Canada’s governor general Julie Payette quits over workplace mistreatment scandal

The incident marks the first instance of a sitting governor general of Canada having to quit over a controversy. Payette, a former astronaut, had been serving in that position since 2017
A file photo of Canada's governor general Julie Payette in the Senate chamber in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (REUTERS)
A file photo of Canada's governor general Julie Payette in the Senate chamber in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (REUTERS)
Published on Jan 22, 2021 12:42 PM IST
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Canada’s head of state, governor general Julie Payette, has resigned after a scathing independent review found that workplace mistreatment at her official quarters of Rideau Hall in Ottawa had forced several employees to leave.

The incident marks the first instance of a sitting governor general of Canada having to quit over a controversy. Payette, a former astronaut, had been serving in that position since 2017.

Details of the independent review haven’t yet been revealed. CBC News has reported that the findings were “damning” in the context of workplace culture in Rideau Hall during Payette’s tenure.

AFP reported that the review was ordered by the government last July when allegations of a “toxic” climate at Rideau Hall first surfaced.

Acknowledging the controversy, Payette issued an apology as she stepped down. “Everyone has a right to a healthy and safe work environment, at all times and under all circumstances. It appears this was not always the case at the office of the secretary to the governor general. Tensions have arisen at Rideau Hall over the past few months and for that, I am sorry,” she said in a statement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office, too, issued a statement on the turn of events. “Every employee in the government of Canada has the right to work in a safe and healthy environment, and we will always take this very seriously. Today’s announcement provides an opportunity for new leadership at Rideau Hall to address the workplace concerns raised by employees during the review,” the PMO said.

Richard Wagner, the chief justice of Canada’s supreme court, will discharge the duties of governor general till a replacement is formally appointed.

“A recommendation on a replacement will be provided to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and announced in due course,” Trudeau’s office said.

Payette’s secretary, Assunta di Lorenzo, has also resigned.

In her statement, Payette said, she is “a strong believer in the principles of natural justice, due process and the rule of law, and that these principles apply to all equally”, and she was stepping down in “respect for the integrity of my vice-regal office and for the good of our country and of our democratic institutions”.

“Canadians deserve stability in these uncertain times,” she added.

Payette said she took the allegations “very seriously” but “no formal complaints or official grievances were made” during her tenure.

She also said that her decision to quit came at a time when her father was unwell and her family needed her support.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022