Nunavut court frees defrocked Oblate priest on bail

— Eric Dejaeger has been convicted of dozens of sexual offences in Canada, involving children, adults and animals

Former Nunavut priest Eric Dejaeger during his trial in Iqaluit.

By Kathleen Martens

A defrocked priest convicted of sexually abusing children in Nunavut will be flown to Kingston, Ont., to live in a federal half-way house after being released on bail.

Ontario lawyer Scott Cowan said Eric Dejaeger, 77, will be freed in Iqaluit on conditions imposed by justice of the peace Amanda Soper on Tuesday.

Cowan said Dejaeger is both a federal parolee and “Iqaluit detainee” – a situation that created an ideal situation for bail.

“The pitch made by me was, ‘Look, give him bail on the new charges and…harken to the fact that the life he’ll be going back to is one of constant supervision’,” Cowan said Wednesday.

“In this circumstance, his residential and supervisory status as a federal parolee meant that bail was a logical thing to do.”

An early photo of Eric Dejaeger when he was a Catholic priest in Nunavut.

Dejaeger will be living at the Henry Traill Community Correctional Centre in Kingston, a federal facility southwest of Toronto with 24-hour supervision, Cowan added.

“It’s basically part of a penitentiary; it’s on the grounds of (medium-security Collins Bay) penitentiary. So, the idea that he’s a free man would be a misstatement.”

The former priest with the Missionary Order of Mary Immaculate (OMI) is permitted to leave the facility for medical appointments and grocery shopping during the day without an escort, the lawyer said.

Dejaeger was serving a 19-year sentence for 32 sex crimes against Inuit children and adults in Igloolik, Nunavut when he was released on parole to the halfway house in June 2022, parole documents obtained by APTN News show.

He was freed from prison early under “statutory release” – a law enacted by Parliament that kicks in after an offender has served two-thirds of a “fixed-length” sentence – to the supervision of a parole officer.

Eric Dejaeger
Defrocked priest Eric Dejaeger has been released on bail to live in a halfway house in Kingston, Ont.

Dejaeger was living in the Henry Traill when he was arrested and charged with eight additional counts of child sexual abuse from his time as a Catholic missionary in Igloolik, Nunavut between 1978 and 1982.

Cowan said he was appointed by a court to represent Dejaeger, who was born in Belgium and became a Canadian citizen in 1977.

Dejaeger was first arrested in 2011 on immigration charges in Belgium and deported to Canada to face the sexual abuse charges laid in 1995.

He has been convicted of dozens of sexual offences in Canada, involving children, adults and animals in Nunavut and Alberta.

His victims in Alberta, where he was studying at the Newman Theological College in Edmonton in the 1970s, were a nine-year-old Indigenous boy from Grand Cache, Alta., and an eight-year-old boy and his six-year-old sister from Edmonton.

Dejaeger pleaded guilty to those crimes in 2015 and was sentenced to five years in prison, concurrent to his sentence for the Igloolik crimes.

He is no longer a priest but remains a member of the Oblates, confirmed Rev. Ken Thorson of OMI-Lacombe in Ottawa.

“While I respect the judicial process, I wish to apologize to anyone who has been harmed by Eric Dejaeger or by any Oblate,” Thorson said in an email to APTN.

“The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, OMI Lacombe Canada, did not pay for his bail or any of his legal costs. In fact I only learned of this (bail) news yesterday through the media.”

Thorson said it was common among religious communities like the Oblates to retain offensive members.

“This allows us to ensure appropriate monitoring and offer the support needed to reduce the possibility of recidivism,” Thorson said. “Putting men out on the street would transfer the financial and monitoring burden to society. We believe our approach is part of our congregational safeguarding commitment to the larger community.”

Complete Article HERE!

Priest accused of sex assaults against children in Nunavut dies in France

— “Joannès Rivoire left a legacy of intimidation, fear and horror to his victims. His victims will now begin healing from his death,” Inuk elder says.

MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq holds a photo of Joannès Rivoire during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Thursday, July 8, 2021. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate says Rivoire, a priest accused of sexually abusing Inuit children in Nunavut, has died after a long illness.

