Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, says ‘I am sorry’ after ‘tensions have arisen at Rideau Hall’

TORONTO — Gov. Gen. Julie Payette has resigned from her post following reports of a “damaging” workplace harassment investigation.

“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,” Payette said in a statement Thursday.

“Tensions have arisen at Rideau Hall over the past few months and for that, I am sorry.”

Payette’s resignation come hours after sources told CTV News that an independent review into workplace harassment allegations against her was completed and that the details of the report were “damaging.”

“While no formal complaints or official grievances were made during my tenure, which would have immediately triggered a detailed investigation as prescribed by law and the collective agreements in place, I still take these allegations very seriously,” Payette said in her statement.

“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.”

Payette said her resignation comes at an “opportune time” as her father’s health is worsening.

Sources have told CTV News that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Payette to resign during a conversation on Wednesday. In a statement, Trudeau said he 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 wrote in the statement. “Today’s announcement provides an opportunity for new leadership at Rideau Hall to address the workplace concerns raised by employees during the review.”

Trudeau said Chief Justice of Canada Richard Wagner will serve as Governor General on an interim basis. He added that recommendations for new governor general will be sent to the Queen “in due course.”

In speaking on CTV’s Power Play on Thursday, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc called the report “robust” and “significant.”

“There are obviously some very serious and concerning findings in that report with respect to the workplace, and the Governor General informed us last evening that she would offer her resignation and we received that this afternoon,” he said.

LeBlanc added that a version of the report will be made public, hopefully in the next few days, but some parts need to be redacted to protect the identities of employees who spoke “on a confidential basis.”

LeBlanc said that after reading the report, Payette decided resigning “would be best for the institution for the country.”

“We received that resignation today, but it followed a discussion we had with her about the report and about the serious concerns that were raised as findings in the report,” he said.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole called on Trudeau to consult the other parties before nominating a potential replacement.

“The Governor General is the Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces and has an important constitutional role,” O’Toole wrote in a statement. “Considering the problems with his last appointment and the minority Parliament, the Prime Minister should consult opposition parties and re-establish the Vice-Regal Appointments Committee.”

A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace told CTV News that “the Queen has been kept informed of developments.”

The Privy Council Office initiated an investigation into Payette in July following reports of a toxic workplace within her office.

“Harassment has no place in any professional workplace,” a spokesperson for the Privy Council Office wrote in a statement at the time. “It is a public service priority to advance efforts to more effectively prevent and resolve issues of harassment.”

Payette was sworn in as governor general in 2017, following a career as an astronaut and scientist. She has previously served as the chief operating officer of the Montreal Science Centre and was also on the board of directors for the National Bank of Canada.

Lydia Miljan, a political science professor at the University of Windsor, said today’s news must be “terrible for her personally.”

“You’d think you’d be at the height of your career being appointed the governor general of Canada,” Miljan told CTV News Channel.

Miljan added that it’s particularly surprising that these allegations came from the office of the governor general, a largely ceremonial role.

“You get to shake hands with people, you get to be the nice person in the room,” “I just don’t understand why she would have such an exacting style and why that — of any office within the government — would have be the one that’s most toxic. You’d think that would be the one where they’re singing ‘Kumbaya’ every day.”

Miljan said she expects a new governor general named in short order, especially if the Liberals intend to trigger an election.

“You need a governor general in place in order to have an election,” she said.

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