Singh calls for investigation into allegations of misconduct at Rideau Hall
TORONTO -- NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is calling on the Trudeau government to investigate allegations of harassment and aggressive behaviour within the office of Gov. Gen. Julie Payette.
According to a report from CBC News, anonymous staffers at Rideau Hall alleged that Payette had created a toxic atmosphere and yelled at employees, sometimes reducing them to tears and prompting them to quit.
“The stories shared by the workers at Rideau Hall are so troubling that the prime minister has a role to play,” Singh said on Wednesday from the House of Commons. “The prime minister can show leadership. Will the prime minister show leadership and launch an independent investigation?"
When pressed on the reports in the House of Commons, Trudeau did not respond directly to the allegations.
"Every Canadian has the right to a safe, secure workspace, free from harassment and that is extremely important," he said. "That's why we moved forward on June 22 with announcements on strengthening the oversight in federally regulated agencies and environments, including the public service."
Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly, who used to oversee relations with Rideau Hall in her former role as minister of Canadian Heritage, said he was surprised to hear of the allegations, but echoed Trudeau’s comments about the workplace.
"Rideau Hall needs to look into this very, very carefully,” she said. “Rideau Hall needs to address the issue and my understanding is that they went out with a statement today.”
In that statement, Rideau Hall said it "deeply regrets this reporting", which is in "stark contrast to the reality" of working at Payette’s offices. The statement also notes that it has not received any formal complaints.
Meanwhile, Adam Vaughan, a Liberal MP representing parts of downtown Toronto, also called for an investigation into the allegations at Rideau Hall.
"The allegations are serious, and they deserve a serious response and a serious investigation,” he told The Canadian Press.
Payette took over as Governor General with a five-year term beginning in October 2017, but her tenure at the post has been marred by conflicts and complaints.
A 2019 survey of Rideau Hall staff showed employees had expressed concerns about their work environment. It shows 22 per cent felt they had been “the victim of harassment on the job” in the past year, and of those respondents, 74 per cent said they experienced harassment “by someone in authority over them.”
Payette addressed similar concerns in a 2018 interview with CTV National News Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme.
"I don't pretend to be perfect,” Payette said at the time. “I started this job and I learned and I had missteps and those missteps I corrected and I will continue to do that because they'll come again. It's human nature."
When it comes to an investigation into the matter, it remains unclear whether Trudeau will intervene.
Philippe Lagasse, an associate professor of International Affairs at Carleton University, told CTV News than an investigation into Payette and Rideau Hall is tricky because she is one of the only employees in Canada who cannot be fired -- except by the Queen.
“Going to the Queen is a last resort, but not to dismiss that that power exists, it's the one lever that the prime minister has, both in terms of pressure and formal power to be able to deal with a Governor General who is unsuited to the position and refuses to leave," he said.
Lagasse also believes it’s in the best interest of the government to try to resolve the issue behind closed doors to avoid damage to the institution that is the office of the governor general.
"Everybody's best option right now is to try to deal with the issue decisively but discreetly," he told The Canadian Press.
"You don't want to turn this into a confrontation between the prime minister and the Governor General, nor do you want to be in a situation where the prime minister feels that he either needs to pressure the Governor General to resign or ultimately advise the Queen to dismiss her.”
With files from The Canadian Press