Church unaware of allegations against Rivoire, independent Oblate review says

Nunatsiaq News [Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada]

March 19, 2024

[See the report.]

Safeguarding commission concludes Rev. Johannes Rivoire sexually abused 5 Inuit children, should be kicked out of order

Evidence gathered by a retired Quebec judge “overwhelmingly demonstrates” Rev. Johannes Rivoire sexually assaulted five Inuit children between 1968 and 1979.

André Denis, a former Quebec superior court judge, spent 10 months leading the Oblate Safeguarding Commission. It was created by the religious order to investigate allegations against Rivoire and possible coverups by the church and RCMP.

“My conclusion is that Johannes Rivoire was guilty of sexual abuse of Inuit children,” Denis wrote in the safeguarding commission’s report, which was released Tuesday.

“I can affirm that the Oblates in France did everything in their power to convince him to return to Canada and answer for his actions. To no avail.”

The Oblates of Canada commissioned Denis to provide an “independent perspective” on the circumstances of Rivoire’s 1993 departure from Canada to France.

The cleric left just as Canadian police began hearing allegations that he had abused four children in Repulse Bay (now known as Naujaat) between 1968 and 1970, and one in Arviat and Whale Cove between 1974 and 1979.

France does not extradite its own citizens.

The Oblates said they wanted the report to “better understand” how the allegations against Rivoire were addressed within the congregation and use that information to improve their policies “to better safeguard minors and ensure a high level of accountability” within the order.

Denis said he did not want his report to be a substitute for a criminal trial and that his findings were based on a “preponderance of evidence,” not beyond a reasonable doubt.

The 57-page report concludes that neither the Oblate order nor the broader Catholic church was aware of the suspicions “hanging over Rivoire” in 1993 when he said he needed to return to France to look after his ailing parents.

Rivoire “did not tell the whole truth” about his reason for leaving Canada, Denis said.

The RCMP’s six-year gap between the time they first heard allegations against Rivoire in 1993 and the laying of charges in 1998 fuelled Inuit complaints about a “lack of consideration” by police.

Canadian officials stayed charges against Rivoire in 2017. The RCMP laid a new charge against Rivoire in March 2022.

The 92-year-old priest has never returned to Canada to face any of the charges. Allegations against him have never been tested in court.

“Had these complaints been brought before the court in 1993, it is possible to believe that Johannes Rivoire would have returned to Nunavut to face Canadian justice,” Denis wrote.

Denis also got a sense of Rivoire’s version of events based on archived records of a conversation he purportedly had with Rev. Yves Chalvet de Récy in 2013.

Chalvet was assigned to hear Rivoire’s version of events after the Oblates learned of the allegations.

According to Denis, Rivoire told Chalvet, “I’m not innocent … and there are various degrees of touching that I’m accused of having done on Eskimos.”

He went on to say “allegations of sexual abuse of underage girls are a fabrication.”

In November 2022, a lawyer acting for Rivoire told Nunatsiaq News that Rivoire denies all allegations of sexual abuse made against him.

“The accusations are completely unfounded. He contests them,” lawyer Thierry Dumoulin said in French at the time.

Rivoire should be kicked out of the order, Denis concluded, because of his refusal to follow direction to voluntarily stand trial in Canada when he faced criminal charges.

Removing Rivoire from the Oblates would be a “balm for the victims’ wounds,” Denis said. But it would be “largely symbolic” at this point because Oblate leaders in France have said they won’t “throw [him] out into the street,” he added.

French Oblates tried to remove him from their order in 2022 but that move was blocked by Catholic officials in Rome. Denis urged Catholic officials in Rome to reconsider that decision.