The Hope for Wellness Help Line offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous Peoples across Canada, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The toll-free number is 1-855-242-3310.
The accuser whose sexual abuse complaint has led to a new arrest warrant for Oblate priest Joannes Rivoire, says she has been trying to have him charged since the 1980s.
“I tried to charge him and I’d been told that there’s no evidence,” she told APTN News Tuesday. “I’ve been trying so hard to do something.
“I went to RCMP more than 10 times.”
The woman, whose identity is protected by the court, said RCMP in Nunavut finally accepted her allegation of historical sexual abuse in the fall of 2021.
She told APTN in a telephone interview her immediate family knows of the abuse she said she suffered.
“He would try to keep me in the church doing things so I would be the last one to get out,” she said before dissolving into tears.
“I remember every little thing he (allegedly) used to do.”
Rivoire worked as a church priest for 30 years in the communities of Igloolik, Arviat and Naujaat (Repulse Bay) with the Missionary Oblates of the Mary Immaculate. He arrived in Canada from France in 1963.
Not the church’s fault
The woman said she doesn’t blame the Catholic church.
“He’s not a priest, he’s a monster. I’m sorry to say that but I call him a monster because he treated me like I was an adult, and I didn’t know what he was doing to me.”
Now a mother and a grandmother, the woman alleged in her statement to police that Rivoire warned her not tell anyone what was happening.
“He covered his hand to my mouth and pulled my hair to be quiet,” she said.
Nunavut RCMP confirmed they laid the charge after the woman came forward last September.
“In September 2021, Nunavut RCMP received a complaint of sexual assaults that occurred approximately 47 years ago,” Cpl. Tammy Keller said in a statement emailed to APTN. “The investigation involved one female victim.
“As a result of the investigation, on February 23, 2022, Father [Joannes] Rivoire, 93, of Lyon, France was charged with sexual assault. A Canada-wide warrant has been issued for the arrest of Father Rivoire.”
Retired Oblate priest
The woman said she doesn’t know why RCMP acted on her most recent complaint against the priest, but is glad just the same.
“Between 1992 and 1987, I went to RCMP,” she said of the rotation of Mounties serving her community that changes every three years.
“I said to myself, ‘I’ll give it a try again.’”
News that Nunavut RCMP obtained a Canada-wide warrant in February for Rivoire’s arrest didn’t become public until Monday, after Natan Obed asked Pope Francis to personally intervene in the case.
Obed, who is president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, was at the Vatican in Rome as part of an Indigenous delegation trying to get the pope to come to Canada and apologize for the church’s role in the notorious residential school system.
“We asked that the pope speak with Fr. Rivoire directly and ask him to go to Canada to face the charges that he’s up on in Canada,” Obed told a news conference in Rome.
“And, if Fr. Rivoire is not agreeable to that, if the pope would do all that he could to work with the French government to ensure that either extradition can happen or that Fr. Rivoire can be tried in France.”
RCMP reach out to Interpol
Nunavut RCMP originally charged Rivoire in 1998 with five counts of sexual interference in connection with alleged crimes against four Inuit children in Naujaat and Arviat between 1968 and 1970, but he had already returned – some say fled – to France, where he is now in his early 90s and living in an Oblate retirement home in Lyon.
Those charges were stayed in 2017 by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada and the international arrest warrant cancelled because France won’t extradite its citizens to face trial elsewhere.
Nunavut RCMP told APTN this week they were again seeking an international warrant to have Rivoire arrested in France.
“I can confirm that a Red Notice application has been initiated (with international policing organization Interpol),” Keller added in a follow-up email Tuesday.
“There are some processes that need to be done before it is completed and I do not have a timeline for you on when it will be finalized.”
The woman’s indecent assault allegation involves a different time period and location from the earlier charges that were stayed.
She said she was “a little girl” of six when Rivoire allegedly began sexually abusing her “after church” on Sundays between 1974 and 1979. She said she was there because her father worked for the church.
“Even up until today, I never liked Sundays,” she said in a shaky voice.
Hearing an apology from Rivoire is a priority for her.
“I want him to say sorry to me…I want him to remember what he (allegedly) used to do.”
RCMP said prosecutors in Nunavut authorized the new criminal charge against Rivoire.