Eric Dejaeger, Catholic priest, pleads guilty to sex charges

Disgraced priest Eric Dejaeger has pleaded guilty in an Iqaluit courtroom to eight of 76 sex-related charges involving Inuit children.

Case relates to Eric Dejaeger's time as a priest in Igloolik between 1978-82

Eric Dejaeger is escorted outside the Iqaluit courthouse in January 2011. On Monday, he pleaded guilty to eight sex-related charges involving children.

Disgraced priest Eric Dejaeger has pleaded guilty in an Iqaluit courtroom to eight of 76 sex-related charges involving Inuit children.

The eight charges Dejaeger, 66, entered pleas on are all for indecent assault against male victims. 

The trial will go ahead on the 68 other charges. With dozens of witnesses, it's expected to last about six weeks.

Dejaeger looked solemn in the courtroom Monday morning and said nothing. 

One of about 40 complainants in the case took the stand. The now 40-year-old woman is from Igloolik, and was between five and nine years old when she alleges Dejaeger sexually abused her.

She described a time when she said "Father Eric," as he was known, fondled her. Another time, she alleges he had intercourse with her in his bedroom. 

She testified that Dejaeger told her it was sinful to tell a lie and that she would be taken away from her parents if she told them what happened.

The woman will continue to testify Monday afternoon.

Allegations date back decades

The case includes allegations from Feb. 19, 1995, when he was originally charged with three counts of indecent assault and three counts of buggery, a charge no longer in the Criminal Code. They relate to his time as a priest in the community of  Igloolik between 1978 and 1982.

In 1995, Dejaeger had just completed a five-year sentence, most of it served in a halfway house and on probation, on 11 counts of sexual assault and indecent assault against children in Baker Lake, where he was posted after Igloolik.

He was scheduled to return to court on the Igloolik charges on June 13, 1995, but never showed. By then, he had left the country and was back in Belgium, where he was born. 

An arrest warrant was immediately issued, but the priest was able to live quietly in Oblate communities in France and Belgium until he was returned in early 2011. 

In 2001, Interpol put Dejaeger on its red list of international arrest warrants. Ten years later, Dejaeger was arrested on immigration charges after it was discovered his Belgian citizenship was no longer valid.

With files from The Canadian Press