Traumas ‘remain to be healed,’ Regina archdiocese says after Lebret residential school discovery

— Lebret Indian Residential School was run by the Roman Catholic Church through the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate from 1884 to 1973.

The Star Blanket Cree Nation, northeast of Regina, has announced the discovery of possible graves after a ground-penetrating radar search of the former site of the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School. Aboriginal students, principal Father Joseph Hugonnard, and staff, including the Grey Nuns, of the industrial School are shown in Fort Qu’Appelle, Sask., in this May 1885 file photo.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Regina says it stands with the Star Blanket Cree Nation and all those affected by the the recent discovery of human remains on the grounds of the former Lebret Indian Residential School, and it understands that the findings are deeply traumatizing.

The First Nation in Saskatchewan said on Thursday that ground-penetrating radar discovered more than 2,000 areas of interest and a child’s bone was separately found at the site of one of the longest-running residential schools in the country.

The school was one of the first three to open in Canada and was run by the Roman Catholic Church through the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate from 1884 to 1973.

It operated for another 25 years until it closed in 1998.

“It is especially difficult to hear that it is the remains of a child that have been found,” the Catholic Archdiocese of Regina said in a statement. “It is a painful reminder of all the children who did not return home from residential schools.

“Each finding like this can reopen wounds and resurface inter-generational trauma for survivors and loved ones pointing us to the challenges and hurts that remain to be healed.”

An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools over a century in Canada and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report detailed that many experienced emotional, physical, sexual and spiritual abuse.

The school had a reputation for strict religious instruction, strenuous physical labour and physical abuse. Survivors told the commission about extended periods of kneeling, beds being pushed over with kids still on top and slaps across the face. One survivor shared how he saw a fellow student tied to a heat register.

The school often had outbreaks of disease and a high mortality rate, the commission’s report found. Louise Moine wrote about tuberculosis rampaging through the school in her memoir.

“There was a death every month on the girls’ side and some of the boys went also,” Moine wrote.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has a record of 56 student deaths at the school.

Sharon Strongarm, a survivor of the school, held back tears Thursday as she explained how she was taken from her parents. She said she and her siblings had to learn to survive and to forgive.

“They tried to take our spirits away. They tried to take the Indian out of us,” she said. “But thank the Creator we are back here, strong as we will ever be, helping each other.”

The community is looking to expand its search areas and have approval from some nearby landowners to start work in the spring. They are also looking to excavate two unexpected rooms that were located underground during the initial search, project lead Sheldon Poitras said.

Areas for the search were selected after testimonials from former students and elders who witnessed or heard stories of what happened at the residential school about 75 kilometres northeast of Regina.

The jawbone fragment, found last October, was identified by the province’s coroner’s service to be that of a child between the ages of four and six from about 125 years ago. It was not located anywhere near an area that was known to be a graveyard.

“This is physical proof of an unmarked grave,” Poitras said.

Poitras said his team is looking at options, including miniature core drilling to enable DNA testing, to confirm what is there.

He said the area where the school was located makes it difficult to do ground-penetrating radar and they don’t believe all areas of interest are unmarked graves.

The institution was burned down and rebuilt twice.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said on social media that the “finding of human remains of a very young child at the site of Lebret Residential School is not only a tragic reminder of Canada’s painful history and of the heinous acts that were committed in residential schools, it’s further proof of that.”

Star Blanket Cree Nation Chief Michael Starr said last week it shows the harsh truth of what happened within the walls of the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School.

“It was unthinkable. It was profound. It was sad. It was hurtful,” Starr said. “And it made us very angry what had happened to our young people here.”

The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic order hires independent monitor to oversee members convicted of sex crimes

— Survivors question why Oblates of Mary Immaculate isn’t identifying the overseer

Ken Thorson, provincial leader of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, said it was decided not to release the name of the third party monitor because their work is ‘sensitive.’

By Ben Andrews

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a Catholic order that operated 48 of Canada’s residential schools, has hired an independent third party to oversee efforts to ensure members who have committed sex crimes do not reoffend.

Some sexual assault survivors have praised the hiring as a positive development — but have also criticized the Oblate’s decision to withhold the monitor’s name.

Tony Charlie, who was sexually assaulted by an Oblate brother during his time at Kuper Island Residential School starting in the mid-1960s, said the hiring of an independent monitor is “a good step.”

He also said it’s impossible to confirm that the monitor is truly independent if the Oblates are unwilling to release the hire’s name.

