The Nunavut hamlet of Igloolik is seeking extra counselling services, now that a Catholic priest who once served in the community is facing decades-old sex charges against children there.
Eric Dejaeger's recent return to Nunavut to face 10 charges, which include indecent assault and buggery, has brought back painful memories in Igloolik, deputy mayor Paul Quassa told CBC News.
The charges were filed by six complainants — five men and one woman — who allege that they were sexually abused as children between 1978 and 1982, when Dejaeger was serving as a priest in the eastern Arctic hamlet.
Dejaeger, now 63, was brought back to Nunavut last month from Belgium, where he had been living as a fugitive for almost 16 years.
Dejaeger remains in custody in Iqaluit and is scheduled to make his next court appearance on March 21.
Quassa said Igloolik is requesting mental health counselling services to help people in the community cope with the latest developments.
"In our community we have community wellness groups that are there to assist anybody, and certainly we will be using our own resources — and resources from the outside — to get this healing process going," Quassa said.
"It's one of the hardest things to deal with, especially if you are a young person."
Dejaeger pleaded guilty in 1990 of sex crimes against boys and girls in another Nunavut community, Baker Lake, and was sentenced to five years behind bars.
Dejaeger fled to Belgium, his country of birth, after the Igloolik charges were laid in 1995. He was placed on Interpol's list of wanted fugitives after the Nunavut Court of Justice issued warrant for his arrest in 2002.
But Dejaeger lived freely in Belgium until January, when Belgian immigration officials declared that he had overstayed his legal residency in that country.
According to government officials there, the priest gave up his Belgian citizenship when he became a Canadian citizen in 1977.