The church will not remove the priest accused of sexually abusing Inuit children in Canada.

The church will not remove the priest accused of sexually abusing Inuit children in Canada.

A priest from France known as the “devil priest” is facing accusations of sexually abusing Inuit children in northern Canada. Despite calls for his removal from his church, the elderly clergyman will not be dismissed as church authorities in Rome have chosen not to act, citing his declining health.

Johannes Rivoire, a priest with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, worked in several Canadian Arctic communities in the 1960s and 70s before returning to France in 1993.

Authorities pressed charges against Rivoire after being accused of committing sexual assault in Arviat, Rankin Inlet, and Naujaat. However, the charges were eventually dropped due to France’s policy of not surrendering its citizens to foreign jurisdictions. Despite being in his mid-90s, Rivoire is still wanted for arrest throughout Canada.

In 2021, Peter Irniq, an elder of the Inuk community, shared with APTN News that his friend Marius Tungilik was believed to be a victim of Rivoire. Tungilik died by suicide in 2012 at the age of 55. According to Irniq, Tungilik struggled with heavy drinking and felt haunted by the actions of this corrupt priest.

The OMI Lacombe Canada and the Oblates of the Province of France had previously petitioned church leadership in Rome to remove Rivoire. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate have also requested that Rivoire return to Canada to address the charges against him, but he has declined.

According to Father Ken Thorson, the head of the OMI Lacombe Canada, Rivoire will not be expelled from the Oblates by Rome due to his age, as reported by the Canadian Press.

Thorson expressed his strong disappointment regarding the decision. Although Rivoire was not required to return to Canada, Thorson believes that if the decision from Rome had been different, it could have demonstrated the church’s willingness to prioritize reconciliation and accountability.

The justice minister, Arif Virani, stated to the media on Tuesday that his administration was collaborating with Interpol regarding the matter. They have also made a formal request for a “red notice,” which is a means to arrest Rivoire in the event that he departs from France.

Virani stated that Rivoire, who has been relocated to an administration house in Lyon by the Oblates due to demonstrations outside of his retirement home, is facing accusations of unacceptable behavior. It is imperative that we seek justice against both the priest and anyone implicated in serious crimes.

Rivoire has refuted the accusations, and they have not yet been examined in a legal setting.

Although the alleged victims have not yet received justice, the Oblates have asked for an independent investigation to be conducted by retired judge André Denis from the Quebec Superior Court. This review will assess the allegations of sexual abuse against Rivoire and make recommendations for improving Oblate policies and governance to better safeguard minors and promote accountability. The deadline for the report is set for April 1.