“We have no clue who this person is,” he said. “It’s very important that these abusers be accountable and visible and probably monitored closely.”

Tony Charlie, a survivor of the Kuper Island Residential School in British Columbia, poses for a photo.
Charlie says the hire is ‘a good step’ but adds he has little faith in the church.

The Oblates hired the monitor in December 2022 and expect he will begin monthly meetings later this month.

The monitor will meet with Oblates who are convicted sex offenders — men who abused children in residential schools, northern Indigenous communities and various parishes across the country.

A CBC investigation in June 2022 confirmed that at least nine such offenders had taken refuge at the Springhurst retirement residence in Ottawa after being released from prison.

“Our concern is to ensure good oversight, appropriate external oversight,” said Ken Thorson, provincial leader of the Oblates.

“[We] want to find the person who we felt was going to provide us with the accountability that we need to ensure that we’re doing what we’re meant to do.”

The monitor will be reporting to a misconduct advisory team that may advise changes to an offending Oblate’s safety plan, if deemed necessary.

CBC has confirmed at least nine convicted sex offenders have taken refuge at the Springhurst residence in Ottawa.

Monitor ‘has no connections’ to Oblates: Thorson

When asked why the Oblates aren’t identifying the monitor, Thorson instead described the monitor’s work history, which includes investigating workplace harassment and abuse in organizations ranging from large corporations to social services agencies and Indigenous communities.

Thorson said the monitor “has no connections” to the Oblates, but he refused to identify the person.

“For the sake of the work, for the sake of the people that he’s working with, we’ve chosen at this time not to release the name,” Thorson said.

He added that the Oblates “might be willing” to consider sharing the name of the third party monitor with some survivors to assure them the hire is indeed independent.

Other survivors who spoke to CBC also said they’d like the name to be released.

Leona Huggins, a founding member of Advocates for Clergy Trauma Survivors in Canada, was sexually assaulted by an Oblate priest in the 1970s.

Huggins was sexually assaulted by a priest as a young girl and is now an advocate for others who’ve been abused by Catholic Church clergy in Canada.

Huggins said she is aware of other instances where the Catholic Church has assured people it is making an “arm’s length” hire, but the person has turned out to have close connections to the church.

“Without knowing the name of the person, it’s hard to trust that they can be fully independent,” she said.

Zach Hiner, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said survivors of clergy abuse are often promised action, only to be disappointed by a lack of follow-through.

“Survivors who were abused by someone in the Oblates would probably be looking at this with a little bit of hope and a lot of skepticism,” he said.

Thorson said he is “always willing” to be in touch with survivors and has listened to their stories in the past.

“People have suffered — children and vulnerable people have suffered at the hands of Oblates,” he said. “Making amends for the sins of our community is the most important work that I do.”

But for Charlie, those efforts have fallen short.

“Not one of them has stepped forward to help us heal. None of them have checked up on us,” Charlie said. “I really don’t have faith in them right now.”

Complete Article HERE!

France won’t extradite retired priest Johannes Rivoire, accused of sexually abusing Inuit children

Public Prosecution Service of Canada says there’s still a ‘reasonable’ chance Rivoire can be prosecuted

Johannes Rivoire in Arviat in 1979.

By Amy Tucker

France will not extradite a priest facing historical sexual assault charges in Nunavut, but there’s still a chance he could be prosecuted in Canada by other means.

A news release Wednesday from the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) says French authorities denied the extradition request for Johannes Rivoire on Oct. 14.

The extradition request was made by the federal Department of Justice on behalf of the PPSC.

French authorities said there are two reasons the request is being denied.

The first relates to French law — France can’t extradite its own citizens.

“France has determined that at the relevant time Mr. Rivoire was a citizen of France,” the release said.

The second reason, which also falls under French law, is because “too much time” passed between the events and the charges being laid.

That’s also the reason French authorities said they could not prosecute Rivoire in France.

Rivoire was charged this past February with one count of indecent assault on a female, who was child at the time of the alleged offence. It happened between January 1974 and December 1979.

Allegations against him date much further back, though — previous charges against him had been outstanding for years but were stayed in 2017.

People in Nunavut have spent nearly two decades pushing for Rivoire to be extradited.

An Inuit delegation travelled to France in September to implore French officials to grant Canada’s extradition request. They also confronted the retired priest while there.

Tanya Tungilik, who was part of the delegation and whose father Marius Tungilik had accused Rivoire of sexual abuse, said at the time it was “liberating” to finally tell Rivoire the things she has wanted to say for so long.