By Brittany Hobson

A priest accused of sexually abusing Inuit children in Nunavut decades ago has died in France after a long, undisclosed illness.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, including the Oblates of Lacombe Canada and the Oblate Province of France, say Joannès Rivoire died Thursday. He was in his 90s.

Rev. Ken Thorson with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate Lacombe Canada says the death may be difficult news for those who advocated for the priest to face justice in Canada.

“We sincerely regret that … Rivoire never made himself available and will never face the charges that were laid against him. We further regret that efforts for him to be formally removed as a priest were unsuccessful,” he said in an emailFriday.

A recent independent review of the claims against Rivoire supported allegations that the priest assaulted six children in Nunavut.

Rivoire arrived in Canada in 1959. He stayed in the North until January 1993, when he told superiors he needed to return to France to take care of his elderly parents.

That same month, four people went to the RCMP in Nunavut to accuse Rivoire of sexual assaults.

Rivoire refused to return to Canada after an arrest warrant was issued in 1998. He faced at least three charges of sexual abuse in the Nunavut communities of Arviat, Rankin Inlet and Naujaat. More than two decades later, the charges were stayed.

Another arrest warrant was issued for Rivoire in 2022 for a charge of indecent assault involving a girl in Arviat and Whale Cove between 1974 and 1979. French authorities refused an extradition request.

Rivoire denied all allegations against him and none were proven in court.

Inuit leaders and politicians, from senators to Nunavut premiers, spent years urging that the priest should face trial, with some taking their fight to Parliament Hill and Lyon, France, where Rivoire lived.

Piita Irniq, an Inuk elder and former politician who fought for more than a decade to have Rivoire returned to Canada, said in a message to The Canadian Press that he was notified Friday morning of Rivoire’s death.

“Rivoire left a legacy of intimidation, fear and horror to his victims. His victims will now begin healing from his death.”

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a national organization representing Inuit across Canada, called the case a systemic failure of nation states and religious institutions.

Natan Obed, the organization’s president, met with Pope Francis in 2022 and asked him to intervene in the case.

The group said in a statement that Inuit have done everything to help bring justice, but in the end it was not enough.

“Our thoughts are with the many victims … and the many victims of abusers who continue to elude justice,” it said.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., a group that represents Nunavut Inuit, said in a statement it’s disappointing Rivoire didn’t have to answer to the charges against him.

“NTI assisted in the efforts of victims and their families seeking justice and will continue to stand with them now that Rivoire has died,” it said.

“Governments must do better to support victims of abuse and in bringing perpetrators of violence against children to justice.”

Rivoire was banned from public ministry after the Oblates said they first learned of criminal proceedings against him. The Oblates in both Canada and France repeatedly urged Rivoire to face the charges, but he refused.

Some believed the Oblates played a role in his departure for France. The independent review, led by retired Superior Court justice Andre Denis, found no evidence the church was aware of any allegations or helped the priest leave.

Denis said it’s possible rumours about the priest’s behaviour are why he left, but there was no evidence.

The Oblates in Canada and France also appealed to leadership in Rome to commence dismissal proceedings against Rivoire. Earlier this year, it was determined the priest could remain a member of the congregation.

Thorson said Friday the Oblates will continue to offer support for complainants and their families in the next chapter of their healing process.

“We wish to apologize unequivocally to anyone who was harmed by Rivoire … our prayers are with the Inuit community and anyone who is still processing this news.”

Complete Article HERE!

The Oblates and the geographic solution to clergy sexual abuse

— Despite the failures of the geographical solution to clergy sexual abuse, Catholic religious orders as the Oblates have a long record of using it.

Americae sive novi orbis, nova descriptio, 1573.

By Rodolfo Soriano-Núñez

The Oblates have used the “geographical solution” before. One of their predator priests spent time in Mexico back in the Sixties.

Religion and Public Life: Argentina, Canada, France, Mexico, Paraguay, and the United States are among the countries where the Oblates have on the basis of the “geographic solution” to clergy sexual abuse.

