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Nunavut MP Lori Idlout says she and a counterpart in France are working to get wanted Oblate priest Joannes Rivoire back to Canada.
Idlout, who is also a lawyer, says she and Aurélien Taché are seeking an exemption to the rule that prevents the country from extraditing its citizens for prosecution elsewhere.
France has received a request from Canada to return Rivoire, 92, to face a historical sex charge involving an Inuk girl.
But legal experts say it’s unlikely to happen.
“Canada has done what it can so far,” said Idlout (NDP), of the case being reopened, a national arrest warrant issued, and a formal extradition requested.
“I’ve spoken with a French MP and we’re going to try to work together to apply for an exemption.”
Idlout said Taché contacted her via social media and suggested they join forces.
APTN News was unable to reach Taché for this story after numerous attempts but Idlout says they are filing an application to the French minister of justice.
“The way that the French MP explained (it to me was) he said that he’s heard of other exemptions before and that’s why he mentioned it to me,” Idlout explained.
“I don’t have the specific exemption cases to reference at the moment but that’s something that I’m going to be working on.”
Idlout said she needs a certain number of signatures in Canada to strengthen the application, which centres around Rivoire’s dual nationality.
The priest revealed in the interview with APTN in July that he is both a French and Canadian citizen, and has a Canadian passport.
“Searching for justice is absolutely necessary,” Idlout added in a telephone interview.
“Rivoire being protected all these decades later needs to stop.”
In the interview with APTN at his retirement home in Lyon, Rivoire denied he abused children.
He served 30 years as a Roman Catholic missionary in Nunavut with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate where five Inuit allege he sexually abused them in the 1970s as children.
He was charged in Canada but the case stalled citing a lack of cooperation from France, something that outraged Inuit.
Rivoire has been living in France since he left Nunavut in 1993 – before the charges were laid.
A new charge of sexual assault was laid in 2021 after an Inuk woman swore a complaint with police. She accused the priest of sexually abusing her for five years beginning when she was six years old.
Rivoire denied those allegations, too.
Meanwhile, a Canada-wide warrant is out for his arrest and an international warrant (called an Interpol Red Notice) is in the works.
Canada’s Department of Justice broke its usual confidentiality around extradition requests by confirming publicly it asked France a second time to return Rivoire to Nunavut on the new criminal charge.
“We need to make sure we seek justice for the [alleged] victims and victims’ families,” Idlout said from Iqaluit.
APTN was able to confirm one extradition exemption approved by the French government in a case involving an accused terrorist.
‘No, never’; French priest denies sex charge in Canada
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Bringing the priest back to Canada is a point of pride for Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), which announced Tuesday it is taking an Inuit delegation to France to raise awareness about the case.
The organization, which represents Nunavut Inuit, intends to meet with church officials and French media from Sept. 12 to Sept. 15 in Paris and Lyon to press for Rivoire’s extradition.
“We urge President Macron, Prime Minister Borne and Justice Minister Dupont-Moretti to extradite Joannès Rivoire,” NTI said in a release.
“For 22 of the past 26 years, Rivoire has been a fugitive wanted in Canada for prosecution,” NTI president Aluki Kotierk was quoted as saying in the release.
“During this time, Rivoire has been under the care and protection of the Oblates in France to avoid negative publicity and to protect the reputation of Roman Catholics. The church and its priests are not above the law.”
NTI said Rivoire can be extradited.
“Although France is reluctant to extradite French nationals to other countries for prosecution, the Canada-France Extradition Treaty does not prohibit Rivoire’s extradition,” it said in the release.
“The extradition is possible and can be swift.”
The Rivoire case was also mentioned to Pope Francis during his papal visit to Canada and apology to Indigenous peoples in June. And by an Inuit delegation to Rome in March.
But the Pope has made no public comment on the case.