As the Inuit delegation from Nunavut navigated meetings with French officials in Paris on Tuesday, they came up against what one human rights advocate called the “cold reality of the law.”
The French government can’t extradite ex-priest and alleged abuser Johannes Rivoire to Canada to face criminal charges, because it would violate its constitution to do so, Belgian advocate Lieve Halsberghe told reporters Tuesday.
The delegation from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. is in Paris all this week in an effort to drum up public and political support in France for Rivoire’s extradition.
Halsberghe, who is helping the delegates from Nunavut Tunngavik, described a difficult morning of meetings that dashed many of the delegates’ hopes to see the man they’ve accused of abusing them face justice.
“I found it [an] extremely hard meeting, to be faced with this reality — this cold reality of the law,” Halsberghe said.
“I’m very disappointed. But I’m also very grateful, because this whole delegation — my friends — they’ve shown so much courage to come here and do this.”
Delegates met with three government officials, though not with France’s justice minister.
Halsberghe said they were told during that meeting that not only is France unable to legally extradite Rivoire, but the country can’t try him on Canada’s behalf either.
That’s because they would have to apply French law to the charges, and in France the statute of limitations would have already run out.
In an email Tuesday afternoon, Canada’s Department of Justice stated it has not yet received a response from France on its request to have Rivoire extradited.
The request was made by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada through Department of Justice officials.
ᓰᕖᓰᒃᑯᑦ ᓄᓇᕗᒻᒥ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑎ ᑐᕇᓴ ᕿᐊᑦᓱᒃ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖓ ᓴᖅᑭᔮᑲᐅᑎᒋᔪᖅ ᐱᐅᕆᔅᒥᑦ
Aluki Kotierk, the president of Nunavut Tunngavik, said the meeting was “very frustrating” and delegates were trying to ground themselves and prepare for their next meeting.
“Although the common line was that France does not extradite French nationals, there were words that expressed how much they understood our plight,” Kotierk said.
“But, ultimately, it was clear that there is no political will to extradite French nationals.”
Rivoire worked in many Nunavut communities in the 1960s and 1970s, but returned to France in the early 1990s before he could be tried on abuse charges.
While some charges against him were stayed in 2017, the RCMP confirmed in March that more charges have been laid and they had issued a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest.
In an interview with APTN in July, Rivoire denied all charges.