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Johannes Rivoire, priest accused of sexually abusing children in Nunavut, dies

Rivoire, an Oblate priest from France, has long faced allegations he sexually abused children in Nunavut in the 1960s and 1970s. He spent more than 30 years working as a priest in the territory, mostly in Arviat and Naujaat.

Johannes Rivoire was 93 when he died on Thursday

A man with a beard wears a green plaid hat and a red and black jacket.

A priest accused of sexually abusing children while working in Nunavut has died, according to the Canadian Oblates.

Johannes Rivoire died on Thursday "after a long illness," Ken Thorson, head of OMI Lacombe Canada, wrote in an email to CBC.

Rivoire, an Oblate priest from France, has long faced allegations he sexually abused children in Nunavut in the 1960s and 1970s. He spent more than 30 years working as a priest in the territory, mostly in Arviat and Naujaat.

He was facing one charge of sexually abusing a girl in Nunavut when he died. His other charges were stayed in 2017 after the Crown decided there was no prospect of conviction.

"We recognize that this news will be difficult for many to receive, especially for the survivors and their families who advocated for him to face justice in Canada," Thorson wrote.

Rivoire has denied the allegations made against him and refused to come back to Canada to stand trial.

"We sincerely regret that despite all their efforts, Rivoire never made himself available and will never face the charges that were laid against him. We further regret that efforts for him to be formally removed as a priest were unsuccessful," Thorson wrote.

'Only the truth can help'

Jack Anawak was a friend of the late Marius Tungilik, one of Rivoire's alleged victims, and he has long fought to bring Rivoire back to Canada to stand trial.

"I'm not sure what the impact will be on his victims who were seeking justice," Anawak said.

Anawak said people were still fighting to get Rivoire to return to Canada to face justice.

"Then, all of a sudden, he's gone."

Anawak said he's heard a mixture of sadness and relief from Rivoire's alleged victims.

"At the same time there will always be a sense of unfinished business," he said.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) issued a news release expressing disappointment "that the victims and their families will never receive justice."

"NTI assisted in the efforts of victims and their families seeking justice and will continue to stand with them now that Rivoire has died," the statement reads.

"Governments must do better to support victims of abuse and in bringing perpetrators of violence against children to justice."

Last month, retired Quebec Superior Court judge André Denis, in a report commissioned by the Canadian Oblates, said he believes allegations made against Rivoire of sexually abusing children in the territory are true.

Lieve Halsberghe, a Belgian human rights activist who has been working with Rivoire's alleged victims, said she doesn't think it's common for priests accused of such crimes to ever face justice.

"It's very, very rare because the Catholic Church protects them," she said.

"Now they think the whole issue can be buried with Rivoire," she added.

Halsberghe said she thinks the report from Denis was "a falsification of history," because it was ordered by the Oblates themselves and didn't put blame on the congregation.

"I think it's very important that people in Nunavut take action," Halsberghe said.

She said her work will continue despite Rivoire's death.

"Only the truth can help the healing for the family and the communities."

Rivoire was 93.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emma Tranter

Senior writer

Emma Tranter is a senior writer with CBC North in Yellowknife. She worked in journalism in Nunavut for five years, where she reported in Iqaluit for CBC, The Canadian Press and Nunatsiaq News. She can be reached at emma.tranter@cbc.ca.

    With files from Kate Kyle, Juanita Taylor, Natalie Pressman

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    Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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