North

Igloolik priest leaves after being threatened

The Catholic priest in Igloolik, Nunavut, has left the community after he was recently threatened, while many residents are dealing with anger they feel towards the church for alleged past abuses.

The Catholic priest in Igloolik, Nunavut, has left the community after he was recently threatened, while many residents are dealing with pain and anger they feel towards the Roman Catholic Church for alleged past abuses.

St. Stephen Catholic Church in Igloolik, Nunavut, is without its usual priest, after Rev. Tony Krotki suddenly left the community in response to a threat he received. ((Chris Harbord/CBC))

The sudden departure of Rev. Tony Krotki came after residents of Igloolik, a remote hamlet of about 1,500 in the eastern Arctic, learned that Eric Dejaeger, the community's former priest, had been brought back to Canada to face decades-old sexual abuse allegations.

Acting Mayor Paul Quassa said Krotki received a threat sometime in the past month, after Dejaeger had been taken into custody in Iqaluit on multiple charges of indecent assault, buggery and other offences.

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 the community's Catholic priest. He currently faces a total of 20 criminal charges.

Dejaeger had fled to Belgium after he served a jail term in Canada for sex crimes against children in another Nunavut community, Baker Lake. He left Canada around the time that the Igloolik charges were first filed in 1995.

But earlier this year, Belgian immigration officials declared that Dejaeger had overstayed his legal residency in that country. He was brought back to Canada in January and remains in custody in Iqaluit.

No excuse for threat

Quassa said there is no excuse for the threat that prompted Igloolik's latest priest, Krotki, to leave the community.

Rev. Quang Van, who is usually based in Hall Beach, Nunavut, filled in for Krotki last week at St. Stephen Church. A permanent replacement for Krotki has not been announced. ((Chris Harbord/CBC))

"If one feels threatened, I think that should not be tolerated. Nobody should be threatened by anybody," Quassa said.

"Even vocal threats should not be tolerated, and that I believe was being the case here. I do not blame him for leaving."

Rev. Quang Van, who is usually based in Hall Beach, Nunavut, said he was brought to Igloolik's St. Stephen Church last week to fill in following Krotki's departure.

Van told CBC News he only knows that Krotki was threatened by somebody in Igloolik, and he decided to leave as a result.

Van said while he understands the community's anger towards the church, he is not worried about his own safety.

"For us, as a priest, we are here for the people," Van said in an interview last week.

Some reluctant to forgive

While Van was filling in for Krotki last week, the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission was in Igloolik to hear from dozens of former residential school students, some of whom said they were abused at the church-run schools.

Van said given the recent testimony from residential school survivors, and the sexual abuse allegations against Dejaeger, some in Igloolik are reluctant to forgive.

But Van said his focus in on the future.

"For me, it's in the past. Now we try to do our best for reconciliation," he said.

Quassa said he supports Krotki, whether he decides to return to Igloolik or not. The community's Catholic population needs a spiritual leader, the mayor added.

Neither Krotki nor the Roman Catholic Diocese of Churchill-Hudson Bay could be reached for comment on Monday.