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Quebec human rights commission president resigns after being criticized for management style

Tamara Thermitus, left, has stepped down as president of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse.
Tamara Thermitus, left, has stepped down as president of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Under fire for months for her management style, the president of Quebec’s human rights commission resigned Thursday.

Since being named to the post in February 2017, Tamara Thermitus has come under scrutiny in two government reports.

The Quebec ombudsperson recently conducted an investigation into allegations of poor management and abuse of power. Her report has been completed and is expected to be released soon.

READ MORE: Montrealer takes Hudson’s Bay Company to Human Rights Commission over ‘consumer racial profiling’

Earlier, a report commissioned by the minister of justice concluded that the human rights commission had been experiencing problems connected to governance, management of human resources and communications for several months.

If she had not stepped down, Thermitus ran the risk of being removed from the post by legislators, which would have been unprecedented.

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Ombudsperson Marie Rinfret said Thursday that her investigation uncovered serious breaches of ethical norms and a case of poor management, including abuse of authority.

“I won’t go any further than that,” she told reporters.

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In her resignation letter submitted to the Speaker of the legislature, Thermitus said she hopes her time at the commission “was able to shed light on the great need for change in this organization.”

She said that as president she spoke out against “unwarranted perks” and unnecessary jobs created to favour certain employees.

READ MORE: Families claim proceedings at Human Rights Commission of Quebec were biased

Her style provoked strong reactions among staff, she said, and under the circumstances she had no choice but to resign.

Justice Minister Sonia LeBel said the government will seek to fill the vacancy “as quickly as possible.”

Veronique Hivon, justice critic for the opposition Parti Québécois, said it was time for Thermitus to go.

“It was the right step,” she said.

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“We have been calling for this resignation for several months now, since last spring when the outside inspector submitted a devastating report that said Ms. Thermitus did not have what it takes to occupy that role.”

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She said that for employees of the commission, the page has turned “on this bad chapter.”