Two weeks ago, Los Angeles Press published a report on the arrival of a Paraguayan Roman Catholic priest, a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate religious order, from his native country to Mexico.

At the time of the report, I’ve been in Mexico for at least six months. He’s got a low profile. There is no record of him participating as a priest in public functions carried out by the order.

After arriving to Mexico, Juan Rafael Fleitas López performed as an instructor at the schools where the Oblates train their so-called scholastics, which is how Catholic religious orders such as the Oblates call what other would be identified as seminarians: young students who aspire to become full members of the order and, in some cases, to become priests.

He was, in that regard, a pristine example of the so-called .geographic solution, which is an analyst how the forty-years-old clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church call the decision by some orders and even some diocesan bishops to move around priests with accusations of sexual abuse from one diocese to and another, if allowed, from one country to another.

One of the many examples of the “geographical solution” is, in Mexico and the United States, the way in which Norberto Rivera Carrera and Roger Michael Mahony, moved around from one country to the other and back again, Nicolas Aguilar Rivera, who at some point was point aptly called by the media in the native state of Puebla – a state-wide shame.

Norberto Rivera first sent Nicolas Aguilar Rivera (no family relationship with the Cardinal) from Tehuacán, 260 kilometers or 160 miles East of Mexico City, in the state of Puebla, to Los Angeles, California, during his first stint as bishop. Roger Mahony was, at the time, the almighty cardinal and archbishop of the largest Catholic diocese in the United States, with more than three million souls under his care.

Tehuacán, Puebla, East of Mexico City.

Aguilar Rivera was some sort of early revelation of the depth of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in Mexico back in the late 1980s, when this issue was kept concealed by the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and both the Mexican government and media.

Since I was able to move around from Tehuacán, a mid-size metro area in the Central state of Puebla, Mexico, to Los Angeles, California, and then back to Mexico, Aguilar is one of the most notable super-predators in the Mexican Catholic Church. Far from his crimes, both Norberto Rivera and Roger Mahony, provided the perfect settings and cover up for his actions.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles paid almost $13 million as compensation. Although only Aguilars victims in that district of the U.S. Catholic Church received the monies.

Victims for the hundreds

There is no official information as if some payments were made by the Mexican dioceses of Tehuacán, Puebla, or Mexico City, which had, at some point in time competence over Aguilars performance as a priest in Mexico, although he is known that some of his received some of his victims some sort of compensation as a way to prevent the scandal brought by the fact that Cardinal Rivera was called to testify in California, as they could be seen in this transcript of his declaration from 2007.

Back in 2007, U.S. and Mexican media estimated Aguilars victims as at least ninety minors. I’ve repeatedly challenged that number, but there’s no reason to believe his word, since he was able to move around between both countries.

In Mexico, he was able to move officially between at two least Catholic dioceses: Tehuacán and Mexico City, although the last reports about his active life, from the mid to late aughts, about duties performing as a priest in the State of Mexico, the Mexican state surrounding Mexico City, which has had the largest number of separate dioces since the early 1990s.

Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop emeritus of Mexico City and Mario Delgado, current leader of the ruling party Morena in Mexico and alumn of NXIVM, 2012.

Because of the .geographical solution, Aguilar was able to find new unsuspecting victims, every time his bosses in the Catholic hierarchy decided the spin of the wheel of fortune, giving him a new chance as even priest if he was not ever appointed as pastor of a parish after Mahony received him with a temporary appointment back in 1987.

It was only in 2009, more than 20 years after the first accusations against Aguilar emerged, that Pope Benedict XVI expelled him from the priesthood. Only then, the Mexican Catholic bishops publicly admitted that Aguilar was a predator sex. Although there was no official admission as to the number of his victims in either Mexico or the United States, Mexican newsmagazine Proceso estimated them in .more than a hundred minors.

And even if apologies have been issued by the three reigning Popes as to the extent and consequences of clergy sexual abuse, and many leaders of the Catholic Church mimic the reigning Pope-s rhetoric on the issue, at a global scale, the fact: there is an impulse to move priests with accusations of different types of sexual misconduct as a way to give them a second, third, or fourth chance in the exercise of the priesthood, with little or not for the potential consideration of risk of moving.

