Governor General Julie Payette Steps Down for Bullying Staff

An independent review was reportedly so damning it left the government with no choice but to ask Canada’s Governor General Julie Payette to resign or face dismissal.
Mack Lamoureux
Toronto, CA
January 21, 2021, 9:41pm
The symbolic head of the Canadian government is stepping down after an independent review found she led a “toxic work environment.”
Canada's 29th Governor General Julie Payette looks on alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Senate chamber during her installation ceremony, in Ottawa on Monday, October 2, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld.

Canada’s Governor General is stepping down after an independent review found she led a “toxic work environment.” 

Julie Payette has been plagued by controversy for years, and the new report outlining her treatment of staff has been described as “scathing.” The review has yet to be released to the public. 

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Payette, a former astronaut, was anointed as Governor General in 2017 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Governor General is a symbolic but important role in the Canadian government that acts as the British monarchy’s representative in the country.  

The 57-year-old’s conduct has long been the subject of news articles and complaints criticizing her work ethic, demeanour, and expensive tastes. Allegations from former employees, which were first reported by the CBC last year, painted Payette as a bully who would regularly scream at and humiliate her employees. 

Following the allegations, an independent consulting firm was hired to investigate the allegations. The Globe and Mail, who first reported about the review’s findings, said it “painted a very negative picture of the work environment.” Global News reported the findings were so extreme they left Payette with two options: either resign or be dismissed. 

Payette confirmed her departure in a statement released early Thursday evening. In the statement, Payette said she welcomed the report and apologized. 

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“Everyone has a right to a healthy and safe work environment, at all times and under all circumstances," she wrote. "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.”

Payette did not specify any of the allegations against her.

"We all experience things differently," she said, adding that this departure comes at an “opportune time” as it will give her time to tend to her sick father.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that he takes the report's findings "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,” said Trudeau.

Payette’s second in command, Assunta Di Lorenzo, resigned alongside Payette, according to the Globe and Mail.

Chief Justice Richard Wagner will be the sitting Governer General in the interim as the Trudeau government carries out nominating and vetting another candidate. Queen Elizabeth officially appoints the new governor general, on advice of the prime minister. 

This story has been updated to include Payette and Trudeau’s statements.

Correction: A previous version of this story referred to the position of Governor General as the “symbolic head of government.” In fact, the position is the representative for the Queen, who is the head of state.

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