NTI presses Ottawa to take action against former Nunavut priest

‘Nunavut Inuit consider this lack of any response by the Government of Canada to be profoundly disrespectful,’ says NTI president Aluki Kotierk

NTI president Aluki Kotierk speaks at a 2020 meeting in Iqaluit. In a letter to federal Justice Minister David Lametti, Kotierk asks the minister to take action on the file of Rev. Johannes Rivoire, a French Roman Catholic priest alleged to have abused Inuit children while working in Nunavut in the 1960s. (File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

Father Joannes Rivoire, now in his early 90s and living in France, in an early, undated photo taken in Chesterfield Inlet. (Photo courtesy of Lieve Halsberghe)

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. says it’s looking at ways to help Inuit victims revive charges of abuse against a former Nunavut priest.

NTI president Aluki Kotierk penned a letter to federal Justice Minister David Lametti earlier this month, asking the minister to take action on the file of Rev. Johannes Rivoire, a French Roman Catholic priest who worked in Nunavut in the 1960s.

Rivoire was once accused of sexually assaulting Inuit children, but the charges against him were stayed four years ago.

With the recent locating of burial grounds on the sites of former residential schools across the country, there have been calls to bring the churches and religious leaders who ran the schools to justice.

“For many years Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and Inuit of Nunavut have been waiting for Canada to take action and speak with us about how Canada intends to address the horrific legacy of abuse of Inuit children … by Johannes Rivoire, an Oblate priest, at the Sir Joseph Bernier School (Turquetil Hall) in Chesterfield Inlet,” Kotierk wrote in the July 7 letter to Minister Lametti, obtained by Nunatsiaq News.

“Canada’s continued disrespect for Inuit who have been trying for decades to seek justice in this matter must stop.”

The letter was sent to the minister a day before the NDP, led by Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, made its own call for the government to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate crimes that were committed against Indigenous people at residential schools, and their alleged perpetrators.

Kotierk suggested that Ottawa could revive the charges against Rivoire through new evidence, available through previous testimony given by people who have since died, as well as testimony from living victims of his alleged abuse.

“NTI is itself considering legal options to assist other victims to ensure that their evidence is properly considered, if they are willing to pursue charges,” she wrote in the letter.

The charges against Rivoire were stayed in 2017, when the Public Prosecution Service of Canada found “there was no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction” against Rivoire.

Kotierk also pressed Canada to push for the extradition of Rivoire from France, where the 90-year-old retired priest is said to be living.

If France refuses to extradite Rivoire, Canada should move to have him prosecuted there, she said.

There is an urgency to act, Kotierk said, as many of Rivoire’s victims are aging or have already died.

This is not the first time NTI has approached the federal Justice Department to move on Rivoire’s file.

Kotierk wrote a letter in March 2017 to then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould asking the Libreral government to execute the 2014 arrest warrant for Rivoire.

In July 2019, Kotierk wrote to the Justice Department again to ask why charges against Rivoire were stayed.

Kotierk said the department did not respond to either letters.

She said both Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq and his predecessor, former premier Paul Quassa, also wrote to the federal government asking for action on Rivoire’s alleged abuses and did not hear back.

“I cannot emphasize strongly enough how deeply Nunavut Inuit consider this lack of any response by the Government of Canada to be profoundly disrespectful,” Kotierk wrote.

“The lack of acknowledgement of that correspondence meant to address these concerns about the historic horrific abuse of Nunavummiut is inappropriate and contrary to the principles of reconciliation.”

Neither NTI nor the Justice Department responded to Nunatsiaq News’ requests for comment.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Johanne Coutu-Autut on

    Good luck on that the Government does not care.

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  2. Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

    Not going to happen, as Canada have no respect for us Inuit. Right from the start we have been treated so badly, right up to this day,

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  3. Posted by Plenty of other abusers to go after on

    If you can’t prosecute Rivoire due to extradition laws, why not go after a present-day Nunavut sexual abuser instead? It’s not like there aren’t any of those and that nobody knows who they are. Going after a present-day criminal might actually deter others, too.

    Most problems from the past can’t be fixed. There are a ton of ongoing problems in the communities in the present day that you can actually do something about, if you are serious about ending the sexual abuse of children. The kids would really appreciate it if you did.

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    • Posted by Oh Ima on

      You’re missing the point about the predator that prayed on Inuit children and he was charged. You can’t just go around accusing people, a victim has to lay charges not someone who said I know he or she is an abuser.

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  4. Posted by My my my on

    NTI, always there to pen a letter or scream at government but never one to put a penny down or do anything of substance. Aluki, why don’t you take a small piece of the over 1 BILLION sitting in your coffers and do one of several things. Sue the Church/priest in civil court where extradition does not matter, initiate a citizen prosecution, or pay for programming and counselling of victims. How about NTI do something with its vast treasury of money besides build a few wealthy Inuit mansions in Iqaluit? So tired of the token virtue signalling and no action by this organization and the Have-Inuit who run it.

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  5. Posted by Bangers and Mash on

    Aluki Kotierk complains about the Canadian Government ignoring and having no respect
    for the Inuit people ?
    NTI and ITK have been ignoring us Inuit people for years and they are only in it for what
    they can get for themselves !
    Why are they not helping their own communities, where there are many problems off
    all kinds.
    Our fault, time we got rid of them.

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    • Posted by laughing stock on

      Any or All Inuit Organizations do not want to bite the hands that feed them.
      Most if not all Inuit Organizations such as ICC and Pauktautiit are also clueless on this matter or any other traumatic issue the Inuit are facing and dealing with today.
      They all wanted to help the Inuit but since their pockets and bank accounts are over filling, they don’t give to F’s about us.
      They are crooked and in it for the money.

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  6. Posted by Iqaqtuijiit on

    Watch The Devil Next Door on Netflix. Some Nazi criminals have gotten away with crimes.
    I hope our birthright organizations continue to fight to put this man who committed awful crimes against children to be put to trial!
    Why let Priests who’ve done horrific acts are walking free?
    For those who are expecting royal hand outs and complaining about our birthright organizations not doing enough, why don’t you guys get it yourselves and create programs, there’s millions of dollars of funding out there from our birthright organizations that are given back to the federal government, take advantage of that or perhaps come up with solutions how the money can be spent.

  7. Posted by Uvanga on

    Why not address this the inuit way. Get support from NTI to travel to france and confront this abuser in france with all the victims there. The old man will die soon so it would be better for the victims to have their closer rather than waiting for federal support. In my opinion my compensations dollars didn’t address my issue but if i recieved sincere apology it may have assisted my recovery . To be honest i felt really dirty taking e the common experience payment but i took it due to huge bills i had at the time. It didn’t help with enhancing programs that we desperately need

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