The fact that I rushed to publish my findings as to the potential destination of Juan Rafael Fleitas López as an associate priest in the parish of St. Mary Magdalene in Tequisistlán, Oaxaca, was to prevent new abuses.

It was necessary since it is no record of a current active interest of the Mexican Catholic hierarchy on addressing the issue, as it proved by the fact that less than half the Mexican dioceses have set up a commission to prevent abuses, as it proved last week on these pages.

Even more, since there is no indication that the current Mexican federal government will pursue the accusations made by survivors, their friends, and advocates back in 2017.

Changing of the guard

In that regard, my sources on the issue tell me that Fleitass appointment fell to Tequisistlán fell apart, although he spent time there in March, when other parishes managed by the Oblate order had changes of the pastors serving them. The most recent of such changes at the diocese of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, was March 4th.

The changing of the guard happened at San Pedro Martir Quiechapa, as told by the entry at the Oblates official Facebook account that appears immediately after this paragraph or here.

After that, on March 23rd, the Oblates had a change in management at the parish of Christ Our Lord and Savior, at the diocese of Iztapalapa in Eastern Mexico City, as told by this entry from the same official Facebook reported immediately after this paragraph.

So, this is the season when the Oblates shuffle their priests from one parish or work to another. This is a healthy practice that forces priests and other religious personnel to confront new challenges and figure out new ways to do their work. It is not these regular changes that constitutes the practice of the .geographic solution to the issue of clergy sexual abuse.

Moreover, the Oblates are not new at using the .geographical solution to move around the priests and religious brothers who have faced accusations of sexual abuse. There is a long record of that order moving around priests and religious brothers from one of their provinces to another, to either cover up for the sexual abuse already perpetrated by some of them or as some sort of preventative measure, when one higher figures out that something is wrong with one of their subordinates in one of their provinces.

Even if Bishop is not seen as an accurate representation of whatever has happened as far as the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church on a global scale, since it has been a clear, even if undesired bias for the information coming from the English-speaking Catholic world, in their pages it is possible to find information that accurately depicts how, at least in the English- andspeaking Spanish-speaking Catholic worlds, the .geographical solution has been used by the Oblates and many other Catholic religious orders to move around priests with accusations of sexual misconduct.

More than Sixty Oblates

In that regard, Bishop Accountability has identified in one of its pages a minimum of 59 Oblates priests accused of clergy sexual abuse in U.S. and Canadian dioceses. On the top of that, in the Spanish-speaking pages of the same website there is information about one more Oblate, Luis Sabarre, originally from the Philippines but acting as a priest in the archdiocese of Mendoza, Argentina.

Also, there is information about at least two other members of this religious order, Gustavo Ovelar and Francisco Bareiro. The story linked above, the first of this series on the Oblates, mentions Bareiro and the impact of the accusations on him have. Both Ovelar and Bareiro are Argentine nationals. The Paraguayan newspaper La Nación described them back in 2016 as they are hiding out in Paraguay. That newspaper mentioned the fact that they were accused in 2014 of sexual assault.

A second Spanish-speaking page referenced at Bishop Accountability details how up until 2020, the Oblates kept their silence regarding the whereabouts of Ovelar and Bareiro.

What is worse. The English-speaking database of Bishop Accountability added data recently about the abuse perpetrated by French Oblates Edouard Meillieur and Johannes Rivoire in French and English-speaking missions in Canada going all the way back to the 1950s. Both are also representatives of the “geographical solution” as practiced by the Oblates.

In the green circle, Paraguayan Oblate priest Juan Rafael Fleitas López at a ceremony in Paraguay.

It is noticeable that the statement issued by the Canadian province of the Oblates seems to be aware of the need to use the right words when talking about the pain brought by members of the order to their victims and the communities they were supposed to be serving.

The statement issued by the leader of the Oblates in Canada, Father Ken Thorson, reads “the Oblates” recognize the tragic legacy of clergy abuse and are sincerely committed to support the Inuit Peoples who advocate for truth, justice, healing and reconciliation.

