Neither the Oblates order in Canada nor the Roman Catholic Church were aware Rev. Johannes Rivoire faced sexual abuse allegations when he left Canada in 1993, according to an independent review of the church’s actions at the time. (File photo)

Church unaware of allegations against Rivoire, independent Oblate review says

Safeguarding commission concludes Rev. Johannes Rivoire sexually abused 5 Inuit children, should be kicked out of order

By Jorge Antunes
and Corey Larocque

Evidence gathered by a retired Quebec judge “overwhelmingly demonstrates” Rev. Johannes Rivoire sexually assaulted five Inuit children in what’s now Nunavut between 1968 and 1979.

André Denis spent 10 months leading the Oblate Safeguarding Commission. It was created by the religious order to investigate allegations against Rivoire and a coverup by the church and possibly the RCMP.

“My conclusion is that Johannes Rivoire was guilty of sexual abuse of Inuit children. I can affirm that the Oblates in France did everything in their power to convince him to return to Canada and answer for his actions. To no avail,” Denis wrote in the commission’s report released Tuesday.

The Oblates of Canada asked Denis to provide an “independent perspective” on Rivoire’s 1993 departure from Canada to France. The cleric left just as Canadian police began hearing allegations that he had abused four children in Naujaat between 1968 and 1970, and one in Arviat and Whale Cove between 1974 and 1979. France does not extradite its own citizens.

Retired Quebec judge André Denis spent 10 months preparing an independent review of allegations of sexual abuse of Inuit children by Rev. Johannes Rivoire. His report concluded the Oblate order was not aware of criminal allegations against Rivoire in Canada until years after the priest returned to France. (Photo courtesy of André Denis)

The Oblates said they wanted the report to understand how the allegations against Rivoire were addressed within the congregation. 

The report will be used to inform future decisions and policies, said Rev. Ken Thorson, the head of OMI Lacombe Canada, the Oblate order in Canada.

“The first thing that I want to do is to assure the members of the Inuit community, and in particular, people who have been hurt by Johannes Rivoire, assure them … I am committed to assisting in whatever way might be appropriate and acceptable to … support the ongoing process towards healing,” Thorson said.

Denis said his report is not a substitute for a criminal trial and that his findings were based on a “preponderance of evidence,” not beyond a reasonable doubt.

Denis’ 57-page report concludes that neither the Oblate order nor the Catholic Church was aware of the suspicions “hanging over Rivoire” in 1993 when he said he needed to return to France to look after his ailing parents.

Rivoire “did not tell the whole truth” about his reason for leaving Canada, Denis said.

The RCMP’s six-year gap between the time they first heard allegations against Rivoire in 1993 and the laying of charges in 1998 fuelled Inuit complaints about a “lack of consideration” by police.

Canadian officials stayed charges against Rivoire in 2017. The RCMP laid a new sexual abuse charge against Rivoire in March 2022.

The 92-year-old priest has never returned to Canada to face any of the charges. Allegations against him have never been tested in court.

In November 2022, a lawyer acting for Rivoire told Nunatsiaq News that Rivoire denies all allegations of sexual abuse made against him.

“The accusations are completely unfounded. He contests them,” lawyer Thierry Dumoulin said in French then.

Rivoire also denied the allegations in a 2023 interview with Denis for the report.

Denis also got a sense of Rivoire’s side from archived records of a 2013 conversation the priest purportedly had with Rev. Yves Chalvet de Recy, who was assigned to hear Rivoire’s version of events, after the Oblates learned of the allegations.

According to Denis, Rivoire told Chalvet, “I’m not innocent … and there are various degrees of touching that I’m accused of having done on Eskimos.”

Rivoire should be kicked out of the Oblate order, Denis concluded, over his refusal to follow the order’s direction to voluntarily stand trial in Canada.

Removing Rivoire from the Oblate order would be a “balm for the victims’ wounds,” Denis said. But it would be “largely symbolic” at this point because Oblate leaders in France have said they won’t “throw [him] out into the street,” he added.

“It’s symbolic, maybe, but it’s very important. It’s important for the witnesses for the victims,” Denis said Tuesday.

Realistically, Rivoire will never return to Canada to face justice, Denis said.

The Oblates submitted the report to the Superior General of the order in Rome.

In 2022, the order asked to have Rivoire removed by the order, which was rejected in February.

“We have recommended his dismissal from the congregation. With this new information … they’ll have to reconsider or they’ll have to have to look again at the request,” Thorson said.

“What hasn’t changed is Rivoire’s age or infirmity,” Thorson said, citing the reason for the order’s most recent decision not to remove him from the Oblates.

“My personal hope would be that they reconsider that,” Thorson said.

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by Joanasie on

    It’s hard to belief that the country of France would safe guard a person accused of such horrible crimes. Did they forget that many Canadians lost their lives to liberate their country from Nazi Germany during WW2? How can they just sit there and protect “one of their own”? In many ways the French Government are as guilty as committing these crimes for not allowing Rivorie extradition to Canada.

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    • Posted by Observer on

      France has long refused to extradite its citizens for anything to anywhere, and it’s not just simply a matter of politicians refusing to. Under French law, France cannot extradite its citizens. And to be fair, that’s also the case in Germany, Greece, Poland, Austria, Portugal, Chile, Lebanon, and a few other countries.

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  2. Posted by Get the info out on

    Get that information out to the right people at the federal government level, in both Canada and France.
    Obviously this information is not reaching the right people.

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  3. Posted by C’est Bon on

    QIA packing their bags for another Dog the Bounty Hunter trip to France.

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    • Posted by Nothing But The Facts on

      Get your facts straight, it was NTI that organized the trip to France in September of 2022, not QIA.

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  4. Posted by eskimo joe on

    Vatican is blind to many things what their faith and fallowers do…..

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  5. Posted by S on

    It’s is critical that we openly assess all statements made by the press, those with a vested interest in a matter, and onlookers.

    Does the “evidence” include hard evidence such as photos or DNA? Or is it strictly testimony?

    There are many concepts that are spoken as truth, which are true. There are many more which are spoken as truth, which aren’t. For example, studies show that someone who was abused as a child is hardly more likely to abuse their own children than someone who wasn’t abused as a child. Further, most maltreated children do not become abusive parents.

    That makes complete sense; otherwise over just a few generations, everyone would be abused and an abuser. Which isn’t the case at all. Spreading myths to the contrary is an act of abuse and undermines those who were abused as children.

    Trying to solve a problem, while attributing the wrong cause, will create new problems and bring us further away from solving the existing problem.

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