In an interview with CBC Wednesday, she called the denied extradition request “a gut punch” but not totally shocking.

“I wasn’t really surprised,” Tungilik said.

She’s still hoping that people in Nunavut who allege abuse by Rivoire, especially between 1990 and 1993, come forward. That way she said, it’s possible charges could be laid against him.

“Then that will still give us a chance to bring it to court in France within their statute of limitations,” Tungilik said. “I’m still hoping for that.”

Tungilik said she also wants to see a lawsuit against the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, “or those who aided and abetted the abusers.”

Three people sit on chairs with their hands in their laps.
Steve Mapsalak, left, Tanya Tungilik and Jesse Tungilik spoke to reporters in Lyon, France, in September about their meeting with Johannes Rivoire.

He’s accused of sexual abuse of several other people as well who were children at the time, carried out while he worked in Nunavut starting in the 1960s.

Prosecution in Canada could be possible if Rivoire leaves France

Rivoire has repeatedly said he has no intention of coming back to Canada, and has denied the charges of abusing Inuit children.

The news release from the PPSC said “all potential legal recourse” to obtain Rivoire’s extradition from France or to have him prosecuted in France have been exhausted.

However, the PPSC said it is working with the RCMP for Interpol to issue a red notice. That would allow for Rivoire to be arrested in any other country.

“Therefore, prosecution in Canada remains possible if Johannes Rivoire leaves France,” the release said.

Tungilik said she’s not overly confident on this plan, especially because she doubts Rivoire will leave the country willingly.

Both the prosecution file and a warrant for Rivoire’s arrest remain active.

Complete Article HERE!

Court documents reveal the names of more than 100 alleged residential school abusers

By Brittany Guyot

APTN Investigates has learned that 82 Catholic priests and nuns were named as alleged abusers in Manitoba residential schools.

A review of court documents detailed horrific physical and sexual abuses of Indigenous children in the federal residential school system.

The investigation uncovered 146 lawsuits that reveal the names of more than 100 alleged abusers from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate [OMI] and the Missionary Oblates Sisters, who staffed the schools.

The Catholic orders were put in charge of eight of 14 residential schools that operated in Manitoba. There were 139 residential schools opened nationally to assimilate thousands of Inuit, Métis and First Nations children.

The documents show the lawsuits were filed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, years before the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement [IRRSA] was finalized.

Residential school survivor Mary Vanasse isn’t surprised to hear how many alleged abusers walked the halls of her former school in Manitoba.

The majority of the lawsuits were abandoned the same year the settlement was finalized.

Mary Vanasse was sent to Sandy Bay Indian Residential School. She said the memories still haunt her.

“I think at first, I was really scared when I started seeing how the nuns were so abusive to the children,” she said.

Vanasse said it was common knowledge that children were being abused at Sandy Bay.

“The older girls were going around bugging the little girls, because I know it happened to me a couple times myself,” she said, “and somebody jumped in bed with me and tried to touch me and wanted me to touch them. And when I refused, she hit me.”

Vanasse isn’t surprised to hear how many alleged abusers walked the halls of her former school.

“I think there should have been some consequences,” she added, noting she feels the alleged abusers should have been criminally investigated.

Vanasse said her road to healing has been a long journey. She said spending time with her grandchildren and journaling have helped her along the way.

Later this year, she is set to publish a memoir about her residential school experience.

Rita Guimond is a survivor of the Fort Alexander Residential School that was located on Sagkeeng First Nation.

APTN Investigates identified a lawsuit she filed in 2004 against the Catholic church and the government of Canada.

“We were given different clothes to put on, and our clothes had numbers,” she said.

Rita Guimond filed a lawsuit alleging she was abused at residential school against the Catholic church and government of Canada.

Guimond said her time at Fort Alexander was devastating. For years, it impacted her ability to show love to her own children, she added.

Court documents reveal the residential school housed more than 70 alleged abusers from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Including Fr. Arthur Massé, who was charged in June of this year with indecently assaulting a girl at the school.

Massé was accused of physical and sexual abuse in five separate lawsuits from 1998 to 2006.

Those lawsuits were abandoned in 2006 when IRSSA was finalized.

Massé is among dozens of Oblate priests accused of abuse, including Fr. Apollinaire Plamondon.

Residential school survivor Theodore Fontaine, who attended Fort Alexander Residential School, identified Plamondon as his alleged abuser in his memoir Broken Circle.

