Roman Catholic priest Eric Dejaeger is scheduled to appear at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit Monday morning — the first time he has appeared in court in person in four months.
The 65-year-old missionary is now facing 74 charges from 39 alleged victims. The number of charges — most of which are sexual offences — has almost doubled since the start of the year.
Dejaeger served as a priest in Igloolik, Nunavut, from 1978 to 1982. He was expelled from Belgium last year. Since his return to Canada, police have visited Igloolik and collected more evidence from more alleged victims.
Police are trying to build an airtight case against a man who served in the community more than three decades ago.
"There's an enormous amount of work that goes into investigating a specific offence within the story that that victim has to tell us," said Sgt. David Knibbs of the Nunavut RCMP’s Major Crimes Unit.
"Where there's serial historical sexual offences, a lot of times the devil is in the details. We're able to look at the specific details that each victim is telling us where there's multiple victims."
Knibbs said police are using information from alleged victims who live in Igloolik and elsewhere in Canada. They’ve tried to build evidence using the details of painful memories that people stored away.
"The difficulty with historical offences is that almost always that fourth objective component of physical evidence isn't available anymore because of the time that's elapsed since the crime was committed," he said.
Researcher says Dejaeger fits abuser profile
Dejaeger was convicted in 1990 of multiple sex crimes against children in Baker Lake, another Nunavut community, between 1982 and 1989. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but was released early.
His case fits the profile of many priests who trained as clergy between 1950 and 1970 and are accused of abusing children, according to one researcher.
Told by the church to live a celibate life, the priests often found themselves alone, in positions of influence over children.
"They tend to be not be in the priesthood for a long period of time. They also tend to be isolated, meaning that they tend to be the only senior representative of the church in a particular area and their victims are in relationships of trust," said Karl Hanson, a senior research scientist with Public Safety Canada in Ottawa.
Dejaeger has been in custody at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit.