Marius Tungilik, now deceased, and Steve Mapsalak are two alleged victims of ex-priest Johannes Rivoire. (Archives)
An Inuit delegation led by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) will travel to France from September 12-15 to lobby the French government to extradite former Oblate priest Johannes Rivoire, accused of alleged sexual assaults in the 1960s and 1970s in Nunavut.
NTI president Aluki Kotierk is part of the six-person delegation, who hope to meet ex-priest Rivoire.
His office sent several letters to the leader of the Oblates, as well as to President Emmanuel Macron, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice of France.
“Johannes Rivoire is a wanted fugitive in Canada who must be brought to justice.
— Aluki Kotierk, President, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Aluki Kotierk says the Church and its priests are not above the law, and hopes that ex-priest Rivoire will be brought to justice in Canada.
NTI has retained the services of a French immigration and asylum lawyer, Nadia Debbache, who has handled similar cases before. Nadia Debbache is also a member of the organization Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA), which defends the rights of children and victims of clergy throughout the world.
The lawyer explains that a decision on the extradition of the ex-priest is expected from the French Minister of Justice, Éric Dupond-Moretti, and that pressure from the French public could help the cause.
We don't have much time, because Mr. Rivoire is very old, explains Nadia Debbache.
Steve Mapsalak, a former territorial deputy, will be part of the delegation. When he was 6 years old, he had to leave his community of Naujaat to go to the Sir Joseph Bernier Federal Indian Day School in Chesterfield Inlet. It was during his time at the day school, in the 1960s, that the ex-priest Rivoire allegedly committed sexual violence against him.
Steve Mapsalak finds it difficult to put words to what he has been through, the memories are so painful.
“It's embarrassing. It's difficult. To think that [the priests] took me away from my family. They were the ones who told us what was good and what was bad.
—Steve Mapsalak, Delegation Member
The two children of a former alleged victim now deceased, Marius Tungilik, will also be part of the trip. Tanya Tungilik already knows what she will say to the former priest if she meets him.
I want to tell him that he destroyed my father's life, and our lives too. I want Johannes Rivoire brought to justice, brought to Canada, says Rankin Inlet resident.
The father of Tanya Tungilik, who would have been a victim of the ex-Oblate Johannes Rivoire, would have liked to put him face to face with his responsibilities, but he died before having had the opportunity. Tanya Tungilik will be part of the Inuit delegation that will travel to France.
A first arrest warrant against the ex-priest was issued in 1998, but the latter had already left Canada for France in 1993.
According to the extradition treaty between Canada and France, the two countries are not obliged to extradite their nationals, and Johannes Rivoire is not legally required to return to Canada to face justice.
Johannes Rivoire arrived in Nunavut in the 1960s and returned to France in 1993.
In 2017, the Prosecution Service Criminal Courts of Canada stayed the charges, ruling that there was no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction against the former Catholic priest.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Nuvavut brought a new charge last spring against Johannes Rivoire for the alleged sexual assault of an Inuk woman when she was 6 years old in the 1970s.
En July, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada made an extradition request for the former Oblate.
During an interview with the APTN network, in July 2022, Johannes Rivoire denied having committed sexual assaults on Inuit children. The ex-priest is now 92 years old and lives in Lyon, France.
With information from Juanita Taylor