Some alleged victims of Eric Dejaeger, a Catholic priest accused of decades-old sex crimes in Igloolik, Nunavut, are desperately seeking psychological help and other services that do not exist in their community.


Eric Dejaeger, right, is escorted from the Iqaluit courthouse on Jan. 20. He remains in custody and is slated to appear in court again on March 21. ((CBC))

Dejaeger, 63, was brought back to Nunavut earlier this year from Belgium, where he had been living as a fugitive for almost 16 years, to face a total of 10 criminal charges that include indecent assault and buggery.

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 a priest in Igloolik.

One of the alleged victims, who cannot be named because of a court-ordered publication ban, told CBC News that some have reported experiencing flashbacks and panic attacks since Dejaeger returned to Nunavut.

With Dejaeger now facing the charges, some people in Igloolik are reliving the trauma they originally felt decades ago, according to the alleged victim.

'Cry for help'

Sylvia MacEachern, a researcher who documents sex abuse cases involving Catholic clergy in Canada, said she has received calls from people in Igloolik.

"There is just a desperation and a cry for help like I've never heard before," she said.

MacEachern said her calls to Nunavut's minister of health and social services, as well as the territory's Embrace Life Council, have not been returned for over a week.

People from Igloolik have also been turning to Lieve Halsberghe, who leads a Belgian network of church sex-abuse victims.

"Of course they're, you know, very welcome to call me, but I am trying to find help locally," Halsberghe said.

"It's better to have somebody local, of your own community, that can help you."

More services requested

Igloolik's deputy mayor, Paul Quassa, told CBC News last month that his community is requesting more mental health counselling services.

Residents in the hamlet of over 1,500 have said there is a need for skilled counsellors, mental health workers, access to legal advice, and spiritual help.

In the Nunavut legislature on Monday, Amittuq MLA Louis Tapardjuk asked Health and Social Services Minister Tagak Curley if extra services would be coming to Igloolik.

Curley replied that his department has been monitoring the situation in Igloolik, and it has already sent a psychiatric nurse and a mental health specialist there.

The minister added that the department will do what it can if more help is needed.

Dejaeger remains in custody at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit. His next court appearance is slated for March 21.

Dejaeger had pleaded guilty in 1990 to sex crimes against children in another Nunavut community, Baker Lake, between 1982 and 1989.

Michel Bertrand, a social worker who helped Dejaeger's victims in Baker Lake, said the Roman Catholic Church funded support programs that were offered in that community. The same model could work in Igloolik, he added.