By François Gloutnay | Catholic News Service
MONTREAL (CNS) — The French Ministry of Justice announced that France will not extradite Oblate Father Joannès Rivoire to Canada.
However, the priest’s congregation, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, said it was moving to expel the former missionary accused of sexual assault against children in parishes he directed in northern Canada in the 1960s to early 1990s. Father Rivoire, now 92, left Canada in 1993 and now lives in France.
On Sept. 14, during a meeting with a delegation of six Inuit from Canada, Father Rivoire denied the accusations made against him.
Shortly before this meeting, the members of the Nunavut delegation, including an alleged victim of Father Rivoire and the two children of another victim, Marius Tungilik, now deceased, spoke with Father Vincent Gruber, superior of the Oblates in France.
Father Gruber confirmed in a statement that his congregation’s authorities are “determined to continue their efforts to convince Joannès Rivoire to appear before the Canadian justice system,” but he refused to listen to them.
The Oblates then revealed that “proceedings for dismissal (from the congregation) have been initiated” against the former missionary, who was in charge of three parishes — in Igloolik, Naujaat and Arviat — in the Churchill-Hudson Bay Diocese between 1960 and 1992.
“This process of justice is important for the alleged victims, for the Inuit people, for the Oblates and for the church,” the Oblate superior said.
Father Gruber hopes “that a memorial commission will be set up to account for past silences.”
On Sept. 13, Dominican Sister Véronique Margron, president of the Conference of Religious of France, also met with the Inuit delegation.
In a phone interview with Presence info, she proposed that an inquiry commission be formed to “get to the truth” about the “30 years that have passed” since Father Rivoire’s hasty departure from Canada.
By examining the archives of the Oblates of Canada and of France, as well as those of the Diocese of Churchill-Hudson Bay, a team of historians could finally shed light on a series of questions that have remained unanswered for three decades, she said.
“Why did Father Rivoire return to Europe? What did the Oblates in Canada, Rome and France know at the time? What was the role of the successive bishops of the Churchill-Hudson Bay Diocese? And why do we find ourselves, 30 years later, still dealing with this matter?” she asked.
She said she had a “meeting of great dignity” with the members of the delegation, but also witnessed “lives full of pain, haunted by crimes.” She said she was still moved and shaken by the testimonies heard during the two-hour meeting.
“I was not there to defend anything,” she warned, “but to be, first and foremost, vulnerable to the tragedy they have experienced, to the abyss of questions they are asking and to the very legitimate anger that is theirs.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged that he discussed the “Rivoire affair” with Pope Francis in a private meeting held during the pope’s visit to Canada in July.
The prime minister asked that the Vatican “make available the documents on residential schools, address the Doctrine of Discovery” and ensure justice for survivors, including in the Father Rivoire case.
In July, the day before Pope Francis arrived in Nunavut, the government of Canada confirmed that a formal extradition request had been filed against Father Rivoire with the French authorities.