Dejaeger trial hears from former colleague

The third week of the trial of Roman Catholic priest Eric Dejaeger wrapped up today with testimony from Father Robert Lechat, who worked with Dejaeger decades ago in Igloolik.

The third week of the trial of Roman Catholic priest Eric Dejaeger wrapped up today with testimony from Father Robert Lechat, who worked with Dejaeger decades ago in Igloolik.

Dejaeger, 66, faces dozens of charges related to sexual abuse against children.

The incidents are alleged to have occurred between 1978 and 1982 in Igloolik.

Father Robert Lechat is now 93 and living in Ottawa, but he lived and worked in Igloolik off and on between 1972 and 1986.

In court this morning, Lechat said he was surprised when he learned Dejaeger was convicted of sex-related crimes against children in Baker Lake.

That was in the 1990s and Dejaeger subsequently was sentenced to five years in prison.

Lechat said there were always a lot of children at the mission in Igloolik. Religion courses were held after school and he said the children would go home afterwards.

Lechat said there were strict rules at the Catholic Church and kids were not allowed upstairs, but the doors of the church were never locked.

During his testimony, Lechat referred often to a journal he kept at the time. It documented the comings and goings of many people.

Lechat said he was often away from the church for meetings and parish visits. He said he left Dejaeger in the community so he could get know the people there better.

Lechat says he wanted Dejaeger to learn Inuktitut, but he admits that didn't work well. He says Dejaeger didn't learn enough of the language to preach in it.

The testimony prompted a smile from Dejaeger for the first time during the trial, as he listened to Lechat's memories of their time together. The two men looked at each other and laughed a couple of times about land trips back then.

Dejaeger’s trial continues next week.