8 weeks later: Steve Mapsalak reflects on facing alleged abuser

Mapsalak said he still wants Rivoire extradited, and that their meeting wasn’t enough

Steve Mapsalak stands outside in his home community of Naujaat on an early fall morning. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After crossing an ocean to face the priest he says abused him, Steve Mapsalak has a message for other Inuit with similar experiences: Speak up.

“Knowing there’s victims out there that are not saying anything — I wish that they could come forward … and not to be embarrassed in coming forward and speaking about what that person did,” he said.

Mapsalak travelled to France in September as part of a delegation led by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. in an effort to demand the extradition of Rev. Johannes Rivoire to face an indecent assault charge.

Rivoire worked in Arviat and Naujaat as a parish priest for the Roman Catholic Church between 1960 and 1992. He has been accused of sexually abusing children during that time. He left Canada in 1993 to live in France.

RCMP charged Rivoire in February, about five years after several previous sex-abuse related charges that stem from 1998 had been stayed. Mapsalak’s accusations, along with those from three others, resulted in those initial charges.

Upon returning to his Naujaat home on Sept. 18, Mapsalak spoke on the radio, had a visit with family, and met with a counsellor.

“I feel a lot better — like a lot of relief inside of me — with a lot of help, of course, with counselling,” he said in an interview.

“But it wasn’t over.”

In July, the federal Justice Department confirmed it had asked France to send Rivoire back to Canada to face the charge against him. That request has since been denied.

For Mapsalak, returning home from his trip to France has been a welcome experience. He said he and his brother, who also alleges he was abused by Rivoire, had the chance to talk about how it felt to speak to Rivoire, face to face.

Rivoire denied the allegations, according to Mapsalak.

“The answer that he gave was totally not agreeable to me,” he said. “So as soon as he answered, I left the room.”

Rivoire’s lawyer, Thierry Dumoulin, told Nunatsiaq News that Rivoire denies all allegations of sexual abuse made against him.

“The accusations are completely unfounded. He contests them,” Dumoulin said in French in an interview in late October.

Rivoire is also currently in the process of being removed from the Oblates. That process has not finished, said Dumoulin, and Rivoire contests the move.

“He did nothing to deserve … that he be expelled from the order that he loyally and faithfully served for his entire life,” Dumoulin said, adding that if necessary, he will represent Rivoire at proceedings in Rome.

Mapsalak said he still wants Rivoire to be tried in a Canadian court, and he’s in communication with French lawyer, Nadia Debbache, who is trying to get French officials to prosecute the Oblate order for protecting Rivoire.

He added that he feels that the alleged abuse he and other Inuit experienced isn’t about the religion. It’s about the person.

“I still feel that way because … I’m still Catholic.”

— With files from Emma Tranter

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by Who do we support? on

    I applaud Mr. Mapsalak for having the strength to be a voice for victims in such a public way. However, as was shown in Nunatsiaq’s article earlier this week concerning sexual assault charges against Ilisaqsivik’s director: those in power will have the bigger voice. Not only did they offer no support for the alleged victim, they publicly shamed and discredited them in favour of the man in charge.

    I hope more Inuit have the courage to come forward like Mr. Mapsalak, maybe then those in leadership positions won’t feel so entitled to abuse and support alleged abusers.

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    • Posted by Who will support ? (CAMBRIDGE BAY ) on

      I agree with you and applaud your comments about Steve, good courage man !
      I don’t think the French will do anything about this, as long as our own leaders are not
      doing anything about our own problems in Nunavut, and are just joy riding around.
      Mr Mapsalak is showing a great example to our leaders and to all of Nunavut.

      • Posted by S on

        Perhaps Mr Mapsalak will use his life experiences to find courage to address the ongoing abuse and corruption in Naujaat and every other Nunavut community

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        • Posted by More secrets on

          Yes i agree about the coruption,,,,what is not fair is white people run out of town because they expose coruption.
          Sanikiluaq is another prime example,,,,the few bad characters will ruin the earth to keep the coruption going
          That includes doing anything possible to make a white persons job extra hard,,so they finally leave. If that includes polution or making bad landfill decisions so the enviroment suffers,,,but the white guy gives up and leaves,,,mission accomplished,,,,

  2. Posted by Tulugaq on

    Rivoire says that nothing happened so he should be willing to face his accusers before a court of law in Canada. That’s the only way the air can be cleared between the allegations against him and his denials. Refusing to face his accusers here, in Canada, is most certainly an indication that he’s not telling the truth. God should guide him to do the right thing…

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    • Posted by Nietzsche on

      How many times will these kinds of pleas to god be met with silence before people begin to realize no one is listening, because no one is there?

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