Canadian justice officials have again made an official request to have a retired priest to be extradited from his home in France to stand trial for sexually abusing Inuit children while working in northern Canada from the 1960s to 1993.
None of the allegations of abuse against Johannes Rivoire, now 93, have ever been proven in court. Three charges brought by the Canadian justice ministry in 1998 were dropped in 2017, when it determined that an agreement between the two countries that makes it possible to refuse to extradite their citizens meant there was little chance of Mr Rivoire, who holds citizenship in both countries, being sent to Canada to stand trial.
Last week’s request comes after Canadian officials brought additional charges against Mr Rivoire in February for the alleged abuse of a girl in the hamlets of Arviat and Whale Cove between 1974 and 1979. The request was confirmed by David Lametti, the justice minister, last week during the visit of Pope Francis to Canada to apologise for the abuse of indigenous children at church-run schools it operated on behalf of federal authorities as part of a programme of isolating pupils from the influence of their own native culture and religion in order to assimilate them into Canadian culture.
This extradition request is also likely to fail, but Inuit in Canada are hoping that the attention Pope Francis’ visit has cast on church abuses of Canada’s indigenous groups will convince the Vatican to pressure Mr Rivoire to travel to Canada voluntarily to stand trial.
In March, Natan Obed (pictured above), the head of ITK, an Inuit interest group, made just that request when meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican to discuss Church abuses of Canada’s indigenous groups. According to Reuters, a news outlet, a similar request was made last week by an acquaintance of a now-deceased man who said he was abused by Mr Rivoire.
According to Inuit representatives taking part in the March visit, the church promised to help make sure that Mr Rivoire faced the charges against him. No further details about how it would help have been presented, and a Vatican spokesperson told Reuters that the church needed to obtain more information about Mr Rivoire before responding to questions about why.
Mr Rivoire maintains his innocence, and, from the retirement home in Lyon where he lives, he has told French news outlets on several occasions that, while he feels he is too frail to travel to Canada, he is willing to speak with his accusers in France.
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Mr Rivoire’s former religious order, has encouraged him to return to Canada to face the allegations against him, and says it is committed to co-operating with the Canadian investigation and to supporting the victims of church abuses.
“We continue to advocate amongst peers and superiors in the church to ensure leadership in France and the Vatican understand the impact that Rivoire continues to have on Canada’s Inuit Peoples,” the order said in a statement.
Kevin McGwin, PolarJournal
Featured image: Library and Archives Canada
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