Nunatsiaq News [Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada]
June 12, 2023
Creation of ‘safeguarding commission’ comes after religious order promised to help with investigation of priest accused of abusing Inuit children
A Catholic missionary group has retained a retired Quebec Superior Court judge to lead an independent review of the sexual abuse allegations against one of its priests, Rev. Johannes Rivoire, who served in Nunavut decades ago.
The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, OMI Lacombe Canada (part of a worldwide congregation of Oblate priests) and the Oblates of the Province of France announced the appointment Monday.
“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,” said Rev. Ken Thorson, the head of the OMI Lacombe Canada, in the release.
Rivoire, now in his 90s, spent more than 30 years in Nunavut as a parish priest, mostly in Arviat and Naujaat, between 1960 and 1992.
Allegations against him first came to light in 1993, the same year he moved to France, claiming he needed to help his ill father. The RCMP first charged Rivoire in 1998 and issued a warrant for his arrest.
With no possibility of extradition, those charges were stayed in 2017 when the Public Prosecution Service of Canada determined there was no longer a reasonable chance of conviction.
In February 2022, a new charge related to sexual abuse was laid against Rivoire and in April that year the Roman Catholic Church promised to help bring the accused priest to justice. In July 2022, the Canadian Justice Department asked the French government to extradite the priest, but France refused.
In September 2022, an Inuit delegation from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. travelled to France, where members — including a man who said Rivoire had abused him, as well as the children of another victim of the priest’s alleged abuse — met with Rivoire, but he declined to return to Canada to face justice.
Monday’s news release said Judge André Denis will lead the newly formed Oblate Safeguarding Commission.
It said the appointment “meets a previous commitment to independently review the congregation’s response to these allegations, including the circumstances under which he left Canada.”
According to the release, the commission will review all past allegations of abuse and investigate how they were addressed within the congregation.
It also seeks to find improvements to Oblate policies and governance “to better safeguard minors and ensure a high level of accountability.”
The commission’s findings are to be released in a final public report in English, French and Inuktitut by no later than April 1, 2024.