‘I will protest outside his residence’: Inuit to seek priest’s extradition
Rev. Johannes Rivoire refuses to meet with delegation headed to France next week
A Roman Catholic priest who was accused of sexually abusing Inuit children during his time in Nunavut has refused to meet with a delegation of Inuit heading to France next week to demand his extradition, according to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Aluki Kotierk.
Rev. Johannes Rivoire, 91, spent more than 30 years as a parish priest, mostly in Arviat and Naujaat, between 1960 and 1992. He was accused of sexually abusing children during that time, some as young as six years old.
In 1998, the RCMP laid three charges against Rivoire for one count of indecent assault against three boys and one count of sexual assault against a girl in Naujaat, between 1968 and 1970. Those charges were stayed in 2017 when prosecutors concluded there was no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction.
In February of this year, police charged him again, this time with a sole count of committing indecent assault against a girl in Arviat and Whale Cove between 1974 and 1979.
In July, officials with Canada’s Department of Justice asked France to extradite Rivoire so he could face justice here.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Kotierk said NTI asked to meet with Rivoire through a letter to Rev. Vincent Gruber, who leads France’s Oblates, a Catholic order that has long been associated with education.
Kotierk said Rivoire’s lawyer answered the letter on Aug. 29 to say the priest would not meet with the delegation when they go to Lyon, France, on Sept. 14 and 15.
“Why has Rivoire refused to speak with his victims even after inviting them?” Kotierk said.
Rivoire has given comments to media this year, implying he’d meet with any of his alleged victims.
“If they want to talk to me, they have to come. I’m 92 years old, I have a lot of [health] problems. I haven’t left my room for more than six months except to eat. If anybody wants to see me …let them come see me,” Rivoire told Le Progrès in a French interview published in May.
Kotierk said despite Rivoire’s refusal to meet, it’s critical to raise awareness with the French public about Rivoire’s extradition before both he and the victims of his alleged abuse get too old.
“I think that by bringing public pressure [it] will get us to the point where we can have [the] extradition of Johannes Rivoire before it’s too late,” she said.
Kotierk added she has been told that some of the Oblates are still encouraging Rivoire to meet with the Inuit delegation, and she is optimistic that meeting will happen.
While in France, the delegation will meet with Gruber and with Antoine Garapon, president of the Independent Commission on Recognition and Reparation, which investigated sexual crimes committed within the Catholic Church in France.
The delegation includes one man who says he was abused by Rivoire and two children of a man who also said he was a victim, but has since died.
The daughter of one of the victims said awareness alone is not enough.
“He needs either to face justice or I need to say what I want to say to him. It would be preferable if I could see him face to face. If not, I will protest outside his residence,” the deceased man’s daughter said.
Nunatsiaq News is not naming the woman because it’s not clear if a court-ordered publication ban on identifying her father is in effect.
“My father died before he saw any justice. So it’s up to my brother and I to continue what he started.”
Today, Rivoire lives in a public retirement home called Saint-François d’Assise, in the centre of Lyon.
In an interview with APTN National News in July, Rivoire denied all allegations that he sexually abused Inuit children.
Kotierk said NTI has also asked to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and other French officials in Paris on Sept. 13.
“I strongly believe that the French public will support Rivoire’s extradition to Canada to face these charges,” she said.