Fugitive Oblate priest Joannis Rivoire must be extradited, activists say
“Father Rivoire is the reason why Marius died. I truly believe that.”
OTTAWA — As long as fugitive priest Joannes Rivoire, 85, remains at large in France, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate should not be allowed to celebrate their 200th anniversary in peace, a small group of activists declared June 29 in Ottawa.
Inuit leader Piita Irniq, along with human rights activist Lieve Halsberghe and supporter Susie Utatnaaq, a former Baker Lake resident who now lives in Ottawa, gathered in front of the Edifice Deschâtelets, a building in Old Ottawa East that once stood at the centre of Roman Catholic power in eastern Ontario and served as a training school for many Oblate missionaries.
Irniq alleges that Rivoire’s sexual abuse of his lifelong friend Marius Tungilik contributed to the trauma that led to Tungilik’s death in 2012 at age 55.
While standing in front of the Oblate building, Irniq and his supporters displayed photos of Tungilik, including a photo taken of him in Naujaat when he was aged about 14.
“Father Rivoire is the reason why Marius died. I truly believe that. And that is what Marius believed as well and that is why he drank. He could never get over Father Rivoire,” Irniq said.
“What I would like to see is our prime minister work with the French government to get Rivoire back to Canada and face justice, just like Eric Dejaeger,” said Peter Irniq, a survivor of the infamous Sir Joseph Bernier School in Chesterfield Inlet.
In 1997, the RCMP laid three charges against Rivoire in connection with incidents alleged to have occurred in Naujaat and Arviat between 1968 and 1970, police told Nunatsiaq News in 2013.
They also said they issued a Canada-wide arrest warrant for him in December 1998.
But the Oblate order, which this year is celebrating its founding in 1816, has not sent their wanted priest back to Canada to stand trial.
Irniq said that when Tungilik was abused, he worked at the co-op in Naujaat at the same time that Rivoire served there as co-op manager.
Tungilik, a veteran Inuit leader, public servant and CBC radio announcer, was also a survivor of the Oblate-run Sir Joseph Bernier School, where he was sexually abused by Brother Lucien Parent, a notorious pedophile who molested many young Inuit students.
Parent died by suicide in Hull, Que. in 1979.
This means that even after the 2006 residential school settlement agreement and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report, the malignant legacy of the Roman Catholic church in Nunavut persists and the church’s victims still wait for vindication.
Halsberghe, the Belgian activist who in 2010 blew the whistle on fugitive priest Eric Dejaeger, later convicted of 32 sex charges involving Inuit children in Igloolik between 1978 and 1982, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this past April that demands Rivoire’s extradition to Canada.
She said the PMO sent her a reply saying they have passed the matter on to Carolyn Bennett, the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
Halsberghe said Bennett’s office has yet to provide her with a response.
Fay Brunning, an Ottawa lawyer who has represented Indigenous survivors of a brutal Oblate-run residence at Fort Albany, Ont. called St. Anne’s, said it’s suprising that no Canadian attorney general has been willing to extradite Rivoire.
“In terms of the attorney general of Canada [Jody Wilson-Raybould], why would she not want to have that priest extradited and brought back here? And before the Liberals came in last October, why did Peter MacKay [former Conservative attorney general] not want that priest brought back?” she said.
Irniq said Inuit leaders in Canada should also raise the issue.
“I want to get more Inuit leaders to talk about this. I want more Inuit who are influential to talk about this and put pressure on the Canadian government — especially ITK, the Nunavut government, even Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.,” Irniq said.
“This is a very serious issue and nobody can ignore it.”
Irniq said he and Tungilik began talking about Rivoire in 1995, at a conference of residential school survivors that was also attended by Phil Fontaine, the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
The Oblates then sent Rivoire out of the country.
“We started talking about Rivoire, and then shortly after he went to France,” Irniq said.
Meanwhile, the Oblate centre at Edifice Deschâtelets, which trained many missionaries who since the 19th century have taken the church’s message to Inuit and First Nations people across northern Canada, has closed.
The Oblates sold the approximately 26 acres of land around it to a developer for $32 million.
The developer has begun construction of a project called Greystone Village, which will comprise about 900 condominiums, town houses and single family homes.
In 2014, the Ottawa Citizen reported Edifice Deschâtelets will be preserved as a heritage building, and will continue to house some retired Oblates until it is turned into housing, possibly for seniors.