The congregation of a French-Canadian religious, accused of sexual assaults against young Inuit in the 1960s, decided in France to sanction the missionary by initiating an exclusion procedure, in response to requests from a delegation who came to ask accounts.
The 92-year-old cleric, Joannes Rivoire, agreed on Wednesday after long negotiations to meet this delegation from the Far North to bring the word of the victims but "denies everything" and refuses to go to Canada to respond to justice, said a representative of the Inuit of Nunavut told the press.
His community, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), a congregation founded in 1816 and counting 3.700 members worldwide, for its part announced that a canonical procedure of dismissal was launched against him.
"He disobeyed our order to present himself to Canadian justice", explained to the press the provincial of the OMI for France, Vincent Gruber.
Ottawa issued an arrest warrant followed in August by an extradition request after a new complaint against the cleric, while a first arrest warrant issued from 1998 to 2017 for sexual assaults against three underage girls remained in abeyance dead.
La delegation of 9 Inuit was received at the headquarters of the congregation, on the heights of Lyon (south-east), after a stopover in Paris where the Ministry of Justice opposed an end of inadmissibility to the extradition request, recalling that France n did not extradite its nationals.
To the Inuit present, including two children of an alleged victim and another alleged victim, Father Gruber repeated that he was going to try "to continue to convince Father Rivoire", including with the support of "Rome", of surrender to Canadian justice.
"We believe the victims from the start, deeply", and their "cry cannot go unanswered!" “, he launched. But "I can't force him, coerce him," he said.
The OMI also wishes to create a “memorial commission”, to “understand all these delays, these silences, which we ourselves find terrible”, while the facts date back almost half a century.
The Oblates assure that they were only informed in 2013 of the first arrest warrant, that is... 20 years after the return to France of the religious. “Inexcusable dysfunctions”, according to them.
Sent on a mission to the Canadian Far North in 1960 and returned after 33 years of mission, Father Rivoire was extracted on Tuesday from the retirement home in Lyon where he lives peacefully to meet the delegation at the headquarters of the IMO.
The confirmation of the appointment the same morning was "a little surprise" because "we had been trying for a long time" to see him, told the press Kilikvak Kabloona, a representative of the Inuit.
Visitors were able to meet Father Rivoire, away from journalists. He “denies everything,” Ms Kabloona said after the face-off.
The father who "speaks and understands Inuktitut and English" "remembers" certain faces that were in front of him, but "at times he pretends to forget everything" whereas "ten seconds earlier , he remembered,” she said.
He mentioned “a skin problem”, not to go to Canada, she explained without further details.
Asked about this point, Mr. Gruber replied that he was not sure what it was: “I am not a doctor”.
The delegation in any case took a Lyon-Montreal ticket for Friday in the name of Rivoire, in the hope of bringing him back.
"I am convinced that if he is put on the plane", which "the Church has the power to do", dozens of victims will "appear then", affirmed one of the members of the delegation, Lieve Halsberghe, a Belgian who had campaigned for the extradition of Oblate Father Eric Dejaeger, convicted in 2015 in Canada in a similar case.
Father Rivoire “cannot hide behind the law, even though he does not respect it. Now is the time, if not when...? ".
The Editorial Board (with AFP)