Canada asked France to extradite priest facing sexual assault charge in Nunavut
Johannes Rivoire spent time in Nunavut in the 1960s and returned to France in 1993
Warning: This story discusses child abuse.
Ottawa has asked France to extradite a priest accused of crimes against children in Nunavut, the federal justice minister confirmed Wednesday as Pope Francis continued his tour of Canada.
"Collaboration and co-operation are essential to addressing the shameful legacy of residential schools," Justice Minister David Lametti said in a written statement.
"We are working with Indigenous Peoples to advance the important work of reconciliation in Canada," he said, adding that "serious crimes [will] be fully investigated and prosecuted."
A spokesman for the Justice Department said the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) made the extradition request for Johannes Rivoire, but did not say when and provided no more details.
In an emailed statement on Friday, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Notre Dame du Cap Province and Lacombe Province, said it's "encouraged" that Canada has made the request for extradition.
"Clergy sexual abuse is a tragedy, and we are deeply sorry to any survivors who have been harmed by Oblates or other Catholic priests," the statement reads.
"The Oblates proactively reached out to Minister of Justice and Attorney General, David Lametti, on March 22 expressing our availability to cooperate in a legal investigation and remain committed to doing so."
It also says the Oblates expressed their support for Inuit and to Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed, and that the group is "fully committed" to support survivors of abuse or the families of victims.
"We continue to advocate amongst peers and superiors in the church to ensure leadership in France and the Vatican understand the impact that Rivoire continues to have on Canada's Inuit Peoples," the statement reads.
"While we cannot undo the harms that persist following sexual abuse, we hope that these efforts can help the Inuit Peoples find the healing they have long sought."
Pope Francis is expected to travel to Nunavut this week as part of his visit to Canada.
Inuit leaders have called on the pontiff to personally intervene in the case of Rivoire, who was in Canada from the early 1960s until 1993, when he returned to France.
RCMP have said Rivoire is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant related to a new sexual assault charge laid in February.
The Nunavut RCMP has said officers received the complaint last year regarding sexual assaults alleged to have occurred about 47 years ago.
Rivoire has previously avoided trial for multiple allegations of sexual abuse linked to his time as a priest in Nunavut. A warrant was also issued for his arrest in 1998, but the charges were stayed in 2017. PPSC said then it was partly due to France's reluctance to extradite.
In March, Obed, the ITK president, said he had asked the Pope during a meeting in the Vatican to speak with Rivoire directly and ask him to go to Canada to face the new charge. Obed said he also asked the Pope to request that France step in if Rivoire is not receptive.
On Wednesday, the French Embassy confirmed that Canada's judicial authorities had sent an extradition request for Rivoire to France.
The embassy said the French Justice Ministry is currently processing the request and has asked Canadian officials for more information. Lametti did not provided more details about the extradition request, but noted in his statement that it is unusual for him to comment even on whether one has been made.
"Extradition requests are regarded as confidential state-to-state communications, and as minister, I normally cannot comment on whether a particular extradition request has been made," Lametti said. "However, I am aware of the fact of an extradition request transmitted to France has been made public, which my departmental officials have now confirmed."
Pope Francis is expected to visit Iqaluit on Friday, the last day of his visit to Canada.
Support is available for anyone affected by residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.
The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
In addition, the NWT Help Line offers free support to residents of the Northwest Territories, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is 100% free and confidential. The NWT Help Line also has an option for follow-up calls. Residents can call the help line at 1-800-661-0844.
In Nunavut, the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line is open 24 hours a day at 1-800-265-3333. People are invited to call for any reason.
with files from Kelly Geraldine Malone