CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) [Toronto, Canada]
January 16, 2023
French government denied Canada’s extradition request for Johannes Rivoire last fall
A group of demonstrators gathered outside the retirement home of retired priest Johannes Rivoire in Lyon, France, on Monday, demanding the French government extradite Rivoire to face charges of sexual assault in Canada.
“For us as French citizen[s], it’s a real shame that our government refuses to make part of justice for Inuit people,” said Amandine Sanvisens, who was among the demonstrators.
“We wanted to show and to put the light on this place where he lives.”
The allegations against Rivoire stem from his time working as an Oblate priest in Nunavut in the 1960s and 1970s. He was charged last 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.
[PHOTO: Father Johannes Rivoire in Arviat, Nunavut, in 1979. (Library and Archives Canada)]
People in Nunavut have spent nearly two decades pushing for Rivoire to be extradited.
An Inuit delegation travelled to France last September to implore French officials to grant Canada’s extradition request. They also confronted the retired priest while there.
French officials, however, denied the extradition request in October. In a statement, the French Ministry of Justice said the practice of not extraditing nationals is part of France’s “constitutional tradition.”
Sanvisens said Monday’s demonstration was a way to show Rivoire’s alleged victims in Nunavut that “we are on their side.”
“We ask for justice and we want criminal people pay for their crimes,” she said.
The demonstrators used spray paint on the sidewalk to direct pedestrians’ attention to Rivoire’s residence, and also painted a message on the side of the building in block letters.
“Here lives pedocriminal J. Rivoire. The Canadian justice is asking for his extradition. France’s is refusing. We are ashamed,” the message reads, in French.
[PHOTO: A demonstrator uses spray paint on the sidewalk in Lyon on Monday to direct pedestrians’ attention to the residence of Rivoire. (Arnaud Gallais)]
The demonstrators say they have also launched an online petition that now has more than 13,000 signatures.
“In this demonstration there were other victims of bishops in France and it was very important to show their support and solidarity with other victims. And so it’s a very big step for us, and we’re going to continue this kind of action,” Sanvisens said.
Steve Mapsalak, from Naujaat, Nunavut, was one of the Inuit delegates who went to France last September. He said Monday that he was surprised, and encouraged, to hear about the demonstration in Lyon.
Mapsalak said some people in France last fall voiced support for his group’s efforts, and promised to support them. But he confessed that at the time he “didn’t really think that it was really going to happen.”
“It felt good that we were being supported, and they kept their word. I was happy to hear that,” Mapsalak said on Monday.
[PHOTO: A group of demonstrators gathered outside the retirement home of retired priest Johannes Rivoire in Lyon, France, on Monday, demanding the French government extradite Rivoire to face charges of sexual assault in Canada. (Arnaud Gallais)]
“I hope they keep it up. And I hope that the number of people supporting us increases, and [they are] heard by their government.”
Tanya Tungilik, whose father Marius Tungilik had accused Rivoire of sexual abuse, was also part of the group that went to France in September seeking justice. She said that Mapsalak called her on Monday to tell her about the demonstration in Lyon. Like him, she was surprised to hear about it.
After she hung up the phone, she said, she “just started crying.”
“I was overcome with emotion, just being so touched by it and grateful that they haven’t forgotten us,” Tungilik said.
“I really hope something comes out of it … I’m feeling more hopeful today.”
With files from Juanita Taylor and April Hudson