How could it be that if the Canadian Oblates seem to be aware of the “tragic” consequences of the .geographic solution, used by the French and Canadian provinces of that order back in the 20th century, the Mexican and Paraguayan leaders of the same orders are so willing to put the Mexican faithful at risk of being abused by Juan Rafael Fleitas López?

That is the saddest aspect of the institutional neuroses affecting the Catholic Church nowadays.

Predator Priest

What is worse, in the English-speaking database available at Bishop Accountability, it is possible to find information about one predator priest moving from the United States to the very same diocese of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, where the leaders of the province of the Mexican province tried to reinstate Fleitas López as they preside with the blessing of bishop Crispín Ojeda Márquez, the former auxiliary and none other than Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera.

I used the term “predator priest” knowingly and accurately. Bishop Accountability renders a short bio of Donald L. Stavinoha as he was killed back in 2007 but convicted in 1988, although the Texas authorities released him in 1991.

It is not clear if he assaulted or abused somebody at Tehuantepec, Mexico. We know, through a story published back in 1992 by Texan newspaper The Houston Chronicle, that I spent some time there between the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Jose de Jesús Clemente Alba Palacios was the bishop of Tehuantepec.

Oddly enough, Alba Palacios resigned his position as bishop of Tehuantepec back in 1970, when he was only 60 years old. Pope Paul VI appointed him auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Oaxaca, a strange move for a Roman Catholic bishop. Was it because of them then were issues related to abuse in Tehuantepec? God only knows.

As I am typing this story there is no official news about the destination of Juan Rafael Fleitas López. I know his appointment at Tequisistlán, diocese of Tehuantepec, fell apart, but there is no warranty that the leaders of the Oblate order in Mexico will not try to send him to any of his other parishes.

The only thing I know, for sure, is that Fleitas Lopez will not go back to be a priest at parish the Oblates have in Tijuana, Baja California. Although parish is in Mexico, it is not for the Mexican Oblates to decide who goes there. It is the Oblates of the United States who manages that parish as a “mission territory” in Mexico (see here and here too).

If Fleitas Lopez did something, it would be the Oblates in the United States, and under the laws of the United States would be liable. How lucky is the Mexican Catholic faithful of Tijuana, protected by U.S. Laws…

Complete Article HERE!

Retired Quebec judge says he believes sexual abuse allegations against former Nunavut priest

— Canadian Oblates commissioned Andre Denis to investigate handling of allegations against Johannes Rivoire

Former Quebec Superior Court justice André Denis leads the Oblate Safeguarding Commission, an independent review of historical allegations of sexual abuse against Johannes Rivoire in present-day Nunavut.

By Emma Tranter, Tessa Vikander

A retired Quebec Superior Court judge, in a report commissioned by the Canadian Oblates, says he believes allegations made against former Nunavut priest Johannes Rivoire of sexually abusing children in the territory are true.

The report, written by Andre Denis, also suggests the Catholic church was not aware of the allegations made against Rivoire at the time because the RCMP didn’t notify them.

“Rivoire did not tell the whole truth to his superiors, to his confrères, to the Inuit for whom he had pastoral responsibility, and he himself denies a reality that has nevertheless been demonstrated,” Denis wrote in a 57-page report released Tuesday.

Denis’s report is not a legal finding of guilt. His investigation makes conclusions based on a “preponderance of evidence,” and not “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Rivoire, an Oblate priest from France, has long faced allegations he sexually abused children in Nunavut in the 1960s and 1970s. He spent more than 30 years working as a priest in the territory, mostly in Arviat and Naujaat.

Rivoire, who is 92 and lives in Lyon, France, and his lawyer have denied all of the allegations against him. CBC has reached out to Rivoire’s lawyer about the report, but has not received a response.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, OMI Lacombe Canada and the Oblates of the Province of France hired Denis to investigate how past allegations against Rivoire were addressed within the congregation.

“The scandal for the plaintiffs is that Joannès Rivoire remains a religious despite all he has done. This is a reality the victims do not accept,” Denis wrote.

