France rejects request by Canada’s Indigenous minority Inuits to extradite priest

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France has rejected a request from a visiting delegation of Canadian Inuits to extradite a priest accused of sexual assault on young members of the Indigenous minority in the 1960s.

The justice ministry said that in a meeting, the delegation was told that “in line with the constitutional tradition, France does not extradite its nationals.”

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The Inuit had travelled to Paris to press France to fulfil a request filed by Canada in August for the extradition of Joannes Rivoire, 92, who lives in the French city of Lyon.

Rivoire, who has both French and Canadian nationality, is accused of sexually abusing young Inuit in the 1960s while he was on a mission in the far north of the country. He denies the accusations.

The justice ministry added that while turning down the extradition request, it also asked Canadian authorities for all details over the case to see if proceedings could be opened within France.

Rivoire left Canada in 1993 after 33 years of working as a missionary. He has been accused of sexual assault of three minors as well as a new complaint of an assault that allegedly took place 47 years ago.

The delegation will now move on to Lyon, where they hope to meet with Rivoire himself.

Canada’s extradition request was announced shortly after Pope Francis completed a landmark trip to Canada, where he apologized for the abuse of indigenous children in Catholic-run schools over decades.

In the Canadian north, Rivoire’s case has become emblematic of the impunity of sexual abusers in the Church for decades.

“The pope is the leader of the Catholic church and... he must be able to require Rivoire to face his charges,” Kilikvak Kabloona, the chief executive of an organization representing the Inuit in Nunavut, told AFP during the Pope’s visit.

“We would like Rivoire to be extradited to Canada to face his charges in court.”

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