The Right Honorable Richard Wagner, Chief Justice of Canada, will serve as interim Governor General after Julie Payette stepped down Thursday following months of allegations of a toxic workplace in Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General.
The allegations leveled against Payette and the Secretary to the Governor General, Assunta Di Lorenzo, were first published in July by the CBC and sparked a third-party investigation initiated by the Privy Council Office. Although the report has not yet been made public, the allegations made by current and former staff members accused Payette and Di Lorenzo of creating a toxic workplace environment and cited multiple instances of workplace harassment, including belittling and publicly humiliating staff members. The sources referred to Rideau Hall as a “house of horrors.”
Payette has served as Governor General of Canada since 2017. In her resignation statement, Payette noted that no official complaints were ever filed and claimed if there had been that they would have been investigated accordingly. She said that “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 also praised the ways in which all Canadians have responded to the difficulties that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, and thanked the medical and frontline workers for their tireless work, saying, “One cannot choose when hardship comes, but one can choose how to respond to it in times of crisis, and Canadians all over the country have answered the call.”
Wagner is currently serving as the interim Governor General until Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recommends a new candidate for Governor General to Queen Elizabeth II. In response to Payette’s resignation, Trudeau released a brief statement confirming that he received the resignation and said, “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. Today’s announcement provides an opportunity for new leadership at Rideau Hall to address the workplace concerns raised by employees during the review.”