Tall man in black frock, in black and white.
Rev. Johannes Rivoire moved to Nunavut in the 1960s and stayed there until returning to France in 1993.

6 years before charges were laid

Denis travelled to France, Italy and Canada, including Nunavut, where he interviewed some of Rivoire’s alleged victims.

He also met at length with Rivoire, who denied the allegations but claimed he had a consenting sexual relationship with a woman in the territory.

Denis also concluded the Catholic church didn’t try to help him escape the Canadian justice system.

Three charges of sexual abuse were laid against Rivoire in 1998. They were stayed in 2017 after the Crown decided there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.

A new charge was brought forward in 2022 and an arrest warrant was issued for Rivoire.

Days before the first complaint was filed with the RCMP in 1993, Rivoire fled Canada for France.

Denis says Rivoire told the church he needed to return home to take care of his elderly parents.

The RCMP finally charged Rivoire in 1998.

“The RCMP had no communication with the Oblates, nor did they notify them of anything throughout the legal process,” Denis wrote.

“Had these complaints been brought before the court in 1993, it is possible to believe that Joannès Rivoire would have returned to Nunavut to face Canadian justice. He probably could have been persuaded to do so.”

Denis says the Oblates were not informed of Rivoire’s charges until more than a decade later.

Five seated people look at the camera.
Delegates with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. speaking to media in Paris, France, in an effort to push the French government to extradite Johannes Rivoire in 2022.

Inuit survivors began speaking publicly about what they went through. A delegation also travelled to France in 2022, and asked that Rivoire return to Canada and face trial, and advocates for survivors of child sexual abuse in France also campaigned on the issue. The Oblates in both countries supported the request.

Although the priest has faced several criminal charges from the Canadian courts, France does not typically extradite people, and in October 2022, the country denied the latest request for Rivoire’s extradition.

Last month, leadership in Rome ruled against Rivoire’s dismissal from the Oblates.

‘I was angry’

Tanya Tungilik, whose late father Marius Tungilik had accused Rivoire of sexual abuse, said she had mixed feelings after reading the report.

“I was angry at a lot of parts but glad that [Denis] said that Rivoire was guilty of the crimes … that he believed us,” she said on Tuesday.

A woman wearing a blue traditional Inuit amauti
Tanya Tungilik, pictured in Rankin Inlet in 2022. Tungilik, whose late father Marius Tungilik had accused Rivoire of sexual abuse, said she believes RCMP also need to be held accountable for why Rivoire was not charged until 1998.

Tungilik said she was troubled by how long it took for the RCMP to investigate the allegations brought against Rivoire.

“Why did it take so long?” she said. “They need to be held accountable, too.”

She also said she doesn’t believe Denis’s claim that the Oblates didn’t know about the allegations made against Rivoire.

“I’m glad that it’s out there,” Tungilik said. “But I’m disappointed and angry that he says that the Oblates didn’t know at all.”

Facts hidden

Denis met with Rivoire in Lyon, France, in the spring of 2023, but explains in the report that he doesn’t believe “the version of events” that Rivoire told him.

Instead, Rivoire left Canada “hiding this terrible reality” from church authorities. He told a “true but incomplete story” that he was only returning to France to care for his sick parents.

Reflecting on meeting the Inuit delegates in 2022, Denis said Rivoire told him he thought those who were accusing him “may be trying to get money out of the Oblates.”

Denis’ research of historical documents found Rivoire “did not tell the whole truth to his superiors.”

His report quotes a 2013 conversation between Rivoire and Father Yves Chalvet de Récy, when Chalvet had just learned of the arrest warrant for Rivoire.

At that point, Rivoire is said to have told Chalvet the children he was accused of abusing “were looking for tenderness that they didn’t have in their families.”

“If I’m not innocent, the children aren’t either,” Rivoire told Chalvet.

“It’s true that I’m not innocent, but allegations of sexual assaults on minors are a fabrication. That’s why I came back to France in the first place.”

Ken Thorson, provincial lead of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate Lacombe, poses for a photo.
Ken Thorson, provincial lead of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate Lacombe, says he accept the report’s findings.

