Catholic bishop to visit troubled Nunavut hamlet

The Roman Catholic Church's bishop for Nunavut says he will soon visit the hamlet of Igloolik, which has been without a spiritual leader since the local priest left for safety reasons.

Latest priest fled Igloolik after receiving threat

The Roman Catholic Church's bishop for Nunavut says he will soon visit the hamlet of Igloolik, which has been without a spiritual leader since the local priest left the community out of fear for his safety.

St. Stephen Catholic Church in Igloolik, Nunavut, has been without a regular priest since March, when Rev. Tony Krotki suddenly left the community in response to a verbal threat he had received. ((Chris Harbord/CBC))

Bishop Reynald Rouleau of the Catholic Diocese of Churchill-Hudson Bay said he was disturbed to hear that one of his priests, Rev. Tony Krotki, received a verbal threat from somebody in Igloolik in March.

Krotki decided not to report the threat to the RCMP, but he felt he needed to leave the community, Rouleau said.

"It's a heavy, heavy blow," Rouleau told CBC News from his office in Winnipeg.

"For me, it's been very heavy on my shoulders. It's, like, disturbing to know that someone of your personnel could have been threatened.

Rouleau said Krotki is doing well and has taken some time off, but he has not decided if he will return to Igloolik.

The bishop said he plans to visit Igloolik in May to meet with residents, including the community's large Catholic congregation, to discuss solutions.

"I will try to have advice from the parish council, from the leaders, and any other people who would like to give me some appraisal [of] what's going on," Rouleau said.

Emotions running high

Emotions have been running high in Igloolik, a remote hamlet of about 1,500 in the eastern Arctic, following the return of Eric Dejaeger, who is accused of sexually abusing children there in the late 1970s and early '80s.

A number of individuals in Igloolik claim that Dejaeger, now 63, sexually abused them as children between 1978 and 1982, when he was serving as a Catholic missionary in the hamlet.

As of April 5, Dejaeger faces 24 criminal charges that include indecent assault and buggery. He remains in custody at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit and is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.

Dejaeger fled to Belgium, his country of birth, after he served a jail term in Canada for sex crimes against children in Baker Lake, another Nunavut community.

Dejaeger left Canada around the time the Igloolik charges were first filed in 1995, but he was brought back to Canada in January to face those charges.

Rouleau said he understands feelings may have boiled over in Igloolik after Dejaeger returned to Nunavut, but the bishop added that there was no reason for people to turn their anger on Krotki.

"I'm really surprised. Really, I've never had thought it would go that far regarding someone who is not responsible at all [for] what happened," Rouleau said of Krotki.

"He's not responsible for the abuses that's been done."

While Igloolik's Catholic congregation wants and needs a priest, Rouleau said it may take months to find a replacement for Krotki.