on bail for some of the Iglulik charges.
“Therefore, it was not possible for the trial judge to conclude that he was capable of being rehabilitated in the face of evidence of a complete lack of remorse and the illegality of his flight from Canada.”
At Dejaeger’s sentencing in February 2015, Justice Robert Kilpatrick reduced a 75-year sentence to 19 years on the principle of totality.
Totality is applied when there is a sentence for multiple offences and requires the court to come up with a global sentence for all the offences.
Bielby, Strekaff and Khullar concluded the sentence was “fit and reasonable … given Mr. Dejaeger’s overall culpability.”
“The harm inflicted by him, together with the scale and scope of his crimes against vulnerable children in Iglulik must be assessed in determining that this sentence was both proportional to the offender and to the offences he committed. His convictions are almost all for major sexual assaults on both young girls and young boys,” the judges stated.
Dozens of complainants testified against Dejaeger during his highly emotional, heart-wrenching trial in late 2013 and early 2014, and later at his sentencing hearing.
He pleaded guilty to eight charges and Justice Robert Kilpatrick convicted him on a further 24 of 72 charges in a written decision released Feb. 4, 2015. Dejaeger received a 19-year sentence, less eight years for time served.
Those are the 24 convictions the defrocked priest sought to appeal, about which he maintained his innocence throughout the trial.
“Given his position of trust and esteem in a small, remote devout community he was able to prey on these victims with little risk that anyone would listen to their complaints. Many of his victims have suffered resulting trust issues for their entire lifetimes, leading to addiction issues, violence in their own domestic relationships and continuing emotional consequences,” stated the appeal judges.
Bielby, Strekaff and Khullar concluded Kilpatrick was also appropriate in considering “the extraordinary rates of sexual violence in Nunavut, and the prevalence of sexual offences against children” when he sentenced Dejaeger.
In late October 2015, the already-convicted child molester was sentenced to three additional five-year sentences for sex crimes against three children, two boys and a girl under the age of 10 when the abuse began, between Jan. 1, 1974, and Dec. 31, 1976, in northern Alberta and Edmonton.
The serial sex offender is serving those sentences concurrently with each other and the 19-year sentence.