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Abuse of Inuit children: Canada issues arrest warrant for French priest


The facts are decades old, but the Canadian Inuit community has no intention of letting them sink into oblivion. Thus, Canada has issued a new arrest warrant against a French priest, accused of having abused Inuit children more than thirty years ago.

The case was reignited in September, when police in Nunavut, a northern Canadian territory, received a complaint about a sexual assault that occurred 47 years ago.

The investigation led to the indictment, at the end of February, of Father Joannes Rivoire, 93 years old today.

This French priest spent three decades in the Canadian north, before leaving the country in 1993. He now lives in Lyon (Rhône) and has already been the subject of a previous arrest warrant which has never was followed up. Questioned on this subject, in particular by Le Monde, he proclaims his innocence.

In the hope of being heard, an Inuit delegation went to the Vatican on Monday, March 28, to discuss the abuses committed in Canada in boarding schools for natives, by members of the Church. They asked Pope Francis to personally intervene in the case and to press for Johannes Rivoire to be “tried for the wrongs he has caused”, in Canada as in France.

The abuses committed against the Amerindian peoples within the framework of the policy of assimilation implemented by the Canadian authorities for decades are recognized today.

A “cultural genocide”

Between the end of the 19th century and the 1980s, some 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly recruited into more than 130 boarding schools across the country, where they were cut off from their family, language and culture. In 2015, a national commission of inquiry called this system “cultural genocide”.

Thousands of children never returned from these boarding schools – authorities estimate their number at between 4,000 and 6,000. In recent months, hundreds of anonymous graves have also been discovered near these establishments, shocking the whole country.

The meeting between a delegation of representatives of Canadian Aboriginal peoples and the sovereign pontiff is therefore historic. It must make it possible to “recognize the responsibility” of the Church in the system of these boarding schools but also, for many survivors, to obtain an official apology.