woensdag, november 20, 2013

from Nunavut en terug Eric Dejaeger on trial for dozens of sexual abuse charges dating to the 1970s and 80s

Father Eric Dejaeger might not be sitting in an Iqaluit courtroom this week if it hadn’t been for the work of Godelieve Halsberghe.
She’s the person who discovered Dejaeger had been living and working in Belgium for 15 years in spite of outstanding arrest warrants against him issued in Nunavut and by Interpol.
This ultimately led to the priest’s return to Canada to face numerous sex charges, most of them flowing from his stay in Igloolik in the later 1970s and early 1980s.
That was in 2010. Now her niece, Lieve Halsberghe, is visiting Iqaluit to see her aunt’s work completed.
“She gave me this file and I took it on and I have to finish,” Halsberghe said in an interview with Nunatsiaq News. 
But on top of her aunt’s work, Halsberghe hopes this case will have a ripple effect in Belgium.
Belgium currently has a statute of limitations that often prevents child victims of sexual assault from pressing charges after they have reached adulthood.
If someone is sexually abused as a child, they have 15 years after the age of 18 to press charges — something Halsberghe calls “ridiculous.”
“The Belgian police could not arrest Dejaeger in 2010 because there were no offenses that he had committed that were punishable by law,” she said.
And the law needs to change, Halsberghe said.
“It should change things in Belgium. Because people should realize that it’s necessary,” she said.
“I think it’s cruel that you make laws, and these laws are not correct when it comes to these kind of crimes. The laws should be changed and that’s the opinion of all victims of sexual abuse.”
The Canadian system is a better model to follow, she said.

A priest who this week is to face 76 sex charges involving Inuit children might have been tried years ago but for a quiet nod from Canada that allowed him to leave the country, says a church leader.
Georges Vervust is the top official with the Belgian Oblates, an order of Catholic priests that sent Eric Dejaeger to several communities in what is now Nunavut.
Vervust sheds light on questions that have troubled Dejaeger's alleged victims for nearly a decade: How was a man facing child abuse charges allowed to leave the country days before his trial? And why did it take so long for him to be returned?
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 was in Europe.
An arrest warrant was immediately issued, but the disgraced priest was able to live quietly in Oblate communities in France and Belgium until he was returned in early 2011.

Internal Oblate reports obtained by The Canadian Press show that Dejaeger was planning to leave Canada almost right away.

On March 26, 1995, five weeks after the Igloolik charges were laid, he wrote Oblate officials in Belgium proposing a return. On April 20, 1995, he was invited to come back.

Some in the order knew Dejaeger was planning to leave, including his superior Jean-Paul Isabelle.
"He had finished his sentence," said Isabelle in 2011. "They gave him back his passport.

"I didn't agree with him leaving. I told him, 'Well, I don't want to know anything about this. But when you get to wherever you're going, here's a code that we're going to use to let me know where you are.'"

With Belgian and Canadian passports in hand, Dejaeger left. The Oblates were informed on June 20, 1995, that he had arrived in Belgium.

A few weeks later, an Oblate in Canada wrote Dejaeger telling him he was home free.
"It seems to me that they (Canada) will do nothing unless you come to Canada."
Vervust suggested Canada seemed glad to be rid of him.
"People from the police and his lawyer told him, 'Get out of here. As long as you don't come back to Canada there is not a problem.' And that's what he did," said Vervust in the documentary.

He made similar comments in a 2010 letter to fellow Oblates in which he said "people of the Canadian courts" told Dejaeger unofficially that he should leave the country and never return.
The cases were old, said Vervust's Dutch-language letter.
Dejaeger "left Canada without any problem."

In an email to The Canadian Press, Vervust said: "I heard that Eric was told — off the record — to leave Canada by some persons of the police and his lawyer and some Oblates.
"At that time it was thought that was the best thing to do. With hindsight, it turns out to have been a mistake."

Justice Canada has declined comment.

"As extradition requests are confidential communications, we can neither confirm, nor deny, the existence of an extradition request in this matter," said an official in response to a 2010 query about the Dejaeger case.
The Canadian Press could not reach Dejaeger's lawyer for comment.
An access to information request on Dejaeger was almost entirely redacted except for news reports.

Dejaeger's lawyer in 1995, John Scurfield, died in 2009.

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