France cannot extradite Oblate Father Johannes Rivoire, accused in Nunavut

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — The federal government said Wednesday that France has denied the extradition request of an Oblate father accused in Canada of molesting children in Nunavut.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada had asked the French authorities for the extradition of Johannes Rivoire, who now lives in Lyon. Now 90, Rivoire had been an Oblate Father in Canada from the early 1960s until 1993.

While Canada and France share an extradition treaty, French authorities explained that the request was denied because France, under French law, did not have the right to extradite its own citizens. However, France has determined that Rivoire was a French citizen at the time of the alleged facts, indicates a press release from the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (SPPC).

Paris also added that, according to French law, too much time had elapsed between the events and the filing of the charges. French authorities will therefore not be able to prosecute Rivoire in France, the SPPC statement said.

Rivoire is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, issued in February, on a charge of indecent assault on a child, stemming from a complaint filed last year. The assault allegedly occurred between 1974 and 1979. He had previously avoided trial for multiple allegations of sexual assault committed while serving as a priest in Nunavut.

An arrest warrant was also issued for him in 1998. He faced at least three sexual assault charges in the Inuit communities of Arviat, Rankin Inlet and Naujaat, Nunavut.

Twenty years later, the charges were suspended by the Public Prosecution Service, in particular because of France’s reluctance to extradite Rivoire.

Rivoire has always claimed his innocence and no allegation has been proven in court.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said in a Twitter post on Wednesday that he was « sorry to see this serious injustice happening again. » He indicated that the federal government was working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) “so that Interpol disseminates a wanted notice that could lead to the arrest of Johannes Rivoire in another country”. Minister Miller adds that “a prosecution in Canada is therefore always possible if Johannes Rivoire leaves France”.

The PPSC, meanwhile, has already determined that there is “still a reasonable prospect of conviction and that this prosecution would be in the public interest.”

“A short-sighted decision”

« This news is deeply disturbing, » said Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunnagavik, which earlier this year organized a delegation to visit France to seek Rivoire’s extradition. “It is difficult to understand why France continues to harbor a fugitive and refuses to have one of its citizens brought to justice for crimes committed against children in Canada.”

Ms. Kotierk said on Wednesday that France had taken a short-sighted decision. She especially thinks of the survivors and their families “who have endured the suffering for too long”.

The 10-member delegation led by his organization had met with representatives of the French authorities and the Oblates. They even met with Rivoire to try to persuade him to return with them to Canada – they had reserved an extra seat for him on their flight home.

Ms. Kotierk said the delegation tried to explain to French justice officials why so much time had passed in Canada between the events and the filing of the charges. In some cases, she said, survivors reported crimes to police multiple times, but no action was subsequently taken. In other cases, there was no RCMP detachment in the community at the time the alleged crimes were committed.

Tanya Tungilik was part of this delegation. His late father alleged that he was sexually assaulted by Rivoire in Naujaat when he was 13 years old. Ms Tungilik had described meeting Rivoire as coming face to face with “the monster”.

Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, also met with Oblate leaders in Rome earlier this year. He spoke of the Church’s responsibility to ensure that Rivoire is tried in Canada. Mr. Obed had earlier asked Pope Francis, at a meeting at the Vatican, to personally intervene in the matter.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate later maintained that they had urged Rivoire to face the charges against him in Canada and that they had written to the French and Canadian governments. The religious congregation also said it had initiated impeachment proceedings against Father Rivoire.

Father Ken Thorson, Provincial of OMI Lacombe Province, acknowledged by email that the congregation was “deeply saddened” to know that Father Rivoire would not be extradited.

Impeachment proceedings against him began in September and are expected to take about three months.

“Although he cannot be forced to participate in the legal process in Canada, the Province has initiated disciplinary proceedings for disobeying a direct order, that is, the refusal to face justice in Canada” , he wrote.

(function(d, s, id){ var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) {return;} js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = ""; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));


Back to top button