French protesters call for extradition of retired priest to Canada

The Canadian Press [Toronto, Canada]

January 17, 2023

By Mason Regan

Activists are calling on France to extradite a retired priest to Canada to face allegations he sexually abused Inuit children in Nunavut decades ago.

Nearly a dozen members of BeBrave France, the French section of a global advocacy movement aimed at ending sexual violence against children, demonstrated Monday outside the Johannes Rivoire retirement home in Lyon, France.

They held up signs and banners, painted messages on the sidewalk, and spoke through a microphone to call for justice.

“It’s important to do something,” said Amandine Sanvisens, one of the protesters.

Rivoire, in his 90s, was an Oblate priest in Nunavut from the 1960s until 1993, when he returned to France. He has been wanted on a Canada-wide warrant since he was charged in February 2022 on charges of indecently assaulting a girl in Arviat and Whale Cove, Nvt., between 1974 and 1979, after a complaint was filed in 2021.

Canada’s prosecutors announced in October that France had denied its request for Rivoire’s extradition. While Canada and France share an extradition treaty, French officials said they are barred from extraditing their own citizens. They also said that under French law, too much time had elapsed between the alleged attack and the filing of charges.

“We were very saddened and also ashamed that our government refused to act to bring about justice,” Sanvisens said.

She said they have asked to meet French President Emmanuel Macron but have not yet received a response.

Arnaud Gallais, co-founder of BeBrave France, has started an online petition calling for Rivoire’s extradition. It has collected more than 15,000 signatures.

“It’s very important because I’m a survivor,” said Gallais, who claimed he was sexually abused as a child by a Catholic missionary when testifying before the Church’s Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse.

Rivoire has long been accused of sexually abusing Inuit children when he was a priest in Nunavut. Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. has said as many as 60 children could be affected.

None of the allegations have been proven in court and Rivoire has denied any wrongdoing.

A Canadian arrest warrant had previously been issued for Rivoire in 1998, but criminal charges related to the alleged child sexual abuse were stayed in 2017.

A 10-strong Nunavut Inuit delegation traveled to France in September to request Rivoire’s extradition and raise awareness of the case. They met with government and church officials, as well as with Rivoire.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate said they pressed Rivoire to face the charges but he refused to return to Canada. Oblate leaders in France said they had decided to release Rivoire from their congregation.

Canadian prosecutors said they had exhausted all legal means to extradite Rivoire from France. It said it was working with the RCMP for Interpol to issue a Red Notice that would allow Rivoire to be arrested in any other country should he leave France.

“We have determined that there is a reasonable prospect of conviction and that prosecution is in the public interest,” the service said in a statement in October.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 17, 2023.

— By Emily Blake in Yellowknife