Nunavut Inuit headed to France to seek extradition of former Oblate priest

Tanya Tungilik says she wants to meet face to face with the former French Oblate priest her late father alleged sexually abused him as a child.

MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, who is not part of an upcoming delegation to France, holds a photo of Fr. Johannes Rivoire during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Thursday, July 8, 2021. The former priest has long been accused of abusing children in Nunavut.

By Emily Blake

Tanya Tungilik says she wants to meet face to face with the former French Oblate priest her late father alleged sexually abused him as a child.

Tanya Tungilik says she wants to meet face to face with the former French Oblate priest her late father alleged sexually abused him as a child.

She is to join a delegation of Inuit planning to travel from Nunavut to Paris and Lyon, France, next week to seek the extradition of Father Johannes Rivoire to Canada. The trip, led by Nunavut Tunnagavik Inc., a group representing Nunavut Inuit, is to also include Tungilik’s brother, Jesse Tungilik, and Steve Mapsalak, who has also accused Rivoire of abuse.

Tungilik says her father, Marius Tungilik, who died in 2012, alleged he was sexually abused by Rivoire when he was 13 years old while working at the Co-op store in Naujaat, Nvt. Those accusations have never been heard in court.

“I want to see Rivoire himself in Lyon and tell him what he did to my dad and to our family,” Tungilik said. “I want him to know how it affected us and that my dad died because of him from all the trauma he had gone through.”

Marius Tungilik had said he was also sexually abused as a child by an Oblate brother at Sir Joseph Bernier Federal Day School and its student residence Turquetil Hall in Chesterfield Inlet, Nvt. His disclosure played a role in prompting an apology from Roman Catholic Bishop Renald Rouleau in 1996, which he helped to write.

Tanya Tungilik shared her family’s story with Pope Francis when he visited Iqaluit earlier this summer, when he apologized for the role the Roman Catholic Church played in the residential school system.

Rivoire, who is now 91 years old and lives in Lyon, has long been accused of sexually abusing Inuit children when he was an Oblate priest in Nunavut from the 1960s until 1993, when he returned to France.

A Canadian warrant was issued for his arrest in 1998 but four criminal charges were stayed in 2017.

Following a new complaint to the Nunavut RCMP in 2021, Rivoire was charged in February with one count of indecent assault of a girl in Arviat and Whale Cove between 1974 and 1979. A fresh Canada-wide warrant was issued for his arrest and Canadian judicial authorities sent an extradition request to France.

Although Canada and France share an extradition treaty, it does not require either country to extradite its own citizens.

Rivoire denied the allegations against him in an interview with APTN from his retirement home this summer, and said he does not plan to return to Canada.

Kilikvak Kabloona, CEO of Nunavut Tunnagavik Inc., said the Oblates have told the group that Rivoire refuses to surrender and it has no other course of action. She said while the Oblates have expressed their support for the request to have Rivoire extradited, she is concerned they continue to pay for his living costs in France and his lawyer.

The group’s president, Aluki Kotierk, said she’s hoping to raise awareness about the case in France and believes the French public will support Rivoire’s extradition, particularly since a report released in October 2021 detailed the widespread sexual abuse of children by clerics in the French Catholic Church over the past 70 years.

The delegation has requested to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti while they are in Paris, but have not received a response.

Kotierk said Rivoire, through his lawyer, declined to meet with delegation members while they are in Lyon, but she is hoping he will change his mind.

Tungilik said if Rivoire refuses to meet, she plans to protest outside his residence.

During their time in France, the delegation also plans to meet with Sister Veronique Margron, president of the Conference of Religious in France, Antoine Garrapon, head of the commission responsible for compensating victims of abuse from the French Catholic Church, and Father Vincent Gruber, who leads France’s Oblates.

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