France rejects extradition requests

The Ministry of Justice in France has rejected the extradition request of Oblate priest Johannes Rivoire, who is the subject of an arrest warrant in Canada. In an email exchange with L’Aquilon, the Chancellery confirmed its decision of September 13, 2022.

The Chancellery recalled that France, in accordance with its constitutional tradition, does not extradite its nationals. During a meeting between a five-member Inuit delegation formed by the company Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) and the Minister of Justice’s diplomatic adviser, Éric Dupont-Moretti, the decision was communicated to the members of that delegation, which included Steve Mapsalak, one of the alleged victims of Johannes Rivoire.

Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated had purchased a one-way ticket from Air Canada departing from Lyon to Montreal so that Johannes Rivoire would voluntarily return to Canada with the delegation on September 16, 2022. (Photo credit: Joel Philippon – Le Progrès)

For Aluki Kotierk, President of NTI, the Church and its priests are not above the law and despite this decision, an extradition treaty exists between Canada and France. Johannes Rivoire, 92, has dual nationality and now lives in a facility for people with loss of autonomy in Lyon, southern France.

The diplomatic adviser nonetheless expressed the government’s intention to cooperate in this case: “France, in close cooperation with Canada, has requested all the elements that make it possible to establish the facts and to interrupt the statute of limitations. France stands ready to respond to any request for legal assistance from Canada or, if necessary, to proceed with a complaint of the facts, subject to examining the possible statute of limitations of the facts. »

For Me Thierry Dumoulin, Johannes Rivoire’s lawyer, his client will cooperate if the French judicial authorities ask him to clarify the facts.

“Like any innocent citizen, he will not flee justice and declare his innocence without difficulty,” Me Dumoulin said during an interview with L’Aquilon on September 12, 2022.

A difficult dialogue

The delegation then traveled to Lyon to meet Vincent Gruber, Superior of the Congregation of Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), and Mr. Rivoire in two separate audiences.

In a press release dated September 8, 2022, the community expressed its support for the Inuit delegation ahead of the meeting.

“The French OMIs informed the delegation that they understand and support their approach to the further development of the dossier, both at the level of the French state and of Johannes Rivoire himself, and that they will implement everything they can to achieve success . We sincerely hope that it will help to effectively advance the justice that complaining victims and, more broadly, we all have a right to expect. »

A disappointing meeting

At the end of this September 14 meeting, Aluki Kotierk, President of NTI, expressed her disappointment.

“We are not satisfied […] Inuit truth needs to be heard. Inuit deserve justice,” she said in a Sept. 15 news release.

Mrs. Kotierk recalled in particular the involvement and role of the Oblates in the Canadian boarding school system and particularly in the Kamloops boarding school in British Columbia, which was opened by French Oblates in 1890. In May 2021, the discovery of the graves of more than 200 children, reported to have died while studying at the facility, had sparked a wave of outrage and anger in Canada.

“Over the course of this week, it has become clear to me that our history together [entre le Canada et la France] comes as a surprise to many French people. The history of residential schools in Canada is also a history of France. Much remains to be done in France to understand this. »

Ongoing removal process

For his part, Mr Gruber, who described a “difficult but true dialogue” with the members of the delegation, announced that on September 8, 2022, a canonical procedure to dismiss Mr Rivoire was launched. According to Mr. Gruber, this process, which is strictly framed by canon law and can take several weeks to complete, is the last resort.

“Although they cannot compel Mr. Rivoire to face justice, the Oblates can discipline him for disobeying direct orders of refusing to face justice in Canada. Rivoire did not cooperate and refuses to face his charges. Having exhausted all available avenues to bring him back to Canada, we have no choice but to initiate proceedings to remove him from our congregation,” he said in a Sept. 19 email.

This eviction process is part of a “step for justice that Mr. Gruber said is essential for both the alleged victims and the Inuk people. [sic]the Oblates and the Church”.

Despite repeated pleas from his superiors for several years, Johannes Rivoire has always refused to go to Canada to face justice.

Prior to preparing this visit, NTI had purchased a one-way Air Canada ticket departing from Lyon bound for Montreal for Johannes Rivoire to return to Canada at his own request on September 16, 2022. with the delegation. However, Me Dumoulin confirmed that his client did not wish to travel that day.

“However, it is somewhat unusual in an extradition trial that we try to bypass the judicial authorities of the two states and, without my client’s knowledge and against his will, take a plane ticket to consider a return trip with him,” he comments.

Victims file a complaint

During an interview with L’Aquilon on September 19, 2022, Me Nadia Debbache, lawyer at the Lyon Bar Association and representative of the victims and beneficiaries of the victims of Johannes Rivoire, confirmed that a complaint would be lodged with the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Lyon. In France, it is not possible to provide help and assistance to a person who is considered a criminal. Mr Rivoire is being prosecuted by the Canadian authorities for criminal activities involving minor children.

“This complaint is specifically directed at the Congregation of Oblates, since it has provided aid and support to John Rivoire, giving him all its support, particularly financial support and housing,” Me Debbache specifies.

The complaint also aims to denounce the actions of the municipality, which “did everything possible to ensure that Johannes Rivoire escaped justice and did not allow the victims to see their trial succeed. »

Behind this new trial, which aims to shed light on what has happened since the 1960s and what the Oblate Congregation knew or did not know, is also the impunity of the Church in the face of the judiciary, which the lawyer wants to denounce.

“If the prosecution believes that there are enough elements to prosecute the community, that is a strong signal that we want to send to the communities and especially to the missionary communities who believed they could do this and have done so since.” Years wanted to do priests and let them escape justice. So it’s a strong signal that we want to send so that something like this never happens again in the future,” concludes Me Debbache.

Tyrone Hodgson

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