Delegates discussed the role of the Church in residential schools; Obed asks the pope for help in bringing Father Rivoire to justice
Seven Inuit delegates met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday to discuss the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the damage caused by residential schools to Inuit and what can be done about it. They also asked the pope to help bring to justice a controversial priest accused of sexually abusing young Inuit.
“We want this new relationship…of reconciliation to be based on action and shared ambition,” Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed, one of the delegates, told a press conference. in Rome after the meeting.
Inuit representatives are part of an indigenous delegation in Rome this week. The purpose of their trip is to meet with the Pope to seek an official apology for the Church‘s role in Canada’s residential school system as well as a commitment from the Church to help with reconciliation. Other groups on the delegation include the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Obed said one area of action mentioned during the Inuit delegates’ meeting with the pope was to secure Francis’ cooperation in bringing the French priest, Reverend Johannes Rivoire, to justice. Rivoire worked in the eastern Canadian Arctic in the 1960s and is accused of sexually abusing Inuit children during this time. It is said that he currently resides in France.
Obed said the pope was asked to speak directly with Rivoire and ask him to return to Canada.
Rivoire was charged in 1997, but those charges were stayed in 2017 when the Public Prosecution Service of Canada saw no possibility of a conviction.
“It is such a heartbreaking reality that some people who should have been brought to justice decades ago did not see justice and those who were mistreated… sometimes died before they saw justice,” he said. -he adds.
Calgary Archbishop William McGrattan said at Monday’s press conference that the pope had heard the demands of Inuit delegates. He did not say the pope was committed, but said the Catholic Church should help those seeking justice and healing from abuse.
“The church needs to take responsibility,” McGrattan said.
Other issues raised by Inuit delegates with the pope include the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, Obed said. He added that of the $25 million in restitution, only $3 million has been paid.
“We would like to see more immediate action,” Obed said.
Obed added that the pope has been invited into Inuit Nunangat to personally apologize for the Church’s role in residential schools, as it aligns with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 58th Call to Action. .
Absent from the delegation was the Congress of Indigenous Peoples, known as CAP. In a statement, CAP said it represents off-reserve and non-status Indigenous peoples in Canada, which includes southern Inuit, and wants to participate in reconciliation discussions with the Catholic Church. The organization contacted the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and said it looked forward to being included in the pope’s future visit to Canada.