Governor General Julie Payette and her secretary, Assunta di Lorenzo, are resigning after an assessment revealed the two created a toxic work environment in Rideau Hall.
Last year, an independent consulting firm was hired by the Privy Council Office (PCO) to review reports that Payette was responsible for workplace harassment at Rideau Hall.
Sources who were briefed on the consulting firm’s report told CBC News that its conclusions were damning.
President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada Dominic LeBlanc told CBC’s Vassy Kapelos the federal government received the final report late last week, which he said offered some “disturbing” and “worrisome” conclusions.
Payette said her resignation came at a favorable time because her father was in poor health and the family needed her help.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office confirmed it had received Payette’s resignation.
“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,” Trudeau said in a statement. “Today’s announcement provides an opportunity for new leadership at Rideau Hall to address the workplace concerns raised by employees during the review.”
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Richard Wagner will hold the interim Governor-General position.
The Privy Council Office launched the unprecedented third-party review in July in response to a CBC News report featuring a dozen public servants and former employees confidentially claiming Payette belittled, berated and publicly humiliated Rideau Hall staff. Di Lorenzo, Payette’s longtime friend and second-in-command, is also accused of bullying staff.
As of Jan. 5, Rideau Hall had spent more than $150,000 in public funds on legal representation in response to the toxic workplace allegations, and had hired a former Supreme Court justice to represent Payette and Blakes law firm for the institution itself.
That amount is greater than the initial value of the federal contract that hired Quintet Consulting to conduct the review. The private company is hired under a $88,325 contract in September 2020.
Sources also say that Secretary to the Governor General, Assunta Di Lorenzo, who also allegedly harassed employees, recently hired Marie Henein’s law firm to represent her.
Henein represented ex-Vice Admiral Mark Norman, the military’s former second-in-command, during his trial for breach of trust. Federal prosecutors stayed that charge. It’s not clear if Henein or another lawyer at her firm is personally representing Di Lorenzo.
The Bloc Québécois issued a statement calling for the immediate release of the Rideau Hall workplace review and said the position of Governor General has no place in a democracy.
Payette joins a very short list of governors general who have left the post early — but she is the first to do so mired in controversy.
In a statement, Robert Finch, chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, called media reports about Payette’s behaviour “regrettable.” He said he hopes that her resignation will usher in a new chapter at Rideau Hall defined by “loyalty, dignity and respect.”
“It is important to remember that the Governor General represents our admired head of state, the Queen,” said Finch. “If future vice-regals aspire to perform their roles with the grace, dedication and duty as our Sovereign has during almost 70 years, they will excel.”
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