Inuit delegates press Pope for ‘new relationship’ with Catholic church

Delegates discussed the church’s role in residential school; Obed calls for Pope’s help bringing Father Rivoire to justice

ITK president Natan Obed says better data management will help guide decision-making for systemic issues in Inuit Nunangat. (Screenshot courtesy of Salt and Light Media)

By David Lochead

Seven Inuit delegates met with Pope Francis in the Vatican on Monday to discuss the Roman Catholic church’s role in the harm of residential schools towards Inuit and what can be done about it. They also appealed to the Pope to help bring a controversial priest accused of sexually assaulting Inuit youth to justice.

“We want this new relationship … of reconciliation to be based on action and mutually shared ambition,” Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed, one of the delegates, said in a press conference in Rome after the meeting.

The Inuit representatives are part of an Indigenous delegation in Rome this week. The purpose of their trip is to meet with the Pope to seek a formal apology for the church’s role in Canada’s residential school system as well as a commitment from the church to assist in reconciliation. Other groups in the delegation include the Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Obed said one area of action mentioned in the Inuit delegates’ meeting with the Pope was to enlist Francis’ co-operation to bring French priest Rev. Johannes Rivoire to justice. Rivoire worked in Canada’s eastern Arctic in the 1960s and is accused of sexually assaulting Inuit children during that time. He is said to currently reside in France.

Obed said the Pope was asked to speak directly with Rivoire and ask him to return to Canada.

Rivoire was charged in 1997 but those charges were stayed in 2017 when the Public Prosecution Service of Canada did not see a possibility of conviction.

“It’s such a heartbreaking reality that some people who should have been brought to justice decades ago have not seen justice and those who have been abused … have sometimes died before seeing justice,” he added.

Calgary Archbishop William McGrattan said at Monday’s press conference that the Pope heard Inuit delegates’ requests. He did not state the Pope made any commitment but said that the Catholic church should assist those seeking justice and healing from abuse.

“The church needs to take responsibility,” McGrattan said.

Other issues discussed Inuit delegates discussed with the Pope included the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement from 2006, Obed said. He added that of the $25 million in restitution only $3 million has been paid out.

“We would like to see more immediate action,” Obed said.

Obed added the Pope has been invited to Inuit Nunangat to personally deliver an apology for the church’s role in residential schools, as that aligns with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 58th call to action.

Missing from the delegation is the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, known as CAP. In a statement, CAP said it represents off-reserve and non-status Indigenous Peoples in Canada, which includes southern Inuit, and wants to be involved in discussions revolving around reconciliation with the Catholic church. The organization has contacted the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and stated it looks forward to being included in the Pope’s future visit to Canada.

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by I wish on

    I wish Inuit would form a new relationship with their old religion. Sedna seems more real than god. Just think about it, as the rituals to Sena died out all the finger food faded away! o.o

    • Posted by Looking forward not back on

      Why wish that people believe in things that aren’t real?

      • Posted by Northerner on

        Like George carlin said I dont belive in imaginary freinds .

  2. Posted by T Rauhala on

    Is the Catholic Church lead by such a poorly calibrated moral compass that it needs to be coaxed and reminded of its obligations to its own victims?

    Does this organization not pretend to represent and speak for a ‘god’ who is an all-knowing and just arbiter of what counts for good and evil in the world?

    Yet for decades the church, in full knowledge of the crimes committed under its aegis, has chosen to conceal, ignore and ‘wait out’ the political and emotional fall out of its dark iniquities in the Arctic, in North American, and across the globe.

    In Matthew 7:16-20 their own holy book tells us that

    “ Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

    So, why put on this masquerade of respect for the Pope? Why approach him with palms out in supplication, begging for an apology?

    Has this organization not used its god to shield itself from accountability and consequence, commanding from us while it does fits of reverence and awe it has not earned and does not deserve?

    It’s time we cut through the kaleidoscope of illusions the Church has used to prevent us from thinking and speaking clearly about what it truly represents. Like any institution its interests are in self-preservation, in its survival in perpetuity. Morality, right and wrong are tools to this end; used cynically, and with utility, until they become inconvenient, or worse, until they shake its entire foundation.

  3. Posted by Save the Cash on

    This trip easily cost ITK and Canadian tax payers who fund it a few hundred grand.

    • Posted by Tax payer on

      Natan , like Justin can resist a good photo op

  4. Posted by J C on

    Maybe it’s time for the pope to send all his bishops and priests to Europe, where they can continue spreading their messages about virgin birth, life after death, original sin and tax avoidance.
    The rest of us have realized it’s all nonsense.


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