Culture

Prime Minister wouldn’t say if former astronaut’s past employers or employees were contacted during appointment process

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there was a rigorous vetting process for naming former astronaut Julie Payette to the role of Governor-General but he did not say whether past employers were contacted prior to her appointment to the viceregal role.
Mr. Trudeau spoke to media on Friday following the resignation of Ms. Payette on Thursday. The departure is the first of its kind in Canadian history and followed a scathing external report that examined Ms. Payettes conduct amid harassment allegations at Rideau Hall.
The Prime Minister, who called the Queen on Friday to inform her that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court would fulfill the roles duties on an interim basis, said that steps could be taken to improve the process to name the next Governor-General. He stopped short of saying how he intended to do that.
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For all high-level appointments, there is a rigorous vetting process that was followed in this case, Mr. Trudeau said. Obviously we will continue to look at that vetting process to ensure that it is the best possible process as we move forward.
The Prime Minister is facing political pressure to explain how and why Ms. Payette was named to the role of Governor-General when former staff, including at the Montreal Science Centre, raised concerns about her conduct.
Following the resignation, Conservative Leader Erin OToole said the Prime Minister should re-establish an appointments committee and should consult with opposition parties, given the current minority government. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also called on Mr. Trudeau to take measures necessary to ensure the health and safety of workers and that theres a harassment-free work environment.
In 2016, Ms. Payette resigned as head of the Montreal Science Centre amid complaints about her treatment of employees.
Marcelo Gomez-Wiuckstern, the vice-president of corporate communications for Canada Lands Company, which employed Ms. Payette while she was with the centre, said in a statement Friday that out of respect for its current and past employees that it cannot discuss personnel matters due to privacy considerations.
When asked Friday whether Mr. Trudeau should apologize to the staff at Rideau Hall or to Canadians, Mr. Trudeau said that the government has demonstrated it is important to create workplaces that are free and safe from harassment.
The work done by employees at Rideau Hall over the past years has been exceptional, he added, noting they fulfil important duties for Canadians and were sometimes in very difficult situations.
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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, he said.
Mr. Trudeau said that with the Chief Justice, Richard Wagner, in place in the meantime that Canadians need not be concerned about political or constitutional matters.
In a statement Thursday, Ms. Payette said that no formal complaints or official grievances were filed against her and that she was not afforded due process.
Current and former staff had detailed in media reports and in the review that she and her top aide verbally abused and bullied them.
We all experience things differently, she said. But we should always strive to do better and be attentive to one anothers perceptions.
The federal government hired Ottawa-based Quintet Consulting in September to independently investigate and draft a report on the nature of concerns within the Office of the Secretary to the Governor-General.
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Ms. Payette said Thursday that tensions had arisen at Rideau Hall over the past few months and apologized for this.
For the good of the country and our democratic institutions, I have come to the conclusion that a new Governor-General should be appointed. Canadians deserve stability in these uncertain times, she said in a statement.
The Governor-General is a key figure in Canadian parliamentary democracy and represents the countrys head of state, Queen Elizabeth II.
The viceregal exercises constitutional duties, represents Canada at home and abroad and provides symbolic leadership to members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
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