Rev. Ken Thorson, with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate Lacombe Canada, said they accept the report’s findings “with a heavy heart.”

“We wish to apologize unequivocally to anyone who was harmed by an Oblate priest and to continue taking concrete steps towards transparency and transformation, informed by guidance from victims, survivors and Inuit representatives.”

Complete Article HERE!

Priest facing sexual assault charge in Nunavut will not be dismissed from Oblates

— A French priest accused of sexually abusing Inuit children in Nunavut will be allowed to remain a member of the Oblates congregation after leadership in Rome ruled against his dismissal.

by Kelly Geraldine Malone

Johannes Rivoire, who is in his mid-90s and lives in Lyon, France, has long faced allegations of sexual abuse during his time in Nunavut.

“I was deeply disappointed,” said Rev. Ken Thorson with OMI Lacombe Canada.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, OMI Lacombe Canada and the Oblates of the Province of France had appealed to leadership in Rome in 2022 to commence the dismissal proceedings against Rivoire after the Catholic priest refused to return to Canada to face charges.

An arrest warrant was issued for Rivoire earlier that year on a charge of indecent assault involving a girl in Arviat and Whale Cove, Nvt., between 1974 and 1979. French authorities later denied an extradition request from Canadian judicial authorities.

The priest previously avoided trial when he refused to return to Canada after a warrant was issued for his arrest in 1998. He faced at least three charges of sexual abuse in the Nunavut communities of Arviat, Rankin Inlet and Naujaat. More than two decades later, the charges were stayed.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada said at the time it was partly due to France’s reluctance to extradite.

Justice Minister Arif Virani said Tuesday that Canada is now working with Interpol on the case. Canada is requesting a “red notice” through Interpol, which means if Rivoire were to ever leave French territory authorities elsewhere could arrest him.

“I would say to people that are concerned and angry that I share their concern, I share their anger,” Virani told reporters on Parliament Hill.

Virani said Rivoire stands accused of “reprehensible conduct, and we need to ensure that justice is pursued” against anyone accused of that many severe crimes.

Rivoire has denied all allegations against him, and none have been proven in court.

Inuit leaders and politicians have continued to urge that the priest face trial. Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said he asked Pope Francis during an Indigenous delegation to the Vatican in 2022 to speak directly with Rivoire

A 10-member delegation led by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., a group representing Nunavut Inuit, travelled to France later that year and spoke with Rivoire, asking the priest to return to Canada. That group has claimed up to 60 children may have been abused by the priest.

Last year, nearly a dozen members of BeBrave France, the French chapter of a global advocacy movement that aims to end sexual violence against children, demonstrated outside the retirement home where Rivoire was living. He has since been relocated into the Oblates’ administration house in Lyon, because of the attention he was getting at the previous facility, Thorson said.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate said it has also repeatedly urged Rivoire to face the charges, but he has refused.

Thorson said the disciplinary proceedings included two warnings and a formal recommendation. Rivoire’s counsel cited his declining health, with medical advice against more than one hour of air travel, as a reason he couldn’t return, Thorson said.

Considering Rivoire’s health, the Oblate administration in Rome did not proceed with dismissal from the congregation, Thorson said.

The dismissal would not have forced Rivoire to return to Canada, but Thorson said it would have been symbolic of the church’s commitment to accountability and reconciliation.

“I recognize we missed opportunities to take what could have been healing steps in this case,” Thorson said.

“That’s a regret that I carry.”

Thorson said he hopes an independent investigation into the allegations against Rivoire and the Oblates’ handling of the situation can still provide some justice.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, OMI Lacombe Canada and the Oblates of the Province of France appointed former Superior Court justice André Denis to lead the Oblate Safeguarding Commission.

The commission is to understand how allegations against Rivoire were addressed within the Catholic congregation and to identify improvements to Oblate policies and governance to better protect minors and ensure accountability.

It is also to review the circumstances under which Rivoire left Canada.

A final written report is to be made public no later than April 1.

Complete Article HERE!