Ex-priest with long record of sexual abuse out on statutory release
Eric Dejaeger was twice jailed for offences he committed against Inuit youth from 1974 to1989
A former Roman Catholic priest convicted in 2015 on 36 counts of sexual abuse that took place in Nunavut between 1974 and 1989 has been released from prison.
Eric Dejaeger, 75, was released May 19 after serving two-thirds of a 19-year sentence he was given in 2011 for sex crimes he committed against Inuit youth and some adults between 1974 and 1982.
Dejaeger had previously served a five-year sentence starting in 1990 for sex-related crimes he committed between 1982 and 1989.
A statutory release is a legislated release and not a conditional one, otherwise known as parole, said Wendy Smith, a Parole Board of Canada spokesperson for the Nunavut and Ontario regions.
The Corrections and Conditional Release Act requires that most federal offenders who have served two-thirds of a fixed-length sentence be released from prison, under supervision in the community by the Correctional Service of Canada.
The parole board does not make statutory release decisions, but may impose special conditions deemed reasonable and necessary for the protection of society, Smith said.
Under his statutory release conditions, Dejaeger must return to an approved residence every night, have no contact with his victims, have no contact with children, and must report any friendships with women to his parole officer.
The Parole Board decision document does not identify the location the Belgium-born Dejaeger was released to, but noted he indicated an interest in volunteering for the Oblates, a Roman Catholic order associated with running schools, upon release. In 1995, he fled Canada to Belgium at the end of his first prison sentence to avoid prosecution on other charges, the decision document said.
Dejaeger was convicted of multiple counts of sexual assault, including rape, buggery, indecent assault, sexual assault, forcible confinement and bestiality against 25 victims.
The majority of his victims were between the ages of nine and 13, although some were younger and some were adults, according to the judge during sentencing.
“As a spiritual authority figure, you were in a position of great trust in relation to the victims, which you used to groom and silence them. You also used physical violence and caused serious physical injuries to some of the victims,” the parole board’s decision stated.
“The victims suffered devastating and ongoing emotional and psychological harm that also impacted those around them.”
The parole board’s decision also noted that while Dejaeger’s conduct while in custody was “positive” and he had no misconducts, he is still considered to be at a moderate-level risk to reoffend.
“Your offence history is very serious and demonstrates your potential for violent behaviour as it involves numerous sexual assaults that you committed over the course of approximately 15 years,” it said.
Eric Dejaeger, a defrocked Roman Catholic priest and notorious sex offender, was given statutory release from prison in May. He served two-thirds of his 19-year sentence for sex crimes he committed against boys and girls and adults while in the North.
A Parole Board of Canada decision document includes a history of the Belgian-born disgraced former cleric’s time in Canada.
Born: Belgium. Raised by “emotionally distant” parents. Completed school, pursued work as electrician before deciding to become a priest.
To Canada: age 26.
1974-1982 – studied to become priest, served as ordained priest; committed crimes against 25 victims during this period.
1989 – diagnosed with pedophilia during pre-sentence psychological assessment.
1990 – sentenced to five years in prison for crimes committed between 1982-89.
1991 – received concurrent sentence for two sexual assaults against young boys.
1995 – prison sentence ends; charged with more offences but “fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution.” Lived “unlawfully” in Belgium until 2011.
2011 – arrested, deported to Canada on an immigration violation; taken into pre-trial custody.
2015 – convicted of crimes committed, 1974-1982; sentenced to 19 years in prison.
2022 – given statutory release after serving two-thirds of sentence.