Gov. Gen. Julie Payette delivers the Throne Speech in the Senate chamber, Thursday Dec. 5, 2019 in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Governor General’s office denies claims of workplace abuse

The office of Gov. Gen. Julie Payette is denying allegations that the former astronaut has created a toxic work environment for staff at Rideau Hall.

The denial follows a report by CBC News on Tuesday claiming that the Queen’s representative in Canada has been verbally harassing employees to the point where some have been reduced to tears or have left the office altogether.

“The Governor General and the management of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General (OSGG) strongly believe in the importance of a healthy workplace, we have taken many steps to foster this, we will continue to do so and will work at constantly improving,” Payette’s press secretary Ashlee Smith said in a statement Tuesday.

“We deeply regret this reporting, which is in stark contrast to the reality of working at the OSGG, and obscures the important work done by our dedicated staff in honouring, representing, and showcasing Canadians.”

CBC News cited several sources “with direct knowledge of the [Governor General’s] office,” who wished to remain anonymous, fearing for their future in the public service.

Four members of Payette’s communications team have departed during the pandemic period alone. A fifth person is leaving this week and another two have taken leaves of absence, CBC News reported.

Sources told CBC News said Payette has “yelled at, belittled and publicly humiliated employees.”

Canadian Governor General Julie Payette talks with the women’s handball team before their game against Brazil during the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. (Dave Holland / THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, COC)

Payette, who has held the post since 2017, has reportedly thrown tantrums in her office and disparaged one employee’s work while tossing it away, the sources alleged.

“This has gone from being one of the most collegial and enjoyable work environments for many of the staff to being a house of horrors,” said one government source told CBC News. “It’s bullying and harassment at its worst.”

Smith said the Governor General’s office takes these matters very seriously.

“We are proud of our stringent internal processes for our employees to voice concerns, through the staffing of a robust and accessible human resources department, an independent ombudsman, in addition to maintaining excellent relationships with the unions that represent our employees, who have additional processes for the protection and support of federal public servants,” Smith said.

“Since the beginning of the mandate, no formal complaint regarding harassment has been made through any of these channels.”

Payette was appointed Governor General on the advice of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in October 2017. She is just over half way through her mandate, which will end in October 2022 if it’s not extended.

Payette is a Montreal-born trailblazer — a former astronaut who’s been to space twice and is also a computer engineer, pilot, academic, musician and executive.

With files from Ashley Burke and Kristen Everson of CBC News

Categories: Politics
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