‘I never liked Sundays’: Priest’s accuser says she was 6 when abuse began

 Woman says RCMP refused to accept her complaint more than 10 times due to lack of evidence

accuser

Joannis Rivoire is pictured as a young priest in Nunavut in this undated photo. Photo courtesy: Raul Rincon


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The accuser whose sexual abuse complaint has led to a new arrest warrant for retired Roman Catholic priest Joannis 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 finally accepted her allegation of historical sexual abuse last fall.

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 in Arviat, Baker Lake, Chesterfield Inlet, Naujaat (Repulse Bay) and Rankin Inlet in the 1960s and 1970s, as part of the Missionary Oblates of the Mary Immaculate.

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 Johannes 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 retired Oblate priest, who worked in Nunavut between 1960 and 1990. But she is glad just the same.

“Between 1992 and 1987, I went to RCMP,” she said, noting that Mounties serving in her community change 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 said.

“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 1997 with three 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 – for France where he is now in his early 90s and living in a Catholic 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 sexual 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 was there because her father worked for the church, she said.

“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.

Online Journalist / Winnipeg

Award-winning reporter Kathleen Martens covers western and northern Canada for aptnnews.ca. A veteran of the Brandon Sun, Sun Media and APTN Investigates, she is based in APTN’s head office, specializing in stories about property, women’s rights and community.