Defrocked Oblate priest Eric Dejaeger and former Sanikiluaq teacher Johnny Meeko – both convicted for sex crimes against children – had their day at the Nunavut Court of Appeal July 25.
Dejaeger is represented by court-appointed lawyer Scott Cowan. His appeal of 24 convictions for sex crimes against Inuit children and youth between four and 20 years of age during his time in Iglulik between 1978 and 1982 has been scheduled for Sept. 25.
Dejaeger, now in his 70s, pleaded guilty to eight charges of 72 and Justice Robert Kilpatrick convicted him on a further 24 sex crimes in a written decision released Feb. 4, 2015. Dejaeger is serving 19 years in prison.
Justice Earl Johnson accorded Cowan more time to prepare for the appeal, due to the loss of some of Dejaeger’s appeal books, now reproduced, and the sheer amount of material they contain, which Cowan described as a banker’s box-full.
The appeal books contain the material from Dejaeger’s 2013-2014 trial, which saw more than 40 complainants testify. Dejaeger filed his prisoner’s appeal March 26, 2015, after which he was denied legal aid by Nunavut’s Legal Services Board in 2016. The Attorney General of Canada is footing the bill after Justice Neil Sharkey found the appeal has merit.
“I was well aware of the background to this file and some of the problems with the appeal books, etc. But I think it’s in the interest of all parties to get this matter on and although it may be pushing things a little bit I think if the appellant could have their factums (statements of fact in the case) filed by Aug. 31st, that will give the court about 25 days,” said Johnson.
“I think we should shoot for the Sept. 25 date, get this matter rolling.”
Cowan also informed the court Dejaeger did not want to be present for the appeal.
Meanwhile, Meeko’s bid to appeal now rests with lawyer Peter Connelly. Meeko appeared in court by video from Millhaven Institution in Ontario.
Meeko is serving more than eight years in federal prison for 27 convictions. He pleaded not guilty to all of them and filed a prisoner’s appeal earlier this summer.
“He is now seeking legal funding from the Legal Services Board. The board has referred his matter to Peter Connelly for an opinion on merits, whether he’s eligible for funding,” said lawyer Will McNair, adding that work should be completed in the next four to six weeks.
“Counsel will likely be assigned thereafter.”
Meeko’s matter is scheduled to return to the court Nov. 14.
Johnson explained the next steps to Meeko via an Inuktitut translator.
“We’ll arrange for the same connection we have today for you to be there if you want to be,” said Johnson.