An Inuit delegation led by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), which is lobbying for the extradition of an Oblate priest on a historical sex charge, is scheduled to meet with the French Ministry of Justice in Paris Tuesday.
“We’re meeting with a judge,” said NTI’s CEO Kilikvak Kabloona, who spoke to news reporters in the French capital Monday.
The delegation wants Joannes Rivoire, a 91-year-old priest who worked in Nunavut for 30 years, returned to Canada to face his accuser in court.
Rivoire is living in a retirement home in Lyon, about a two-hour train ride southeast of Paris.
However, he is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for allegedly indecently assaulting an Inuk girl between 1974 and 1979.
He denied the allegation in an interview with APTN News in July.
Aluki Kotierk, president of NTI, said French-born “Rivoire must face his charges in a Canadian court.”
She noted France, which refuses to extradite its citizens, could return him to Canada because he holds dual citizenship.
“He is a Canadian,” Kotierk said while outlining the group’s argument to French reporters. “The government of Canada has requested Rivoire’s extradition from France, and we are aware the government of France has received it.”
If the French judge rejects their argument for extradition, Kotierk said they would turn to the court of public opinion.
“We need your help,” she told journalists. “We have travelled more than 4,400 km from Canada over three days to get Joannes Rivoire extradited.”
Kotierk said there are several alleged victims of Rivoire who are unable to heal while he remains free.
They are the accusers whose charges against Rivoire were stayed in 2017 after Canada’s prosecution service concluded it was no longer worth proceeding.
One is Steve Mapsalak, a former two-term politician in Nunavut, and two others are Tanya and Jesse Tungilik, the children of the late Marius Tungilik, who was the first accuser to go public.
All three are in France as part of the NTI delegation.
Tanya said she and her brother are victims of inter-generational trauma after witnessing the effects of the alleged abuse on their father.
And there are other (alleged) victims who have not yet come forward, Tanya said at the news conference.
“There were many others too afraid to charge, feel misplaced shame, or have already died. I implore the French government to bring Rivoire to justice and extradite him now.”
Kotierk said she has asked to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron, French Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne and Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti. As of Monday, the delegation had not received a response to those requests.
Mapsalak alleged his younger brother Marcel was also abused by Rivoire in the late 1960s and early ’70s.
“If Rivoire were to come to Nunavut it would have a positive healing impact on us,” he said after breaking down several times during the news conference.
It was Steve’s first time speaking about his alleged abuse in public, the delegation confirmed later.