The recently concluded review was launched following the publication of a CBC News article last summer, which detailed allegations from multiple sources that Payette fostered a toxic, harassing work environment.
Employees at Rideau Hall alleged to CBC News that Payette had yelled at and publicly humiliated staff members, and individuals who later spoke to Global News under the condition of anonymity – fearing that coming forward could damage their career prospects – expressed similar experiences.
During a press conference outside Rideau Cottage on Friday, Trudeau was directly asked if he feels an apology is owed to the people who endured this treatment following his decision to appoint Payette.
“I think as a government, we’ve demonstrated time and time again how important it is to create workplaces that are free and safe from harassment and in which people can do their important jobs in safety and security,” Trudeau said in response, skirting an apology.
When pressed on the issue by the same reporter, he added that the work done by those at Rideau Hall “has always been exceptional,” but did not apologize.
“We want to thank them for their work, and reassure them that we will continue to stand up for workplaces that are safe and secure everywhere in the government but indeed across the country,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister was also asked if he regrets appointing Payette, but he did not give a firm answer – instead, Trudeau lauded the attributes he said the former governor general brought to her work.
“I think that Ms. Payette, with her emphasis on science and service, brought a great deal of positive aspects to the job,” Trudeau said.
“Obviously, everyone has the right to enjoy a safe and secure workplace. This is something that our government profoundly believes in and for this reason, we accepted the governor general’s resignation.”
His comments come following the conclusion of a “scathing” review into allegations of a “toxic” workplace fostered by Payette.
“Everyone deserves to have a safe and secure workplace, including those who work on the governor general’s team. This is something I take very seriously,” Trudeau said.
“Yesterday, I accepted the resignation of Ms. Payette.”
He added that he has informed the Queen that the governor general’s duties will temporarily be fulfilled by Canada’s chief justice. A recommendation concerning Payette’s replacement, he said, will come in “due time.”
Since Payette first became governor general, small scandals bubbled up as reporters found out about her past. In the summer of 2017, reports emerged that she had an expunged second-degree assault charge from 2011 – which she called “unfounded.” That same week, the Toronto Star discovered that she had been involved in a no-fault deadly car accident in 2011.
The CBC also reported that in the fall of 2017 the prime minister’s office never called at least two of Payette’s former employers prior to making her the governor general. Sources told the CBC that Payette left at least one of those jobs following complaints about her treatment of employees.
“Over the course of her career, no formal complaint has ever been filed against her, nor has she ever resigned from a board of director position,” Payette’s press secretary, Ashlee Smith, said in a statement to the CBC at the time in response to the claims.
Still, the reports prompted concerns about the vetting process Trudeau’s office conducted prior to Payette’s appointment. In response to questions about that vetting process on Friday, the prime minister defended the “vigorous” process – but didn’t rule out future changes.
“We are looking right now at processes that can be strengthened as we move forward, and we will have more to say on that as we make decisions,” he said.
“We will continue to look at the best way to select people for the vice-regal appointments. It’s an important role for Canadians and we will look at how we can improve it.”
Meanwhile, as Payette settles into life as a former governor general, she can expect to enjoy a lofty payday as a result of her service.
Former governor generals receive a six-figure annual pension, in addition to a $100,000 stipend to support any activities related to them having previously served as the head of state – and there is little transparency around how that money is spent.