Priest arrested in sexual assault of 8-year-old girl in Little Grand Rapids First Nation, RCMP say
Mounties say they've already identified other possible victims, ask anyone with information to come forward
WARNING: This article contains details of allegations of abuse.
A Roman Catholic priest has been accused of sexually assaulting an eight-year-old girl in Little Grand Rapids First Nation — and Manitoba RCMP say they've identified other possible victims.
"We do not wish to traumatize or further traumatize the young victim by sharing her experience in such a public manner," Supt. Scott McMurchy, Manitoba acting criminal operations officer, said at a news conference on Tuesday. "However, we believe that other children may have been harmed in a similar way."
The eight-year-old girl was alone with the priest after he asked her to help him clean the church when he allegedly touched her inappropriately on Saturday, McMurchy said.
The girl told investigators when she tried to leave, the priest forced her to stay in the building, he said. When she was able to get away, she ran home and told her mom, who reported the incident to police.
Little Grand Rapids First Nation is a remote community about 265 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
WATCH | RCMP provide details about priest arrested in Little Grand Rapids First Nation:
Priest served 2 communities
McMurchy described the priest as someone the girl trusted. While he would not specify how many other possible victims Mounties have identified, he said his understanding is there is a "religious connection" with all of them.
Arul Savari, 48, is charged with sexual assault, sexual interference, sexual exploitation of a young person, luring a child and forcible confinement. He remains in custody.
Savari was also the priest at nearby Pauingassi First Nation, McMurchy said. As far as RCMP are aware, the priest only served in those two First Nations while in Canada.
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Savari, who is originally from India and lives in Winnipeg, has been in Canada for six years and served in Little Grand Rapids for the same amount of time, McMurchy said. He serves the Catholic Church under the Archbishop of St. Boniface.
Following his arrest, Savari was suspended from all ministerial duties and "forbidden to have anything to do with former parishioners and children," according to a Tuesday press release from the Archdiocese of St. Boniface.
The Archdiocese says it will fully cooperate with the RCMP in their investigation.
"The Archdiocese of St. Boniface expresses its deep sorrow to the victim who has come forward as well as to that person's family, and the entire community of Little Grand Rapids who have been affected by the allegations," the release says.
"The Archdiocese will do all it can to assist the victim who has come forward and any who may make known their suffering."
Anyone with information or who wishes to make a report related to Savari is asked to call RCMP in Little Grand Rapids at 204-397-2249 or visit the community's detachment in person, McMurchy said.
Help for people affected by sexual assault is available toll-free through Klinic's sexual assault crisis line at 1-888-292-7565 and Manitoba Justice victim services at 1-866-484-2846, he said.
Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.