Nunatsiaq Online
LETTERS: Around the Arctic April 29, 2016 - 8:29 am

Open letter to Justin Trudeau: bring the perpetrators to justice

All Attawapiskat adults over 48 are survivors of St. Anne’s Residential School of Fort Albany

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Father Joannes Rivoire, now aged 86 and living in France, in an early, undated photo taken in Chesterfield Inlet. He faces four sex charges related to incidents alleged to have occurred in Nunavut between 1968 and 1970, but has never been brought to justice (PHOTO COURTESY OF LIEVE HALSBERGHE)
Father Joannes Rivoire, now aged 86 and living in France, in an early, undated photo taken in Chesterfield Inlet. He faces four sex charges related to incidents alleged to have occurred in Nunavut between 1968 and 1970, but has never been brought to justice (PHOTO COURTESY OF LIEVE HALSBERGHE)
Brother Lucien Parent died by suicide in Hull, Que. on Sept. 3, 1979. Survivors of the Oblate-run Joseph Bernier residential school in Chesterfield Inlet say he sexually abused numerous children at the school. The Oblates also ran a residential school at Fort Albany, Ont. that was attended by all adults in Attawapiskat who are older than 48. (PHOTO COURTESY OF LIEVE HALSBERGHE)
Brother Lucien Parent died by suicide in Hull, Que. on Sept. 3, 1979. Survivors of the Oblate-run Joseph Bernier residential school in Chesterfield Inlet say he sexually abused numerous children at the school. The Oblates also ran a residential school at Fort Albany, Ont. that was attended by all adults in Attawapiskat who are older than 48. (PHOTO COURTESY OF LIEVE HALSBERGHE)

“Teen suicides, she says, are often related to the fact that the young people just don’t know where their parents’ and grandparents’ anger is coming from. They don’t understand how often it’s related to traumas those generations suffered in residential school.” — Lori Idlout in Nunatsiaq News, 2008.

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:

Attawapiskat, Ontario was in the news last week, worldwide and also in Belgium, where people first heard about Igloolik, Nunavut in 2010, for other reasons.

Most reports, however did not go beyond citing the number of suicide attempts and “isolation” as a cause.

I believe it would be very beneficial to future generations, if colonization and its consequences were put on the curriculum in schools worldwide, just as the residential school history is in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Not one single Belgian or French media source mentioned that in Attawapiskat, all adults over 48 are survivors of the St. Anne’s Residential School of Fort Albany.

Nor that people with trauma from that era are being denied justice by the Canadian government and the very people who protect the perpetrators, who, sexually, physically and mentally abused hundreds of little children in St. Anne’s.

That is very disturbing, because the missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate sent many Belgian and French missionaries to “help” Canada with the “civilization” of Canada’s Indigenous people. The Oblates ran both St. Anne’s in Fort Albany and the Joseph Bernier Federal Day School in Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut as well as many other schools.

You had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada.

But, as you can see, truth precedes reconciliation. Truth is essential for the healing process. When there is no truth, the healing cannot complete. And without truth, the next generations carry on the heavy burden of trauma.

Victims have a right to know the truth, it is a basic human right.  Yet the perpetrators and their protectors refuse to tell the truth, by hiding all documents and forcing people to sign confidentiality agreements. That is nothing short of very cruel behavior.

If medals for courage were built to match the effort, then a medal for a survivor of child sexual abuse who talks about the abuse, should be as high as Mt. Everest.

The survivors from St. Anne’s Residential School not only did find that courage, but had to take the Oblates and the Government of Canada to obtain documents and try to find out the truth.

It has been taking them many years and an unbelievable amount of courage. The missionary Oblates, who claim to have little money, fight a fierce and expensive legal battle. This is immoral and a shame for your country.

In 1991, Marius Tungilik did find the courage to talk to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples about what happened at the residential school in Chesterfield Inlet.

But, even though Bishop Reynald Rouleau uttered words he thought were an apology, the missionary Oblates refused to give Marius the truth about what happened to the men who raped him as a child.

The two men haunted him, until he finally could no longer take the pain, and he died in 2012.

I found that Brother Lucien Parent died by suicide in Hull in 1979, not too long after Marius, who was in the presence of Bishop Omer Robidoux, had caught him raping a little white boy at the bishop’s residence in Churchill. 

Oblate priest Joannes Rivoire, who molested Marius and others in their hometown of Repulse Bay, Nunavut left Canada to go back to France, in 1993. The Oblate silence about the sudden departure of their provincial superior is deafening. They even omitted it from their own Historical Dictionary.

Marius’s family, who you met on your travels to Nunavut, and I pleaded with the new Oblate Bishop, Tony Krotki, to do the right thing and get Rivoire back to Canada. After all, there is a pan-Canadian arrest warrant for him since 1998 for the sexual assault of several Inuit children.

Monsignor Krotki did not send any reply. Maybe the Oblates are too busy celebrating the bicentennial of their religious order. “Two hundred years of selfless service to the poor and the most abandoned,” they claim.

I can certainly name many communities and people they did abandon after they arrived in their ancestral lands. I believe it is inappropriate to celebrate.

I hope we may count on you to help bring justice to all Canadians, without any distinction.

Sincere regards,

Lieve Halsberghe
Human Rights Activist
Belgium



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