Allegations of screaming, public humiliation in governor general's office: report
TORONTO -- Dozens of staffers in the Governor General’s office described a “toxic” and “poisoned” work atmosphere that included allegations of screaming, demeaning comments and public humiliation, according to a report obtained by CTV News that led to Julie Payette’s resignation.
In total, 43 participants described the general work environment as hostile or negative. Based on hours of interviews, investigators concluded the allegations were enough to require immediate attention.
CTV News obtained the 132-page report through a request under the Access to Information Act. While heavily redacted to block out specific examples, the report describes the nature of complaints from dozens of staff members that, if true, investigators say “would lead to a toxic workplace.”
Words used to describe the workplace included “humiliation,” “disrespect,” “condescension,” “a non-inclusive workspace” and “the definition of a poisoned work environment.” Some employees say they were “stressed out” or “worn out.” Some said they took sick leave to escape the environment.
When she announced her resignation last week, Payette acknowledged that tensions arose at Rideau Hall.
“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,” Payette said in an earlier statement.
Payette said she took the allegations seriously but also pointed out that “no formal complaints or official grievances were made during my tenure, which would have immediately triggered a detailed investigation.”
“Not only did I welcome a review of the work climate at the OSGG, but I have repeatedly encouraged employees to participate in the review in large numbers. We all experience things differently, but we should always strive to do better, and be attentive to one another’s perceptions,” she said.
Allegations that Rideau Hall was an unhealthy workplace first emerged in media reports. Investigators wrote that some employees felt there was no internal mechanism to address the alleged issues.
At least 17 participants said they left their roles and another 13 took sick leave during Payette’s mandate because of the work environment.
“Several participants said that the departures undermined morale and undermined staff confidence,” investigators wrote.
Sources have told CTV News that Trudeau asked Payette to resign given the findings of the independent review. In the months prior, the prime minister had defended the embattled Payette, saying she was an "excellent" representative for the Queen and he was not considering replacing her.
Trudeau said last week that he is reassessing the vetting process for top-level appointments to see how it can be improved to avoid future unprecedented departures.
Investigators say their mandate was to gather information, and that the report does not make findings of fact or determine whether the alleged conduct took place.
A spokesperson for Rideau Hall told CTV News Wednesday that they just received the redacted report.
“We are in the process of examining it. We are not in a position right now to provide a statement,” the spokesperson said.
President of the Queen's Privy Council Dominic LeBlanc’s office confirmed to CTVNews.ca that the final cost of the review was $393,367.13, including taxes.
Trudeau spoke with Queen Elizabeth II last week to inform her that Canada's Chief Justice Richard Wagner will oversee the role’s key constitutional powers until he recommends a formal replacement for Payette.
With files from CTV's Michel Boyer and Rachel Aiello in Ottawa.