& Peter Smith
In a social media post on November 20, Father Justin Bertrand, a native of Ile-du-Grand-Calumet who served as Parochial Vicar at parishes in Fort-Coulonge, Otter Lake, Vinton and Waltham from 2017-2020, announced he had resigned from priesthood and his request was accepted.
“My reasons for resigning are simple. I was the victim of workplace harassment and abuse – psychological and sexual – and no longer felt safe and properly supported,” he wrote, noting that although he made the very difficult decision to resign, he has not lost his faith. He intends to move back to the Pontiac area.
For the future, Bertrand intends on living a normal, everyday life and finding a job, while taking time to adjust, process, and focus on healing from the experience. However, he has no intention of returning to ministry.
Bertrand received an outpour of support, with hundreds of messages from former parishioners, friends, other members of the clergy, and members of the communities he served. “I will [share] more reflections and thoughts over the next bit, but for now I simply say thank you to everyone who supported me throughout my life, studies, and ministry,” he concluded.
In his time as Reverend in the Pontiac community, Bertrand organized the annual volunteer supper as his predecessor Reverend Real Ouellette had done, he served as a member of the Fort-Coulonge Fire Department, organized a juggling and faith discovery group for local youth, and coordinated live mass streaming and drive-thru confessions during the pandemic.
Bertrand was reposted as Administrator of Holy Canadian Martyrs Parish in Combermere and St. Francis de Sales Mission in Latchford Bridge in the fall of 2020. Many Pontiac citizens were saddened and disappointed with the news, prompting local elected officials to request an audience with Bishop Guy Desrochers of the Diocese of Pembroke to discuss Bertrand’s mandate in the community in hopes he would eventually be re-posted in the area.