Inuit leader to ask Pope Francis to personally intervene in case of priest accused of sex assault
The leader of the Inuit delegation privately meeting with Pope Francis on Monday is demanding the pontiff personally intervene in the case of an Oblate priest accused of sexually assaulting children in Nunavut.
Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), told CBC News he intends to name Father Johannes Rivoire in his discussion with the Pope. Rivoire was never tried for charges in Canada because he returned to France, which does not extradite French nationals.
“We would like for the Catholic Church to coerce or demand that Father Rivoire be extradited to Canada or that he go to Canada on his own volition,” Obed said.
“We would like to see those victims have semblance of justice and the families of the deceased victims also see some level of accountability.”
Of all the requests that Obed plans to make during the meeting — including seeking a papal apology for residential schools, calling on the church to pay reparations to survivors and disclosing all residential school documents — he said this one may have the most impact.
Obed said he believes Pope Francis can play a personal role in bringing justice.
“If he would take the time to tell Father Rivoire to go to Canada then perhaps that would be successful in a way that no other body could,” Obed said.
“He has a unique place at this point in time to help Inuit and I hope that he chooses to do so.”
‘A cost of inaction’
Rivoire spent time in several Nunavut communities starting in the 1960s, but returned to France in 1993. RCMP issued a warrant for Rivoire’s arrest in 1998.
In a 2017 assessment, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada found “there was no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction regarding the charges,” and “continuing the prosecution was no longer in the public interest.”
Rivoire’s arrest warrant was cancelled in 2018 following the decision to stay the charges. The fact that France does not extradite its citizens appears to have been a key factor in the decision.
Last year, Justice Minister David Lametti said he can’t resurrect the stayed charges, but said “there is always the possibility that further evidence might be brought forward by other complainants or other witnesses.”
Obed said he’s spoken to Lametti’s office, which he said has pledged to support any possible way for Rivoire to be tried.
“There is a cost of inaction,” Obed said.