Inuit and Métis leaders meet with cardinals and Vatican officials to seek justice, including for a fugitive priest


WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

The Métis and Inuit leaders, who met the pope at the Vatican last week, return home with much work to do to advance reconciliation and justice with the Roman Catholic Church, particularly in preparation for a papal visit. in Canada which could take place as early as July.

On Friday, Pope Francis apologized to Indigenous peoples for the “deplorable” conduct of some members of the Catholic Church involved in Canada’s residential school system.

Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said he would also follow up with church officials after receiving an undertaking to work with him on the case of a fugitive Oblate priest accused of having sexually abused children in Nunavut.

CBC News learned last week from the Nunavut RCMP that Father Johannes Rivoire, 93, was charged Feb. 23 with sexual assault and faces a new Canada-wide warrant.

“One would hope that the Catholic Church would be on the side of justice and so far they have been very clear about their intention to work with us,” Obed said.

WATCH | Indigenous delegates react to Pope’s first apology regarding residential schools:

Indigenous delegates react to Pope Francis’ apology for ‘deplorable’ abuses in residential schools

In order: Natan Obed, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, President of the Métis National Council Cassidy Caron, Head of the Dene Nation Delegation Gerald Antoine and Phil Fontaine, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, share their reactions to Pope Francis’ apology for the conduct of some members of the Catholic Church in Canada’s residential school system. 3:35

Rivoire was not arrested because he lives in Lyon, France, a country that does not extradite its nationals.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada said Rivoire allegedly committed an indecent assault against a woman between January 1, 1974 and December 31, 1979.

A publication ban is in place to protect the complainant’s identity.

During the Inuit delegation’s private meeting with Pope Francis last Monday, Obed asked the pontiff to personally intervene in the matter and speak directly to Rivoire to encourage him to come to Canada to face charges.

“I imagine this is an extraordinary request from the pope, but that was the whole point of the request,” Obed said.

“The pope is someone with extraordinary powers beyond the powers we have tried to work with over time on this case, and that’s why we asked him directly.”

Priest rejects Oblates’ request to return to Canada

Obed met with Louis Lougen, Superior General of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, in Rome last Thursday for an hour.

Obed said Lougen told him he had personally spoken to Rivoire before about the possibility of facing justice in Canada.

“Johannes Rivoire had refused to comply with his order to return to Canada and face charges, and [Lougen said he] would continue to work with all relevant authorities, governments and Inuit organizations to achieve justice in this matter,” Obed said.

If the pope speaks to Rivoire and the latter rejects his request to return to Canada, Obed said the pope could work with the French government to ensure he is extradited or tried in France.

A 1979 photo of Father Johannes Rivoire in Arviat, Nunavut. (Library and Archives Canada)

Obed also spoke last week with Vatican City Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, who said he would work on the issue and follow up with ITK.

So far, Obed said many church members have been reluctant to release details of Rivoire’s whereabouts and help seek justice.

Although he has not received a calendar from Parolin, Obed says he is happy to work with church members.

Mestizo leader asks the Vatican for annual meetings

Obed isn’t sure where the relationship with the church will go, but he and Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council (MNC), say last week’s meetings are the first step in transforming the relationship with the Church. Roman Catholic Church.

Caron also met Lougen and Parolin, as well as several other cardinals while leading the Métis delegation to Rome.

When meeting with Parolin last Thursday at the Apostolic Palace, Caron called for an annual meeting between the Métis, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican.

“[The Vatican is] a nation-state and we are a nation, so we have to come together nation-to-nation,” Caron said. “I think they will think about it.

Caron says his meeting with Lougen, the leader of the Oblates, also went well.

The MNC wants to send an archivist to the Oblate General Archives in Rome, which the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation will have access to next month.

Cassidy Caron, who led the Métis delegation to Rome as president of the Métis National Council, proposes annual meetings between the Métis, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican. (Olivia Stefanovitch/CBC)

Caron met with Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who was the Archbishop of Quebec when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was taking place, to walk through the areas of truth, reconciliation, healing and justice on which the MNC wishes that the Catholic Church works.

“It was important that we could sit down with him because he meets Pope Francis once a week for an hour, so he has the opportunity to continue to influence Pope Francis even after we’re gone,” Caron said.

Relationships “built on 100 cups of tea”

Caron also met briefly with Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny at an event for delegates at the Canadian Embassy to the Holy See in Rome.

She asked to meet Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, but both were ill.

Caron said she will send follow-ups.

“I know the influence of individuals,” Caron said.

“I think if the pope really wants to move forward with reconciliation and he wants to examine each of the positions put forward by the MNC, the ITK and the AFN [Assembly of First Nations]that he will go to these individuals and have conversations with them.”

Although none of the cardinals said they would speak to the pope directly about their requests, she believes the trip was a success.

“One of my elders talks about [how] relationships are built on a hundred cups of tea, and that just goes to show you have to be persistent,” Caron said.

“You have to meet constantly, build those relationships, talk about your priorities, build that common understanding and work together to move forward, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Support is available to anyone affected by their residential school experience or recent reports. A National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line has been established to provide support to former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis hotline: 1-866-925-4419.