In an APTN News interview in 2014, Fontaine alleged Plamondon was a “sexual perpetrator.”

“Most of these people in this area, when they got their settlements under the residential school agreement, you’d say to them, ‘Man, you have a beautiful truck.’ They’d say, ‘Yeah, that’s my Plamondon car,’” Fontaine told APTN’s Cheryl McKenzie at the time.

APTN Investigates found Plamondon was named in 32 different lawsuits alleging physical and sexual abuse.

No criminal charges were ever laid against the now-deceased priest.

According to Fr. Ken Thorson, who speaks for OMI in Canada, Plamondon was referenced in 16 Independent Assessment Process [IAP] hearings. The hearings were held for survivors to testify about the abuse they suffered in support of their claims for compensation under IRSSA.

“The Oblates of Mary Immaculate are committed to full transparency about our role in Canada’s [Indian Residential Schools] system, including the operation of 48 schools [across Canada],” Thorson said in an email.

IRSSA was negotiated to address the harms caused by the schools. It awarded $1.9 billion to survivors, 26,000 of whom were put through IAP hearings to reveal serious physical and sexual abuses.

Complete Article HERE!

Inuk man faces priest who allegedly abused him when he was a child

President of ‘Nunavut Tunngavik’ organization Aluki Kotierk (fifth right), Canadian politician and victim Steve Mapsalak (fourth right), daughter of a victim, Tanya Tungilikand (right) and fellow members of the Inuit delegation are welcomed by Father Vincent Gruber (left) at the ‘Oblats de Marie Immaculée’ (The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculte) religious congregation in Lyon, on Sept. 14.

An Inuk man who alleges he was sexually abused by a former Oblate priest in Nunavut when he was 13 years old says meeting the man face to face after nearly three decades was a relief.

Steve Mapsalak was part of a delegation led by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., a group representing Nunavut Inuit, that travelled to France last week to seek the extradition of Johannes Rivoire to Canada. The group met with French and Oblate officials, as well as with Rivoire himself.

Mapsalak, who was formerly mayor of Naujaat, Nvt., and served two terms as a member of the Nunavut legislature, said he initially had mixed feelings when he was approached to join the trip. He said he decided to face Rivoire as he believed it could be a healing experience.

“After I did and said what I needed to say to him, I felt a release inside me and I felt a lot better,” he said by phone from his home in Naujaat on Tuesday. “It’s helped me really very much.”

Inuk woman says she came forward to RCMP several times before charge laid against Father Johannes Rivoire

Mapsalak said he spoke to Rivoire, who is now 91 and lives in a care home in Lyon, in Inuktitut as he had spoken and understood the language when he lived in Nunavut.

“I told him I know that he knew exactly what he did to me when I was a child and when I was helpless.”

Mapsalak said Rivoire responded that he didn’t remember anything. He told the former priest he wanted an apology.

“That’s when I left the room, I couldn’t stand looking at him anymore.”

Mapsalak said the last time he saw Rivoire was at the airport in Winnipeg in 1993. He said Rivoire was leaving Canada following allegations that he had abused Inuit children.

“I didn’t get close to him but when he saw me I noticed that his face got really red,” he recalled.

Rivoire was an Oblate priest in Nunavut from the 1960s until 1993 when he returned to France. Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. alleges he abused up to 60 children during that time.

The allegations have never been heard in court and Rivoire has denied any wrongdoing.

A Canadian warrant was issued for Rivoire’s arrest in 1998, but criminal charges related to the alleged sexual abuse of four children were stayed in 2017.

Following a new complaint, Rivoire was charged in February with one count of indecent assault of a girl in Arviat and Whale Cove between 1974 and 1979. Canadian judicial authorities have sent an extradition request to France.

Although Canada and France share an extradition treaty, France does not traditionally extradite its citizens. During a meeting with the Inuit delegation, officials with the country’s Justice Ministry said extraditing a French national would violate a constitutional principle. The group said they do not agree that France is prohibited from extraditing its citizens.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate said they have repeatedly urged Rivoire to face the charges against him, but he has refused to return to Canada. As a result, Oblate leaders in France have said they have decided to dismiss Rivoire from their congregation.

Mapsalak said he still hopes to see Rivoire face justice in Canada.

Nadia Debbache, a French lawyer who is working with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. on the case, said she plans to file a complaint against the Oblates and pursue legal action for allegedly concealing a criminal.

“I am in the process of preparing this complaint so that all light may be shed on the behaviour of this congregation,” she wrote in an email.

Complete Article HERE!