North

Dejaeger civil claims still unsettled

There are still a number of outstanding civil claims against Eric Dejaeger, the Catholic priest who until recently had been a fugitive living in Belgium.

There are still a number of outstanding civil claims against Eric Dejaeger, the Catholic priest who until recently had been a fugitive living in Belgium.

Eric Dejaeger, right, is escorted earlier this month by an RCMP officer out of the Iqaluit courthouse, where he will next appear Feb. 9. ((CBC))

Dejaeger, 63, is currently in custody charged with sex crimes against young people that are alleged to have occurred when he was working in Igloolik between 1978 and 1982. He fled charges in Canada in 1995 and lived in Belgium for 16 years until he was expelled and returned to Nunavut earlier this month.

Dejaeger had already pleaded guilty in 1990 to nine counts of sex crimes against boys and girls in Baker Lake, another community in Nunavut, and was sentenced to five years in prison.

While Dejaeger was in Belgium, the Catholic Diocese of Churchill-Hudson Bay was busy settling with alleged victims of abuse by the priest.

Lawyer Steven Cooper, who represents victims with claims against Dejaeger, says he's working with "five to 10" people with unresolved claims.

Cooper says Dejaeger's return to Nunavut forces his clients to think about a painful past, but that they want justice to be served.

Accepting a civil settlement still allows victims to press criminal charges. 

Diocese not involved in criminal case

Rheal Teffaine, a lawyer representing the diocese, says he has been working on settlements for the last five years. He said he can't say how many people have settled with the church or how much money was involved, because of confidentiality agreements.

"We have settled out of court in each and every claim so that none of these individuals have had to relive the events all over again," he said. 

Teffaine said the diocese has no involvement in the current court case.

"Bishop [Reynald] Rouleau has co-operated with the RCMP whenever he was requested, but they are not directly or indirectly involved in the criminal proceedings," Teffaine said.

Dejaeger's next court appearance is for a bail hearing Feb. 9.