Dejaeger’s victims showed extreme courage: Belgian activist

Lieve Halsberghe, a Belgian human rights activist who was active in bringing the defrocked Oblate priest to justice, says Friday’s verdict has vindicated many of Eric Dejaeger’s victims who feared their stories wouldn’t be believed.

Lieve Halsberghe awaits justice for Joannes Rivoire, another European priest wanted for sex crimes

Lieve Halsberghe is a Belgian human rights activist who was active in bringing the defrocked Oblate priest, Eric Dejaeger, to justice in Canada. She says Friday’s verdict has vindicated many of Dejaeger’s victims who feared their stories wouldn’t be believed.

A Belgian human rights activist who was active in bringing Eric Dejaeger to justice says Friday’s verdict has vindicated many of Dejaeger’s victims.

“They were afraid that they were not going to be believed,” says Lieve Halsberghe.

On Friday, Nunavut Justice Robert Kilpatrick convicted Dejaeger on 32 of dozens of sex-related charges he faced involving Inuit children more than 30 years ago.

Halsberghe was one of several people who helped track Dejaeger down in Belgium in order to see him extradited to face the charges.

Over 10 months some 40 complainants testified against the Belgian-born former Oblate priest they knew simply as “Father Eric.”

“The people I met in Nunavut... showed extreme courage to face this monster after so many years and so much suffering,” Halsberghe says.

Crown prosecutor Doug Curliss says the trial was taxing on everyone.

“I know it was tough and it was tough on the community but they came and told their story and this is another step towards that conclusion.”

Halsberghe’s work not over

Now that justice has been achieved with Dejaeger, Halsberghe says she awaits a similar outcome with another priest, Father Joannes Rivoire, who now lives in France.

In December, Nunavut RCMP confirmed that a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest was issued in 1998. It relates to sex crimes allegedly committed in Nunavut between 1968 and 1970.

Halsberghe says she could lead police to the monastery in France where Rivoire, now in his eighties, is living.

However, she says there is little chance that France will extradite him to face the charges.

“In any case, the Oblates will protect him to the bitter end,” she says.

Halsberghe says she’s also turning her attention to new cases, including a group of African children who were sexually abused for years by a priest who also fled the country. She’s found them a lawyer so they can press charges.