Mounties have laid a new charge against a Roman Catholic priest who has previously avoided trial for multiple allegations of sexual abuse linked to his time in Nunavut.
RCMP said a Canada-wide arrest warrant has been issued for Joannis Rivoire, who is in his 90s and lives in Lyon, France.
Nunavut RCMP said officers received a complaint last year regarding sexual assaults that occurred about 47 years ago.
Mounties said Rivoire was charged last month with sexual assault on a female.
The latest development in the investigation of the Oblate priest comes after the leader of the national organization representing Inuit people asked Pope Francis to intervene in the case during a meeting at the Vatican on Monday.
Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said he asked the Pope to “speak with Father Rivoire directly and ask him to go to Canada to face the charges.” Obed also asked the Pope to request that France step in if Rivoire is not receptive.
Returned to France
Rivoire was in Canada from the early 1960s to 1993, when he returned to France.
A warrant was issued for his arrest in 1998. He faced at least three charges of sexual abuse in the Nunavut communities of Arviat, Rankin Inlet and Naujaat (Repulse Bay). More than two decades later, the charges were stayed.
The Public Prosecution Service of Canada said at the time it was partly due to France’s reluctance to extradite.
Inuit leaders and politicians have continued to urge that the priest face trial. Those calls have become even louder with the discovery of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools run by the Catholic Church.
Bishop William McGrattan, vice-president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Monday that “justice and truth are important in this path of reconciliation.” He said Pope Francis heard that bringing the priest to Canada to face justice is important.
McGrattan said that the church needs to address it in a forthright manner.
“The church wants to work with the relevant justice authorities, whether they be international or Canadian,” he said.
“And if there are allegations that someone has committed these abuse, that they need to be brought to justice and the church should not stand in their way but assist those who have been victims to seek justice and healing.”
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, of which Rivoire was a priest, has invited Obed for a meeting at its office in Rome on Thursday to discuss the case.